No more leaflets, please!

Published as part of our communication in Neonatal Care Week | 23rd February – 1st March 2015.

To the well-meaning health care professional (of which I am one)… No more leaflets, please!

seeing our son for the first time

seeing our son for the first time

I’m numb. I’m in shock. I have so many questions, yet no words to express myself.

“Why did this happen?” | “Will they live?” | “Will they die” | “Why did this happen to us?”

A doctor is speaking to me across the incubator – did they really just say my baby won’t be home until his due date?

That’s 10 weeks away!

What do we do now? – Where do we go? – What do we say? – 10 weeks?!

“Don’t worry, you’re baby is doing fine” the doctors told me. “He’s a good weight for the 30 weeks; he’ll take the usual route”.

The usual route? I remember thinking what a strange phrase that was. There was nothing ‘usual’ about this situation, nothing at all.

NICU day 3 | Lines & Wires

NICU day 3 | Lines & Wires

Doing just fine? I believed them when they said my baby was going be okay. I had to, and I had to push dark thoughts from my mind; but seeing my tiny baby on a ventilator, lines in his arms, hands and feet and his chest mechanically rising and falling… he was far from fine.

I was far from fine.

My baby should be with me, his mother. I should be able to protect him from the lines and the needles, the glare of the lights and the invasive tubes.

I should be able to keep him safe, safely inside me, where he belonged. And for me, he would fill a space where I had been left empty.

Just statistics, numbers and scenarios.

The leaflets did not fill the empty space inside of me, nor did they dull the ache on my chest where my baby should have laid his head.

They did not answer the question I longed to answer – why me? Nor did they reassure me that the feelings of loss, jealousy, guilt and anger I felt where quite normal.

For this, communication on a one-to-one basis is needed. An opportunity to speak openly and honestly, to explore unanswered questions and concerns. A time to talk about the immediate and as well as future concerns and a space to express my thoughts, even if I didn’t know quite what I wanted to ask.

Too many Leaflets!

Too many Leaflets!

Written information does have its place though, like everything, but leaflets can never be a substitute to one-to-one communication and must be given in a timely and sensitive manner. They are not sticking plasters for example; they can not fix what has happened, can not change the past, nor can they predict the future. Nothing about NICU is normal; and no amount of literature can make the NICU experience ‘normal’. Your baby, your journey together – that is your focus. It is a journey unique to you and can not be simplified to a statistic, number or scenario found on a page.

So, no more leaflets please! My baby may look like the pictures in the books and I may recognise some of the words – but at home, surrounded by those leaflets, that is where I can feel most alone.

3 thoughts on “No more leaflets, please!

  1. Adventures of a Novice Mum

    😦 My heart goes out to you. I can’t even imagine how it must be for one’s newborn to be in NICU. I really pray that your little will come home with you soon. I understand about the leaflets; they can be as empowering (in terms of the info one can derive from them) as they can be isolating; depending on the kind of support one has. All the very best with your little one. #MaternityMatters 4

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    1. Catriona Ogilvy Post author

      Thank you. It really is hard to imagine what life on NICU is like for parents of early or poorly babies.
      I had even worked on a neonatal unit and it wasn’t until I had a child of my own born prematurely that I realised the true scale of the feelings and emotions that come during and after the stay.
      Raising awareness is so important so that parents can be supported in the best possible way throughout and after their journey.

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  2. Susanne Remic (@Ghostwritermumm)

    Oh gosh, when I was expecting Elsie and we were faced with the reality of an early delivery due to IUGR we were given leaflets too. And then more still when we were told that a c-section was the only way to deliver her safely. I remember reading those leaflets with incredulity, wanting someone to just sit and talk to me instead. THanks for sharing another important post, and for linking up to #MaternityMatters x x

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