This is an anonymous post kindly submitted by one of the parents in our RagHeroes Parent’s Group. All identifying details have been changed.
A world where you feel so helpless,
You feel robbed… robbed of your ‘perfect’ pregnancy!
The lights, the bleeping, there are tubes and wires everywhere, the same sad scared look on other parents faces as they too have been propelled into this frightening place….. NICU aka Neonatal Intensive Care unit for premature and sick babies!
A premature birth is that of a baby born before 37 weeks gestation. There are different levels of pre-maturity with those babies born earlier, especially before 26 weeks generally being at more risk!
Did you know in the UK alone 54,000 babies are born prematurely each year with various levels of health issues ranging from things like weight gain and learning to feeding to Bradycardia – which is where babies forget to breath momentarily, maintaining their temperature, jaundice…… to name a few.
That said, with technology in this day and age, premature babies can and do get on well given specialist medical assistance.
Your baby will likely be placed in a ‘plastic box’ which is called an incubator and acts as an artificial womb until your baby is well enough to be placed into a cot and wow what an achievement that feels.
Your baby may also undergo some phototherapy if he/she has jaundice, I liked to call this their sunbathing time. They may also need blood transfusions, ventilating or C-Pap which is a milder option – it is 2 prongs laced up the babies nose administering oxygen.
He/she will likely have many wires attached. Try not to be afraid of these, they may look scary at first but think of them as just a means to an end, because before too long they will be gone, believe me I’ve been there three times!
There will be ups and downs during your babies stay in NICU – some days he/she may be doing great others maybe not so. It can be hard and very much a roller-coaster, but do give yourself time if you need to cry…….just cry! if you feel like laughing that is perfectly fine too.
Many mothers feel guilty and blame themselves, ‘if only I’d carried him longer,’ ‘why wasn’t my body able to support her?’ – seriously let go of that and concentrate on the fact your beautiful baby is here, yes earlier than planned and yes it is a rollercoaster but these premature babies are tough cookies. Reach out to the other parents at the incubator opposite you and share a little chat when you can, chances are they feel the same and could do with a chat too.
Kangaroo care as much as you possibly can as it really does help with bonding and infact calming your baby. Kangaroo care is basically skin to skin on your front, not only will you get to hold your baby he/she will love it too. Talk to your baby, they know your voice from inside the womb and it will be soothing for them. Care for them, e.g. change their nappy, wipe their face, etc really do try to get involved as much as you can as it really is good for bonding.
And lastly, questions.Ask as many questions as you need to, this is a life changing experience and you need to understand any questions you may have. Some may never be answered like my question, ‘why were three of my babies premature and one not?’ and the answer I got…. ‘we just dont know, theres no particular reason why.’
So you see sometimes there is no reason it just is, but live each day at a time and always remember these words YOU ARE AMAZING AND YOU DID GREAT!
My inspiration behind writing this blog post is my own experience of having my daughter at 26+5 weeks weighing just 2lb 1oz and having a 3 month NICU stay, one son born at 33 weeks weighing 4lb 5oz with a 3 week NICU stay and another son born at 33+6 also weighing 4lb 5oz with a 1 day NICU stay with a further 7 days in hospital.
My preemies are now 11 months, 7 years and 8 years and doing great so Mummy…… Daddy….. Grandparent….. Hold on in there because you will get through this.