On September 23rd 2014, my partner and I went to the hospital for what should have been a routine pre-natal appointment. Every appointment was a terrifying experience for me, in part due to the loss of a child 2 years earlier, but also because we’d encounterd difficulties with cord flow and Inter Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). Sarah had already been in hospital due to the IUGR and had been given steroids to help with the babies lung development should they come early.
We were both sitting in the waiting room becoming increasingly anxious.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted our consultant. She was running around in that headless chicken way we’d come to know and love from those who are important to us. I don’t think she spotted us initially and it was on her return trip that she made her way through the waiting room to tell us that she was trying to arrange our c-section for that coming friday. After dropping that little bombshell she dashed off leaving both Sarah and I with our jaws on the floor.
This was really happening, and sooner than we’d expected!
It’s not that we weren’t prepared – we were.
Everything we needed was set up, ready and waiting at home; but at that moment we realised WE weren’t setup. The nerves kicked in and I remember the feelings of terror. I was shaking. When we went in for the appointment I don’t think either of us could take anything in… and judging by the amount the consultant wrote down for us and the bundle of literature handed to us, I think they knew we weren’t taking anything in!
Friday the 26th of September – we sat waiting to go up to theatre. We knew it wouldn’t be long now before we were parents again, but we also know that this time was very different, unrecognisably so.
At 11:07am, baby Marnie was born at 33 weeks & 5 days, weighing a very reasonable 3lb 10oz. Fifteen seconds later Faye came into the world weighing 3lb 9oz. Faye needed a little help breathing but once she got going, she did just fine. The girls were brought over for us to see before being whisked away to neonatal care.
Now the hard work really began.
Neither of us had ANY experience of premature babies; we were both equally terrified. I went to see the girls that day – Sarah wanted me to check on them and I needed to know they were ok.
I walked through the hospital, taking the trip to special care to visit my daughters for the first time. They were both in incubators with lots of wires and tubes, or so it seemed. Looking back at the video it’s not nearly so daunting, but in that moment it was terrifying. We’d thankfully had a tour of the unit beforehand so we had an idea of what to expect and I’d highly recommend a tour if you know you’re likely to have a NICU stay.
Faye was sleeping on her back in a “daddy” position. She didn’t stir when I spoke to her through the plastic of the incubator. Marnie was 2 incubators down sleeping on her front in a “mummy” position. I took pictures and videos and went back to show Sarah. They helped to put her mind at ease.
Later that evening, with the feeling returning to her legs, Sarah was ready to meet our daughters properly too. Having seen the video and pictures she had a idea of what to expect, but I think it was still a shock when she saw the girls for the first time in NICU.
The next day Sarah was able to have some Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin) time, which is both extremely important and good for mother and baby. That’s not to discount the importance to daddy, but to be frank and honest, I was utterly terrified. Here were these little fragile human beings with no body fat and lanugo (hair on the babies skin that would normally be gone by term) and I was simply scared.
By day 3 we were becoming a little more at ease and we both changed a nappy – I had my mind blown! The girls had no body fat and because they had no body fat, they had no bum cheeks!
Also by day 3, I was a little more open to the idea of holding them and my heart completely melted. Any apprehensions I felt when being handed my two miracles was gone the minute I held them. I spoke to them and as I did each one looked up at me. My heart melted every time I saw that and still does when I look over the pictures of the occasion. I also believe that my bond with my daughters was established at that very moment.
We were a lot more at ease by day 4. Partially because the girls were out of high dependency, but also because we’d begun to take a more active role in their cares. We went in for 5 hours a day, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time, but you have to consider that all the time the babies are out of their inubator and awake, their bodies are burning critical calories that they need. Outside this time Sarah and I made time for each other, making sure that despite the stress and trauma our relationship stayed strong.
Our girls spent a total of 16 days in special care and by the time we left we were offering guidance and support to other new parents -We’d gone from terrified parents to NICU experts and I’d like to think that those we advised passed that support on to others, just as it was passed on to us.