There is normality after NICU I promise…
I know, because I’m sat writing this to you whilst in bed with my now massive baby asleep on my chest. I hope my story helps just one person going through that hard journey to realise it’s just a small part of your babies whole life.
We went for a routine growth scan at 28 weeks pregnant, filled with excitement we would get to see the little man again… but also because it was at 1.30pm and we’d we got afternoon off work. We were planning where to go for food, little did we know that we would not be leaving the hospital that afternoon.
Having the scan everything started normally. The picture of the baby on the screen wasn’t quite as clear as our last scan and I was gutted as we’d hoped for another picture. The lady scanning us was quiet apart from asking me to change positions several times as her face becoming more and more serious. She then explained to us that he was measuring a little small at about 25-26 weeks. She wanted to do a doppler scan just to be sure everything was ok so she did but then explained she wasn’t getting a good reading. I was sent off to the waiting room and told I’d be called back in soon for further checks.
After around 20 minutes a midwife came to find me. She explained I needed to go for monitoring to check on my baby, so off we went. She didn’t lead us through to the day unit though and all of a sudden we were in the delivery suite and people started telling me all about an injection to make sure babies lungs didn’t stick together. Still by this point we had no idea what was going on, until eventually someone explained that my baby would be being delivered at latest the end of the week – it was now Monday.
They stuck a heart monitor on my tummy, wouldn’t let me eat or drink and kept taking bloods, doing blood pressures and waffling on about more injections… I should mention I am the biggest needle phobe you could ever meet – I am in floods of tears and shaking just at the mention of a needle so I really wasn’t coping well.
At around 6pm everything seemed to go calm and they even started discussing moving me upstairs to be monitored over night. Finally I dared to dream that things were going to be ok. That feeling didn’t last long though as the consultant came running in about an hour later telling the midwives that we had to move now and were going to theatre immediately.
I can promise you now I have never been more scared of anything in my whole life.
A massive needle going in my spine, surgery and a baby arriving 12 weeks before he should.
Surgery was not as bad as I’d anticipated – felt like the surgeon was doing the washing up in my stomach – weird I know,but if you’ve had a section you will know exactly what I mean!
Then out he came. Rushed off into an incubator, I didn’t even see him.
He weighed just 752 grams. My placenta had basically died and a few more days and I probably wouldn’t be writing you this happy little tale.
I didn’t see my baby until the next day when I was wheeled down to the unit in a wheelchair. The poor little thing was just a bit bigger than my hand, lying under the light therapy lights… I’m very pale and ginger and he was jet black under those lights so was a shock to say the least!
It was 5 days before I could hold him for the first time. He was so tiny I thought he was going to break. We could only have him out of his incubator for 30 mins once a day in the beginning as he really was too small and not well at all.
But.. he did start to grow.
A few weeks in we could put him in a premature baby vest for babies up to 3lb – it absolutely drowned him but it was one of the best moments. That for all those 10 seconds felt normal.
We carried on our journey through NICU and SCBU with set backs, but that’s a normal neonatal journey. Hs was in his cot for about a week in SCBU and one day we ended up back in an incubator back on optiflow and back in NICU. One step forward and 2 steps back is like the prem baby motto I’m sure!
Things change so quickly in there. You have absolutely no control over anything, not your life and not your baby. And it’s ok to feel lost or isolated. It’s definitely ok to sob while you sit at home trying to express milk into those awful machines. Feeling like the worst person in the world when you only manage 30ml.
Expressing milk was the worst part for me. I’d always planned on formula feeding my baby, so when they told me that formula wasn’t an option and I would either have to express milk or he would have donated milk it broke me. I hated every single second on that machine and I cried every time.
The other part that you can’t prepare for and doesn’t get easier is when people who are only being nice actually say things that leave you feeling a thousand times worse. It’s ok to cry when someone says to you ‘well at least you missed the third trimester’ – you think to yourself that you’d cut your leg off with a blunt knife for that third trimester where your baby could be safe in your tummy and not hooked up to machines. Or someone telling you how easy it must be not having those nights with a baby waking you up all the time… I mean do they really think that you are sleeping well while your baby is in hospital and not with you?!
The premature baby journey is terrifying, but you get to realise just how strong your baby is.
We spent 70 days in NICU and SCBU and eventually got discharged homs on Christmas day. Walking out those doors was the best feeling in the world, but was almost as scary as the first time we walked through them.
I sit here with a 6lb4 baby cuddling me, who looks at me with his big eyes with such love. I barely remember what it was like driving to that hospital 3 times a day and not even knowing what day it was. At the end of it all you walk out of there with your baby and eventually the trauma and heartache fade.
Oh one last thing… please don’t think you will be able to go to sleep in the quiet. These babies are used to noise and beeping and talking at all hours. Silence confused my baby more than anything!
Just keep going. You are stronger than you think. Eventually it will all get better and it will become a distant memory.
If you have a story you’d to share, please get in touch with Catriona at firstname.lastname@example.org