Our Story

In those first few days I was lost and empty; the emotional impact of leaving hospital without a baby in your arms is hard to describe….. 

It was a Friday morning and I was climbing out of bed. At first I didn’t really believe it could be happening, but there was no mistaking that my waters had broken.  I was just 30 weeks pregnant.

Terrified I switched into auto-pilot, calmly calling a cab and throwing a random selection of things into my handbag. Googling what it would mean to have a baby born at 30 weeks while stuck in traffic on Streatham High Road terrified me even more. The contractions began in the cab, quickened and a few hours later Sam had been born. I was shown my tiny baby wrapped in a towel for just a few short seconds. Instinctively I reached out to touch him, but my hand was gently moved away as he was place in an incubator that looked more like a spaceship. It was only months later that I learnt the medical team had resuscitated Sam for six minutes, attempting to place a breathing tube down only for him to pull it out. He was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit breathing on his own and I like to think that was him showing us his fighting spirit from the get-go .

Shattered and numb we spent just a short while with our new baby; holding his hand through the portholes in his incubator, taking hazy pictures through the perspex box. The birth had been straightforward and I wasn’t admitted to hospital; so when the evening came we called a cab home. I was without my baby for the first time in 6 and half months and felt ’empty’. I was plagued with guilt for feeling like I had lost him and berated myself for being so selfish when other mothers do lose their babies. But however hard I tried, when I climbed into bed that night the feeling of emptiness and loss were all consuming. My chest ached on the spot where I felt his head should be resting –  an ache that stayed with me for a long time.

Your life becomes the neonatal unit and the emptiness is quickly filled with a 3 hourly expressing routine, endless trips to and from the hospital and hours spent waiting; waiting for that precious moment when you can hold your baby for the first time. The moment comes  and your overwhelming instinct is to hold them close, to kiss and cuddle them, but wires and tubes are in the way and you hold them at a distance wondering when you’ll next get this chance. Then it’s back into their box and the watching and waiting starts over again.

At some point the jealously creeps in; of mothers cradling their new babies as they leave the maternity unit, of proud dad’s with balloons, flowers and teddies in tow, and of mothers who had had that extra time with their baby. I was angry and grieving for the lost two and a half months of my pregnancy. The time I’d missed with Sam still with me, the time to prepare, to decorate a nursery, to buy his first baby grow and blankets. Our family were brilliant, rallying round to buy everything that we needed, but such a personal and special time to prepare, particularly for your first baby is lost.

The weeks go by and you start to relax a little, everything is going to be okay, you’re just taking a different route. I would tell myself that other people have their special day when their baby was born; our special day would be the day we took Sam home and the wait would make that day more special. You can hold your baby now, but you still have to wait for a nurse to help you with all the wires and tubes or have wait for the doctors to finish their ward rounds, and by the time you snatch a precious moment to hold them to your chest it’s time to express again.

Expressing – a three hourly routine of pumping to give your baby the only thing you can really give them, an emotional rollercoaster in itself and a story for another time. But to those men who made lewd comments about women sitting in a room with their boobs out, I have nothing polite to say to you.

You’ve watched other families come and go, you’ve left others behind in NICU, but you’re nearly there, you’re special day is just around the corner. Our journey in NICU and SCBU, like many premature parents wasn’t that straightforward. We had our set backs, the very worst was on the day we were due to come home. From the rooming in room we ended up straight back where we had started in intensive care. Sam was back in an incubator, back with a nasogastric tube, back with lines and monitors and the moses basket ready and waiting for him at home was empty. My world came crashing down as I realised I would have to go home again without a baby in my arms.

Our special day did come though and eight weeks later we had finally made it. We were that family who were going home and although we didn’t know it then, our journey had really only just begun.

19 thoughts on “Our Story

  1. Emily O'Donoghue

    Hello, Our little girl Evie was born at 27 weeks due to me getting severe pre-eclampsia. It is always hard to verbalise what it was like being in NICU for so long, and it is lovely to read someone else’s account and know that there are other people who get it. Evie is now nearly 3 and I still don’t think I’m ‘over’ her start in life. Thankfully she is, and is thriving and never stops talking! Thanks for sharing your story.

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  2. Bianca Webb

    What lovely words… I have had 3 premature babies and I find it really hard to describe the empty feeling you have as a new mum with no baby and the roller coaster of emotions it is when baby is in the NICU. Well written.

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  6. ghostwritermummy2014

    What a heart breaking read. We escaped NICU with Elsie, despite being told it was inevitable, and I will always be grateful for that. What an incredibly difficult journey, but one that has no doubt given you strength beyond measure. Thans for linking up to #Maternitymatters x x

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  7. Claire Welsh

    I could of wrote a lot of this myself! Similar thing happened with waters so went to hospital, was only 33+6. My first question was “why is she coming? She’s not ready!” Luckily my princess did really well & other than feeding had no issues! Luckily my hospital let’s mums with babies in special care stay in 5 days! The day I was discharged was one of the hardest of my life! Did really well majority of day then half way home it hit me & I was inconsolable! I’d gone to maternity 5 days earlier with a little princess inside me kicking away to going home empty handed & nothing in my stomach! I too felt jealous every time we saw any one going home with there new baby & felt as tho everyone else around us in scbu was going home & we were not! Luckily my little lady only spent 18 days in scbu & has now been home a week & is doing great! It effects mums of special care babies more than people think especially those who have been luckily enough it didn’t happen to them.

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  8. Traci F

    I had almost the exact same experience. My son came 7 weeks early and just before they wheeled me into the OR for a C-section, the doctor increased our nervousness 10-fold by explaining all the things that could go wrong or that could be wrong with my baby. It was terrifying!! I too felt the jealousy of all the moms that got more time carrying their babies. I might be rare, but I loved being pregnant. Also, he is my only child so I never got another chance to do it again.. I was simply not ready when he came. I certainly wasn’t prepared for him to be so tiny…born at 3 lbs 14 oz. I had no clothes for him, the nursery wasn’t set up, he had no crib or car seat yet. I never got a baby shower, etc. The worst part was being suddenly separated from him after birth. He, like your baby, was whisked away to the NICU where he remained for a month. I felt literally and emotionally empty that night as I lie alone in my hospital room. I had no baby to hold and as he had a mask on his face during the first few days (as part of a treatment for juindace), I didn’t even get to see his face until he was 3 days old!!! I didn’t even get to see him at all after birth in the OR, they just whisked him away. It’s true, my experiences are not the same as most mothers, but I am so very thankful that today he is a very strong and healthy little boy!!

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  10. Fiona @adventure_seek

    Aw that is such a lovely post, my baby was two weeks in SCBU and it felt like a life time. The hardest things is watching other mothers with their babies. Every little touch with your baby is so important, when they take away all those wires and you can cuddle your baby it is the best feeling in the world! And don’t get me started on pumping! Best wishes to you and your sweet baby x

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  11. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM)

    So so beautifully written and what an experience, I am so glad all worked out well in the end and thank goodness for modern medicine! Xx Thanks for linking with #MaternityMondays

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  12. helen gandy

    This is a beautiful post and such a lot for you to go through. I’m so pleased to read that Sam came home and you are starting your journey, how wonderful 🙂

    #maternitymondays

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  13. Joanna fisher

    I totally understand your feelings and the emotions you must have gone through. I had my twins at 26 weeks and they spent 10 weeks in hospital. I held my daughter after a couple of days but my son was so poorly I didn’t get to hold him for three weeks which was awful and does make you envy other mams who can just go and pick their babies up without question. They are now happy healthy 16 month olds and doing fab. Here is a link to my story if you would like to read it
    http://www.bliss.org.uk/News/joannas-story

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  17. tigress54

    We were only in the NICU for 8 days, but I know the toll it can take on a family. The 3 hour routine was such a rat race and the only thing I could do for my daughter like you said. Thank you for sharing your story.

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