Category Archives: Kangaroo Care

My First Mothers Day: ‘Seeing’ my Baby in NICU

Kicking off our special series of Mothers’ Day blogs, Serena Di Murro tells The Smallest Things about the day she saw her daughter Elysia properly for the first time.

My first Mothers’ Day was 6 March 2016 and it is one I shall never forget. It was truly bittersweet! I gave birth to my daughter Elysia, weighing 885g, at just 25+2 weeks on 31 January 2016. Mothers’ Day last year was exactly five weeks later when she was 30 weeks gestational age. I shouldn’t have even been a mother by then – I should still have been 30 weeks’ pregnant. It was certainly not how I ever imagined my very first Mothers’ Day to be. Elyisa had been intubated [on a ventilator] on the first day and I hadn’t really looked at her properly as I was too much in shock and there was a lot of tape obscuring her face. On Day 2 she transitioned to CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure] and spent the next five weeks on that.

Struggling to connect

CPAP involves a breathing mask and hat that completely covers a baby’s face. Elysia also had a feeding tube so I had absolutely no idea what she looked like for that whole month. I had held her for the first time when she was two weeks old on Valentines Day but struggled to connect with her because she was so tiny and drowned in all the equipment. I held her every day for skin-to-skin contact, but the fact I didn’t really know what her face looked like was surreal and meant I never felt like a mum at all. Every day I would go in and hold this tiny fragile being and struggle to ‘feel’ something, but it felt like I was just going through the motions.

‘Seeing’ my baby for the first time

However, when I arrived at the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] on Mothers’ Day last year the CPAP was gone! In its place was a small nasal cannula and at long last I could see Elysia’s face. I noticed she looked so like her dad and for the first time I saw this little person and not just a sick, fragile baby. I will never ever forget that day’s Kangaroo Care… she looked right into my eyes and I got a sense that she could ‘see’ me just as I ‘saw’ her for the first time. It was like she too felt more connected to me now that the big mask, which had been such a barrier between us, was gone.

Serena ‘seeing’ her daughter properly for the first time on Mothers’ Day last year

Tears slid down my cheeks as I looked at her tiny little face. I have a video of this moment that my partner made and now, over a year later, I still cry every time I watch it. There are no words to explain it. On Mothers’ Day 2016 I finally became, and most importantly felt like, a mother after five long weeks of cuddling a baby hidden behind a mask. I treasure that moment and am so happy we caught it on video.

Elysia now weighs over 18lb (8.2kg) and is thriving. Looking back, last Mothers’ Day was a defining moment in our journey and shows that there can be beautiful moments in the NICU when we least expect it. This Mothers’ Day I will reflect on our time in hospital and spend all day looking at Elysia’s sweet, now very chubby face… just because I can 🙂

Today, aged one, Serena is healthy and happy

 

 

My day as a NICU Mummy

Guest post by Becca Hilton, Mum of Max, as Part of World Prematurity Month 2016

Waking up from what feels like a continuous bad dream, the house is filled with silence yet I have a crib next to my bed and bottles on the side.

I switch on the television for some company and begin to express milk ready to take with me to the hospital. Doing this brings me some sort of comfort and helps me to feel closer to my son.

I arrive at the hospital, my tummy fills with butterflies and I cannot race quickly enough to the door. Lovely nurses buzz me in and welcome me with a smile and a chirpy, “hello mummy”! My heart races as I walk over to him, so perfect laying there calm but with a maze of wires surrounding him. I gaze over at his chart to check his weight and to see which nurse will be caring for him today. I wash my hands and warm them up ready to let my son know that I am there.

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I stroke his ear and watch a small smirk raise from the side of his mouth, he knows his mummy is with him. The nurses always encourage me to be ‘hands on’ with him and help do the baby duties whilst I am there. This makes me feel so happy; I feel like I am finally bonding with him, I now feel like his mummy.

First things first its temperature check time, then nappy change (I can never cover him in time and he wees all over himself ha-ha, typical boy!) As I change his nappy, rearranging the wires around him I can’t help but think how delicate hi is and it’s amazing that something so small can be so strong and fight so hard, a true hero.

Sounds of beeps fill the room and alarms flash and glow bright, what a surreal situation, I can’t believe I’m here. I look around and see familiar faces, some of joy and some of heartache, who would have known that some of them have become friends for life and we share a bond like not many people do.

It’s feed time! I get excited at the thought of helping. At this point max is too small to be bottle or breast fed so he is fed through a tube. I watch the milk slowly go down as I hold the syringe, he lays there so peaceful, oblivious to the chaos around him, my little sleeping beauty.

How exciting, it’s time for Max’s first bath! I’m giddy with excitement. I start to undress Max and the nurse wraps him up in his towel, its hair wash time first. He wriggles as the water drips down the side of his face. We dry his hair and lower him into the water; being careful to keep the wires over the side of the bath. Max kicks his legs out and makes a small slash, tears fill my eyes, I couldn’t feel more proud to be his mum. I wrap the towel around him and embrace him in my arms, at this point I don’t want to let him go.

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All cosy and snug, he keeps warm in his little nest that’s in the incubator. He stretches his legs out and lets out a little sigh and a yawn, he looks so content. I sit back and look around and think what an amazing place this actually is. If it wasn’t for the love, care and support that we have received as a family I don’t know what we would do.

Looking at the clock, it’s nearly time to say goodbye, dread fills my entire being. One last cuddle, I smell his hair and stroke his cheek and whisper I love you. I put him back and say god bless and goodbye, mummy will see you in the morning!

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As I walk to the carpark to be picked up I feel sad and withdrawn, but this is normal right? I don’t know any different. But with reassurance from my husband he reminds me that when the time is right he will be home and he’s in the best place for now.

Early night for me, dreaming of what tomorrow will bring? We will have to wait and see as it’s all a mystery, a day in the life of a NICU mummy. No two days are the same, there may be ups and downs, but they are all part of your journey – be proud! I know I am.

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If you’d like to share a story to raise awareness through World Prematurity Month, please email Catriona at smallestthings@yahoo.com

Just a Little Longer Please: Time After NICU

10 weeks early, my little baby, is with us far too soon.

I’d like to keep you safe inside,

Just a little longer please.

 

The nurse showed me your tiny face, wrapped in a blanket tight.

I reached out to touch your cheek, a mothers instinct strong.

I couldn’t touch you as you couldn’t stay, intensive care was needed.

I longed to shout as I watched the team whisked you away,

“just a little longer, please!”

Your little eyes were open, when we met in neonatal care.

Terrified I reached inside the incubator walls;

a tangled mess of tubes and wires, stick thin limbs so small.

Your tiny hand gripped my finger tight.

I prayed – fight my baby, fight.

 

How could I leave my baby?

I am empty now inside.

Emotion overwhelmed me, consumed with grief and loss.

How can I leave my baby – just a little longer please.

 

6 long days I waited, to hold you in my arms.

Lines and tubes obscured your face, the monitor alarmed.

Ding, ding, ding the ringing went, our time together up.

I whispered to my baby – “just a little longer please.”

3 hours became a golden rule, expressing on the clock.

Now we’re allowed kangaroo cuddles, time just for you and me.

But once again, three hours are up, is it really pumping time?!

I’d hold you close and feel your warmth, sometimes our only cuddle of the day.

I look to the nurse, she looks to the clock – “just a little longer please”.

 

Weeks and months in neonatal care, our journey has been immense.

You’ve grown and you are stronger, but my baby you’re still so small.

Home we go at eight weeks old, your due date still not reached.

 

At home we can be together, no monitors or alarms.

For the first time in forever I begin to be your mum.

I feel the pain we’ve been through, I stop to take a breath.

I realise now, what other NICU mums will know, my journey has just begun.

smallest things

More hospital trips and appointments,

Corrected age explained.

Coughs and colds take their toll on little preemie lungs.

 

My boss has started calling, return to work is near.

My maternity leave is over, but please it’s just too soon.

We’re only now just bonding and my nerves are much too frail.

It can’t be time to say goodbye, please just a little longer.

Just a little longer please.


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If you believe that mothers & premature babies need more time together after neonatal intensive care please take a look at our PETITION to extend maternity leave for mothers of babies born too soon  – https://goo.gl/KeLrVv

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Winnie the Pooh – the day I became a mother

 

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The first time you leave your baby can be a big moment for new mothers; this little person, a new life you have carried, part of you in someone else’s care.

I remember leaving my baby for the first time.

The memories, although hazy through shock and disbelief, are still ever present.

He was only a few hours old and I did not leave him with a trusted family member of friend.

I did not cuddle or kiss him goodbye, knowing that I’d only be gone a short while.

Instead I would be gone until morning time.

 

I held his tiny fingers through the incubator portholes and whispered ‘see you soon’.

I had not held him in my arms and my body ached from labour.

I would leave my tiny baby, born too soon, in the care of strangers, not knowing what the morning would bring.

NICU day 3 | Lines & Wires

I was empty and without my baby to hold.

I was numb and grieving for the baby I had left behind.

 

Neonatal intensive care, a world of medical devises and babies housed in boxes. A place of uncertainty and of up and downs. An environment where you are tested to the limit as you watch your baby fight and grow.

In neonatal intensive care I cared and tried to provide for my baby. Expressing became ingrained as part of my new life and pumped breast milk became like liquid gold.

When the time came I was able to hold him in my arms, but tubes and wires obscured his face and prevented me from holding him close.

I longed to kiss him, to whisper ‘I love you’. My heart ached for the baby I so desperately wanted to hold tight to my chest.

He was in the care of an exceptional medical team and wonderful nurses cared for him 24 hours a day as if he were their own. Their kindness made leaving him a little more bearable each day, but behind the safety and warmth of his incubator I was a mother, but he was not really mine.

For weeks I would ask permission to hold my own baby; on occasions I would be told I was holding him too much.

Nappy changes were done on a strict timetable and feeding was scheduled around charts and numbers.

The unit where my baby slept was behind security doors and rigorous hand washing became the norm.

I cared for my baby in hospital, but he did not feel like mine and I did not feel like a mother.

 

We were unsure of how to celebrate his fragile birth. Cards of congratulations trickled in slowly as we tentatively announced his early arrival.

Finally, we were at home, that first magical night together. I’d been a mother for months, yet now I was on my own!

We held a naming ceremony some weeks later, a way to celebrate a new life, to introduce him to the family and to say ‘He’s here!’

I searched high and low for a quote that would sum up our journey and the way we felt about early starter. I eventually found it –

“Sometimes” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”….

I had become a mother.

smallest things 

 

Kangaroo Care: Dads Do NICU

Yesterday was Fathers Day.

In neonatal intensive care units across the country fathers spent the day sat beside incubators – sat waiting, watching and hoping for a precious hold with their tiny baby.

The Smallest Things dedicated the week to sharing stories and raising awareness of the journeys that dads take through neonatal care. Dads do NICU too, and often tread the first steps of the journey by themselves; visiting their fragile babies alone whilst mothers recover from traumatic births and surgery.

Jonathan writes movingly about the first time he visited his son…

“My wife came back to recovery but was too ill to make the journey to the other side of the building where Ethan was being cared for, so I made the trip alone. I couldn’t make my mind up whether to walk quickly or slowly as the excitement of having a son was tainted by my worries over what I was going to see. What I found was a strange, almost alien like red/purple 800g dot in a white eye mask and a pink wool hat, no bigger than my hand with a myriad of wires and tubes as attachments. But he was also the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.” …….   From A NICU Dads Experience

Dads do Kangaroo Care

Fathers shared beautiful pictures of Kangaroo Care and we decided that there are simply not enough pictures of dads in neonatal care, let alone pictures demonstrating and encouraging skin-to-skin time for NICU dads. Darren wrote honestly about how sacred he was of holding his twin daughters, how initially he avoided skin-to-skin care. That changed though when he held them for the first time….

“By then 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”. …. From Daddy’s NICU Twins

Our #DadsDoNICU week may have come to an end, but we will continue to write about fathers in NICU and will continue to share photos encouraging skin-to-skin care with dads… here are a few to keep us going x

FB_IMG_1434871129975FB_IMG_1434871058501  FB_IMG_1434871035864 FB_IMG_1434871003714 FB_IMG_1434870998064 FB_IMG_1434870971012 FB_IMG_1434870937018 FB_IMG_1434870869446 FB_IMG_1434870857352 Kangaroo Care

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s NICU Twins

11351121_1605702686352890_8034685534623854660_n (2)Guest post written as part of our “Dads Do NICU” week, with thanks to Darren for sharing his story….

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.

prem twinsI 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!

Dads do NICUAlso 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.

NICU dadOur 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.

 

 

 

Kangaroo Care – Close to my Heart

The first time I held my baby I longed to kiss him; longed to be able to bend my head, to be close to him, to tell him that I was there.

I waited six long day to be able to hold my baby; but placed in my arms he still felt so far way. Looking down I saw lines and wires tangled around his limbs, a breathing tube obscuring his face and buzzers alarmed with each move as he acclimatised to the outside world.  It would be a few more days before I could hold him close to my chest, before I could kiss his tiny head and whisper I love you.

From then on, like other mums and dads in the neonatal intensive care unit, I would sit patiently beside his incubator waiting for a chance each day to hold him against my skin.  Some days he was just too poorly – I missed him dreadfully on those days, heading home in the evening empty and heavy hearted.

imageKangaroo care or skin-to-skin helped me to feel like a mum, his mum. It gave me comfort knowing that this act would help him to regulate his own breathing and heart rate, it would help us find our way out of NICU more quickly. More importantly I saw how deeply he slept on my chest, how quickly he would settle when listening to my heart beat and I knew that sleeping equated to growing time.

The move to special care gave more opportunity for kangaroo cuddles. “Don’t hold them for too long” one nurse used to say, “they’ll get used to being held and it’ll mean more work for you when you get them home”.

I watched as mothers listened when they were told to put their babies back after feeding, “they sleep better and grow more when there in their cots” I heard another nurse say. I didn’t put my baby back, I kept him close.

In NICU and SCBU he would have been alone in his cot for most of the day; alone for much longer than a new born baby born at term and certainly held a lot less. I didn’t agree with the theory that by too many kangaroo cuddles I risked bringing home a clingy baby from hospital. Besides, I knew that the best place for my baby to sleep and grow was close to my heart and that is where he stayed.

Kangaroo care, skin-to-skin, is not only beneficial to mum and baby, it is precious, powerful and vital. When being mum is difficult, when you find yourself lost in a place you hardly know, kangaroo cuddles can silence even the loudest monitor and quieten your darkest fears. Precious moments snatched in an uncertain world – rare private moments to whisper “I love you”.