Claire, Mama to William
I am a mother to two children, my son was born at 31 weeks and my daughter at 36 weeks.
My first pregnancy was normal and without any problem, so it was a complete surprise when I went into labour and gave birth at 31 weeks to my son weighing 1.5kg. I had no idea what to expect during the following 45 days we spent in NICU/SCU.
It was an emotional rollercoaster and I remember the guilt of wondering what I could have done differently to have avoided a premature birth and the worry of watching over my baby during many long days in the hospital. My son did well, although we had a setback when he was a couple of weeks old with a suspected life threatening condition. It was difficult trying to process everything the doctors said and it was a very stressful time.
My son will turn 4 years old in a couple of weeks and he is a very happy and healthy boy, you would never know the difficult start he had.
My advice to any parent in NICU is to ensure you take good care of yourself, it is easy to forget when you are focussed on your baby, but getting sleep and eating well is really important to ensure you can be there for your baby when they need you. When others offer support, never say no, remember you don’t have to do everything yourself, let others help.
I found NICU to be a confusing and complicated place and having very little medical knowledge myself meant I had a lot of questions. Never be afraid to ask questions. I found it helpful to note down questions I had for the doctors and nurses so I remembered to ask them when we met. I also kept a diary during our time in NICU in which I made notes everyday for myself and to show my son when he is older of how far he has come.
What I took from the experience
I wish we had never had to go through the NICU experience, but there were some positives for me. We made new friends whilst in hospital who we kept in touch with and during the first year we frequently swapped stories and advice about our premmies and their development. We are still all friends today and it is lovely to see our almost 4 year olds altogether. I also found that the NICU staff were great and gave us a lot of invaluable advice about bringing our baby home, who was only 2.3kg when we left hospital.
I still remember setting my alarm every evening and getting up alone every night to express milk without my baby and everyday at the hospital watching new parents leaving with their day or two day old and wishing things could be different. However, the feeling when you finally get to leave NICU with your baby after many long days in hospital was wonderful and is one I will never forget.