B – Breast Feeding: Establishing breast feeding in the neonatal environment can be tough; but putting a baby born too soon to the breast is also a big moment for many NICU mums who wait days or weeks for the opportunity.
D – Dates: Birth date, due date, leaving hospital date – dates can be significant for parents of children born prematurely. A birthday will always signify the day your baby arrived early and the lead up to celebrations can be a reflective time for parents.
F – Family & Friends: There to help and support you, but friends and family may feel helpless or left out. Ask them to help with practical things, such as buying micro-nappies, cooking a meal or helping with childcare. Take advantage of offers of help, but allow time for yourself.
G – Going Home: Sadly not all babies leave hospital, with some born too small or poorly to survive. They are always remembered. For parents who do bring their babies home from NICU we know they face a host of mixed and often conflicting emotions…. relief, joy, anxious, scared. The journey rarely ever ends at dischage.
H – How old is your Baby? The question every parent of a baby born too soon dreads. “They’re six months… but they were born early…so really they are only 3 months”, you hurriedly explain.
I – Incubator: Your baby’s home, keeping them warm and safe from the outside world. A place where you will find a parent sitting, watching and waiting.
J – Jealousy: Suddenly there are heavily pregnant women everywhere you look. Proud fathers carefully carrying car seats are around every corner and your Facebook timeline is seemingly full of mums cuddling their newborns whilst you wait anxiously for your first hold.
K – Kangaroo Care: The act of skin-to-skin care beneficial for both baby and mother.
L – Loss: Loss of pregnancy; that final trimester, the lost time to prepare. Loss of that first hold or touch as your baby is taken away to NICU. Loss of a baby to take home, the emptiness that fills you as you leave hospital without them. Lost maternity leave as the weeks are spent beside an incubator. And the loss of a child, for the babies born too soon or too small, who do not come home from NICU.
M – Milk: Those first ‘golden drops’ proudly presented to the NICU nurse in a syringe. Followed by an obsession with numbers – how many mls, how many minutes, how many hours between feeds and expresses.
O – Overwhelming: Nothing can quite prepare you for parenthood, but for parents of premature babies the planning and expectation of a new arrival is dramatically interrupted. You are thrown into a world of micro-nappies, beeping machines, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, expressing pumps, portholes, picc lines and rigorous hand washing. It is quite simply – overwhelming.
P – Preemie Club: A lifelong membership to a club you would never have wanted to join. Once a preemie parent, always a preemie parent, sharing experiences and feelings only other preemie parents will know.
R – Reason: In 40% of cases there is no known reason for premature labour.
T – Trauma: The trauma associated with an abrupt end to pregnancy and admission to neonatal intensive care can not be underestimated. Thrown into a medical world of uncertainty and all that it entails has a lasting affect, with many parents desribing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder after the event.
U – Universal Care: 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely.
W – Wires and Lines: The tangle of wires and lines that cover your tiny baby – cardiac monitors, respiratory monitors, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, peripheral, central and umbilical intravenous lines…
Y – You – Look after yourself.
Z – Z zzzzz: “At least you can go home and get a good nights sleep”… one of the worst things to say to a preemie mum!