When Emily Oldcorn, from Telford, was warned her unborn baby's intestines were outside of his body, she was terrified. Then when Connor was born, nothing could've prepared her for seeing her little boy with his insides out. Here 23-year-old Emily tells her story...
Cuddling up on the sofa with my boys, Thomas, 2, and Joshua, 1, I felt a kick inside my tummy.
‘Did you feel that?’ I asked them. ‘That’s your baby brother.’
Joshua was too young to fully understand but Thomas was so excited.
His face lit up as he placed his hand gently on my belly.
‘You’re going to be the best big brother,’ I said, giving him a tickle.
Then, at a routine 20-week scan, the sonographer noticed something strange.
‘There’s something on your baby that shouldn’t be there,’ she explained.
My mind went into overdrive.
What did she mean, ‘something’?
She told me I’d have to return the following day to see a doctor.
Back at home, I told my husband Ross, 30.
‘I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about,’ he reassured me.
But I was terrified.
That night, I couldn’t sleep for worrying.
The following day, Ross took me to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
After another scan, a doctor confirmed what was wrong…
‘Your baby has gastroschisis,’ he said.
He explained it’s a rare birth defect of the abdominal wall.
The intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button.
Nobody knew what caused it, was just one of those things.
‘Try not to worry, it’s treatable,’ the doctor added.
He explained my baby would need to have surgery shortly after birth to reinsert his intestines.
Back at home, I was still in shock.
My baby is inside out! I panicked, trying to process it all.
I looked up the condition online.
But the pictures I found of babies with intestines hanging out were terrifying and gory.
‘I can’t look,’ I told Ross, covering my eyes.
But squeamish or not, I knew I had to prepare myself though.
I had regular scans every week at the hospital to monitor my baby.
Then, in July last year, I went into labour.
At the hospital a midwife and pediatrician were waiting for me.
When Connor was born weighing 7lb 8oz, he was placed on my chest.
‘He’s gorgeous,’ I smiled, welling up.
Gazing down at him, I could see something dark hanging from his belly.
Those are his bowels, I realised.
It was so surreal.
I’d mentally prepared myself for what they’d look like.
But seeing my tiny little boy with his insides out was heartbreaking.
I just wanted to make sure Connor was OK.
So when doctors whisked him away, Ross went with him.
‘Take lots of photos,’ I told him.
I was desperate to see more of my precious little boy.
Connor was taken to the Neonatal Care Unit while I recovered.
When Ross showed me a picture, I had tears in my eyes.
‘I hope he’s OK,’ I said.
Within hours, Connor was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for surgery.
Luckily my parents and Ross’ were looking after Thomas and Joshua.
So it meant Ross could go to the hospital with Connor.
And the following evening, I was transferred there too.
The boys were desperate to meet their little brother.
But I thought it’d be too distressing for them seeing him before his surgery.
‘He’ll be home soon,’ I promised Thomas on the phone.
At the hospital, Connor had his intestines put into a special sack.
Because his bowels were exposed, it could cause them to become irritated, shorten, or swell.
The bag would reduce the amount of fluid and body-heat loss, and prevent damage.
When Connor was 5 days old, he had successful surgery to reinsert his intestines.
Two days on, I got my first hold.
‘Hello baby boy,’ I soothed, kissing his head.
He spent the next few weeks in hospital recovering, then after a month he was allowed home.
‘Baby! Baby!’ Thomas chanted, desperate for a cuddle.
By now Connor was able to feed properly.
But over time, he just didn’t seem to be putting on any weight.
He had terrible diarrhoea too and his belly started to swell
Back and forth to the hospital, in March 2016 we were told he needed further surgery.
Doctors needed to remove two narrowings that’d developed in his bowel.
70cm (2ft) of his intestines needed to be taken out.
Poor Connor was only 8 months old – too young for more big ops.
After surgery, Connor spent two months in hospital recovering.
‘He’s a bit poorly but he’s getting better,’ I told Thomas.
The Ronald McDonald House charity provided us with accommodation.
It meant Ross and I could be with Connor and still spend time with Thomas and Joshua.
Finally, in May, Connor was allowed home.
And since then he’s coming on leaps and bounds.
He’s a year old now and is a happy, cheeky little thing.
He’s feeding well and his bowels seem to be functioning OK.
Doctors can’t be sure if he’ll have further trouble in the future.
For now my little tot is doing just fine, though.
He’s perfect inside and out.
Gastroschisis: The facts
1 in 3,000 babies are born with gastroschisis each year in the UK. The exact cause is unknown but it’s found to be more common in young mothers under the age of 20. Children who’ve had gastroschisis repair may develop hernias in the years after the op. This is because the abdomen has fewer muscles than usual.