Being born under lockdown was scary enough for her parents, but at just 1.28kg and with a very sick mum, baby Leya had an unforgettable entrance to the world.

The little girl has been in Middlemore Hospital since her birth nine weeks early on March 28, two days after New Zealand entered alert level 4 in its fight against the spread of Covid-19.

At 29 weeks pregnant, Papakura mum Meena Mishra developed pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition.

It was March 19, two days before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand was at alert level 2.

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Mishra, 36, had already suffered a miscarriage last year and worried she would lose her second baby.

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Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure. It can lead to serious, even fatal, complications for mother and baby.

Husband Myles Sharp, 39, was initially allowed to visit his wife.

That week she received a series of steroid injections to quicken the development of the baby's lungs, ready for early delivery.


But by March 26 the country had moved into full lockdown and Sharp was no longer allowed to visit.

Two days later, on March 28, Mishra woke up with a blinding headache.

"I opened my eyes, my head was pounding. I couldn't see properly, it was quite hazy with constant eye watering and I was very dizzy. I told them something's wrong with my blood pressure - check now."

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Her liver was failing, she had ballooned to 95kg with water retention and her blood pressure was dangerously high at 200 over 110.

New mum Meena Mishra with baby Leya. The infant weighed just 1.28kg when she was born early on March 28. Photo / Supplied
New mum Meena Mishra with baby Leya. The infant weighed just 1.28kg when she was born early on March 28. Photo / Supplied

"They had to get the baby out now. The baby was healthy but the placenta wasn't good enough and it was me that was in danger."

Mishra was prepared for an emergency Caesarean section and Sharp was called back to the hospital, allowed to be at the birth.

The Caesarean went smoothly but baby Leya weighed only 1.28kg.

"She was very tiny. She was very skinny. Not much fat on her arms or legs but she did cry when she was born so that was a good sign that her lungs were functioning."

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Leya still needed three days of oxygen and was admitted to the hospital's newborn intensive care unit, Kids First Neonatal Care (KFNC), and placed in an incubator.

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Sharp was able to visit their daughter but Mishra was too unwell, and to make matters worse, he could not visit Mishra on the ward because of the lockdown.

"Only my husband got to see the baby - I didn't get to see my baby for three days."

It was not the way the couple had envisaged the birth of their daughter.

"The third day I begged a midwife to call an orderly to take me to see the baby."

She was wheeled to the KFNU at 11pm to see her baby for the first time. It would be another day before Mishra could hold Leya.

"It was so difficult because I couldn't see my husband. We never got a chance to feel like a family."
The couple were able to rendezvous at the KFNC but otherwise contact was limited to phone calls as Mishra recuperated.

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"It's not easy to remember those days in a good way. If I was unwell I would not get to see either of them for a full day. I've had a lot of crying days.

"There were times I felt guilty for not being a good mum because I couldn't breastfeed, because she is so young."

Proud dad Myles Sharp with daughter Leya. Family bonding was hard during lockdown because Sharp was at home while wife Meena Mishra and Leya were in different hospital wards. Photo / Supplied
Proud dad Myles Sharp with daughter Leya. Family bonding was hard during lockdown because Sharp was at home while wife Meena Mishra and Leya were in different hospital wards. Photo / Supplied

To make matters worse, Mishra has no family in New Zealand other than Sharp. Her parents live in India and were due to fly over in May before the pandemic.

Mishra spent almost four weeks in hospital. She was discharged on April 13 and now visits her daughter in hospital every day. Leya, who is making excellent progress and now weighs 2.3kg, will stay in hospital until her due date of June 1.

And when Leya is finally allowed home, the family will have a "coming home shower" after Mishra missed out on a baby shower.

But for Mother's Day today she plans to catch up online with some of the other new mums from her Parents Centre antenatal group.

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At 11am, the Parents Centre will host The Big Coffee Group Catch Up on its Facebook page, for old and new coffee groups to chat online together "to honour those friendships and offer support to those in your network who may be finding today's lockdown challenging".