Claire, Mama to Grace and Archie born at 29 weeks
MY NICU EXPERIENCE AND WHAT I LEARNED
By Claire Goodes
When my waters broke pregnant with twins at 29.5 weeks gestation I was not prepared for what the next 55 days had in stored. My older son Jackson was induced 11 days over and I was showing no signs of going into labour early so I had convinced myself I would carry full term or pretty close. After a day of ultrasounds and ambulance transfers I had settled into to my ward at the Royal Women’s mentally preparing myself to be on bed rest for the next few weeks when the mild contractions began. What happened next is a bit of a whirlwind but jump forward 12 hours I was in a wheelchair on my way to the NICU to meet my babies Grace born 1.4kg and Archie 1.5kg.
I found entering the room for the first time so confronting. Seeing my tiny little babies attached to so many chords and monitors which were constantly making all sorts of noises that make you feel like something is always wrong. They each had a dedicated nurse watching their every move which was reassuring but I so desperately wanted to pick them up and cuddle them, make them feel safe and loved and take all their problems away. I kept reminding myself they were exactly where they needed to be and my worrying wasn’t going to help get them get stronger any quicker.
Being the control freak I am in a situation, where you have absolutely none, I took control of the one thing I could to help my babies thrive, which was expressing. I hired the fancy Medela hospital grade pump, which was amazing, spoke to the lactation consultant at the hospital and bought myself a little journal to track my progress. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was my way of coping.
The Royal Women’s soon became my second home and I would drop my older son off at school everyday and drive the hour to spend the day with my babies, feeding, cuddling, monitoring their every move and progress.
I recently had a girlfriend of mine go through the exact same thing with her twins being born at 28 weeks at The Royal Women’s. Having experienced it all before she turned to me for support and advice, which I would like to now share with you.
LEAN ON THOSE AROUND YOU
Now is the time to get all the support you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I was so lucky to have an amazing support network, not only where I live but also in the city, who would keep me company, bring me meals, find preemie clothing, drive me to the hospital when I was still recovering from c-section etc. This definitely helped to keep me positive and stay in a good frame of mind so I could put all my energy into Grace & Archie.
IT FEELS LIKE FOREVER AT THE TIME
I just remember thinking one day, when will we ever be home? I couldn’t even imagine it. We had settled into our hospital routine and taking my babies home felt so far away but once you get home the NICU starts to feel like a distant memory and now 1 year on it is hard to believe that it even happened.
The nurses and staff at the The Royal Women’s and Casey Hospital are absolutely amazing at what they do and I felt so comfortable leaving every day knowing they were in the best hands. However, you are still learning everything for the first time so, if you don’t feel comfortable with a situation or you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to talk to the staff. At the end of the day they are still your babies and I guarantee you will feel 100 times better for it.
If you are lucky enough to have a super speedy recovery, like I did, you can go to your doctor and they will give you a letter allowing you to drive from as early as 2 weeks post c-section. Once I showed my doctor I could still do a high kick he was happy to sign off :-) This helped me so much with the travel and meant I no longer needed to rely on others to visit the hospital.
MEDELA BREAST PUMP & BRA
I know I mentioned it earlier but this was a game changer and allowed me to breastfeed my babies until they were six months old. Also, purchase the expressing bra to go with it (I got mine from Baby Bunting) as this allows you to express both boobs at the same time and have your hands free. You will spend a lot of time attached to this machine in the first few months.
When Grace and Archie were first able to wear clothes they were in 7x0. There are not a lot around and I think my mum searched every shop looking for them. Head to Baby Bunting, Best and Less and Target also had a small range. She found the most beautiful suits at Baby Bunting which are now in the babies keepsake boxes.
DON’T BURN YOURSELF OUT
I remember, so clearly, sitting at the hospital one day and the nurse, looking after Grace at the time, said to me “you need to take a day to yourself to gain your strength.” I think she could tell I was mentally exhausted but the thought of not going to the hospital for a day hadn’t even crossed my mind and, to be honest, I didn’t know if I could do it. She reassured me everything would be fine and I can call anytime I want, 100 times if necessary… So I did. And just as the nurse said, everything was fine. I regained some strength and felt much better for it. Make sure you look after yourself as you will need all of your energy for when your baby/babies come home.
Wishing you all the best on your NICU journey, I hope this small piece of advice can make it that little bit easier for you.