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Gut-wrenching call Aussie cricketer Megan Schutt received hours before her daughter was born three months early

By Maddison Leach|

Megan Schutt is best known for her performance on the cricket pitch, but no match has made her panic the way she did when daughter Rylee was born three months premature.

The Australian pace bowler and wife Jess conceived their baby girl through IVF after implanting one of Megan's eggs in Jess' womb.

"You're told, having an IVF baby, that there's a high chance they'll be premature, but they just say the usual two to four weeks early," Megan tells 9Honey.

"It's not that extreme usually ”­ but things went downhill during the pregnancy."

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Australian cricketer Megan Schutt with wife Jess Hollyoake.
Australian cricketer Megan Schutt with wife Jess. (Instagram)

The signs that something was wrong started small; Rylee looked smaller than average at a 10-week scan, but Megan and Jess put it down to genetics.

Both women had been small babies themselves and doctors assured them Rylee's size wasn't a major concern.?

Still, they kept a close eye on her and just 10 weeks later a new problem emerged when scans showed the umbilical cord had settled in the wrong position.?

Rylee would need to be monitored more closely, so Megan and Jess scheduled an extra scan at 24 weeks that showed Rylee weighed just 400 grams. Most babies weigh closer to 700 grams at that stage.

"She'd barely grown and that was when the red flags all went up”­ we naturally assumed the worst," Schutt recalls.

Doctors warned the couple the increased risk of premature delivery meant their tiny daughter could arrive at any moment, but there was no way of knowing when.

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"I naturally hit the panic button and just started researching everything to do with 24-weeker survival rates, time in hospital, their stories and their journeys," Megan says.?

"I went 'all systems go' and tried to figure out what our journey could possibly look like if she was born at that weight and time."

As the partner who wasn't carrying the pregnancy, Megan also grappled with feelings of helplessness and guilt that using her egg may have contributed to the complications.

"I tried to put on a brave face, but I was panicking deep down," she admits.

"It is a feeling of helplessness”­ you go through ups and downs and then you realise that it's just out of your control. I just had to be as supportive as I could for Jess."

For three weeks, she and Jess tried to keep a lid on their fears, but a doppler scan at 27 weeks only made them more anxious.

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Megan Schutt and Jess Hollyoake announced they were expecting in 2021.
Megan and Jess announced they were expecting in 2021. (Instagram)

There were further issues with the umbilical cord and Jess had to be hospitalised, but after two chaotic days in hospital she was suddenly sent home.

"They're like, 'We think the other scan was wrong, everything seems to be OK, you can go home'," Megan recalls.

But just a few days later they were back. The baby had been kicking less than usual and the women were worried. This time, Jess was admitted "for real".

With Jess stuck in hospital for near-constant monitoring until Rylee's birth,?Megan bounced between her bedside and cricket training.

She got the call that changed everything just as she was leaving an evening session. All Jess said was, "They're doing it tonight".

"I headed straight back to the hospital and the systems all went go," Megan says.

Jess Hollyoake with daughter Rylee, who was born three months premature.
Jess with daughter Rylee, who was born three months premature. (Instagram)

The birth didn't go to plan, as Rylee's heart rate spiked during Jess' labour and doctors decided they had to get her out as soon as possible.?

Born by emergency caesarean-section at just under 29 weeks, Rylee weighed 858 grams and was so tiny her little head fit in the palm of Megan's hand.

Though she arrived three months premature on August 17, 2021, Rylee was surprisingly healthy and was hurried to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to keep her that way.

"Had this been spontaneous labour at 28 weeks when she was that small, it would be a lot different," Megan says of her daughter's chaotic delivery.??

"There'd possibly be brain bleeds and all sorts of things, so we were extremely lucky that we monitored so well."

Still, the NICU experience was deeply confronting for Megan and her wife, even though they'd done so much research. After all, nothing can really prepare you for what you see and experience in NICU.

Megan Schutt's daughter Rylee in hospital shortly after her birth.
Megan's daughter Rylee in hospital shortly after her birth. (Instagram)

"Everything can change in 24 hours, and that could be good or bad," Megan says.

"Just because Rylee was premature doesn't mean she's bad. We saw so many babies there that were born full term with heart issues or defects in other ways and it was really confronting."

Though she showed healthy progress after her arrival, Rylee wasn't out of the woods yet.??

The first time she was taken off respiratory support and placed in an open crib, the tiny infant suddenly began to decline.

"Jess called me and said 'Can you come back to the hospital now?'... she was crying, 'just come back'," Megan recalls of the terrifying phone call she got from her wife.

"I went racing back up to the hospital and Rylee was really struggling to breathe. Her chest was really compressed and they were doing x-rays."

READ MORE: Premature baby's shocking delivery at just 24 weeks gestation

Megan Schutt with daughter Rylee, who was born three months premature.
Schutt with daughter Rylee, who was born three months premature. (Instagram)

Doctors concluded they'd changed too much, too quickly for her tiny body to handle and rushed Rylee back into an oxygenated, temperature-controlled crib.

"That was a scary couple of days and watching her struggle to breathe for a whole day was pretty horrifying," Schutt says.?

"But other than that we've been super lucky and she progressed beautifully."

Despite the progress, she and Jess struggled seeing other babies in the hospital heading home just days after they were born, while Rylee remained there for weeks.

Megan reflects: "It's a marathon, not a sprint and every story's different. You need to stop comparing to other babies, stop comparing to full-term, stop comparing to other mothers, other parents."

Cricket was her greatest escape while her daughter was in hospital, offering a physical and mental outlet.

Megan Schutt's daughter Rylee on the day she went home from hospital, 53 days after her birth.
Rylee on the day she went home from hospital, 53 days after her birth. (Instagram)

Megan had withdrawn from the Australian squad during Jess' pregnancy, meaning she missed out on the squad's multi-format series against India in 2021.

"I missed the first tour for a very, very long time for Australia. That was strange, watching that on TV rather than playing, but it was something that had to be done," she says.?

"I made that call before Rylee was even born. We knew she was gonna come early and there was no way I was taking the chance that I wasn't going to be there. Not a single bit of regret."

She and Jess finally got to bring their daughter home after 53 days in hospital and Megan admits she was "s---ing bricks" on the drive home.

Their first night home as a family was stressful too,?but before they knew it Rylee had settled into a routine and they had the family life they'd always planned for.

Megan feels fortunate that Rylee's journey as a premature baby was relatively straight-forward, but knows that's not the case for every family.

Megan Schutt with daughter Rylee, who was born three months premature.
Megan with daughter Rylee, who turned one in August 2022. (Instagram)

Knowing how much support she and Jess needed during their daughter's ordeal, Megan now wants to use her platform to offer help to other parents like them.

"I'm working a bit with Miracle Babies Foundation now and just trying to provide some support networks for couples out there, because naturally you turn to Google, which probably isn't the right thing to do," she laughs.

World Prematurity Day falls on Thursday, November 17 this year but Megan is reminding Aussies that the over 27,000 premature babies born each year in Australia need support on more than just one day.

She's pushing for more education around premature births and better support networks for families like hers who experience it firsthand.

Learn more about World Prematurity Day and Miracle Babies Foundation here.

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