Today marks 70 days since our beautiful baby girl made her entrance into the world at only 25 weeks and 4 days gestation, an incredible 15 weeks or just over three months early!
A few people have encouraged me to blog about our experience as I enjoyed blogging before. But it has taken a while for me to feel able to put this experience into words because it’s taken a while to find the right ones.
Also incase you get to the end of my ramblings and wonder if I am emotionally ok, then the answer is in some ways yes and in some ways no!
We as a family have been through an extremely traumatic season of life, and I am aware that I am only just beginning to process it, whilst the storm continues to whirl around us. I am so thankful for amazing hospital support staff who listen and care and for the opportunity to have a weekly slot with a counsellor who understands trauma and it’s impact on my physical and emotional health!
My fear in beginning to write again before I had this support in place was that writing would become my only processing space and my sharing of the journey would become more of a messy splurge of my confused and complex emotions and not a healthy and helpful insight into our world for the last few months (though that in itself is an insight!) I guess I can’t promise it won’t become that but I want to write this for you, as well as for me, so you might read and understand better something of the journey we and others have been through.
So here I am writing again and it is hard to know where to begin! The beginning of our pregnancy journey? The beginning of the neonatal journey? in the middle of it all where we currently find ourselves? Or our hopes and expectations for the next few weeks and months?
I decided to start with Norah… because,after all, this journey is really all about her.
This is her, our precious baby girl. And this is how I first saw her… not as a baby placed in my arms but in a picture given to me when I came round after my general anaesthetic. Beautiful and mind blowing pictures which made me cry but not the way I would’ve wanted to be introduced to my baby for the first time.
It wasn’t until 5 hours after she was born that a wonderful midwife wheeled me round on my hosptial bed and space was made for me, in a cramped and busy bay of the neonatal unit, so that I could be pushed up close to her incubator to hold her tiny hand.
I wish I could say “I’ll never forget that moment” but the truth is I can’t actually remember it! I was pumped so full of morphine that I don’t remember much about that first meeting other than knowing I felt really unwell.
We were suddenly thrown into a journey that none of us had ever expected. In those first few precious moments after birth there was none of the beautiful bonding that normally takes place. Instead Norah and I were separated and taken to different parts of the hospital, both exhausted, battered and bruised by her delivery.
Whilst I got to grips with squeezing tiny drops of breastmilk into syringes to feed her, she got to grips with breathing. My arms were empty and aching whilst she was surrounded by doctors and nurses making those precious first moments of her life count. Whilst I came to terms with being separated from her she got used to gloved hands touching, prodding and pressing her through holes in her incubator.
We were forced to make the neonatal unit (NICU) our new home. A home filled with the constant beeping and alarming of machines and monitors. A home that I noticed was eerily quiet at times, full of newborns who for the most part didn’t cry. A home filled with strangers, strangers who were there to help, there to listen and strangers who looked lost just like us. Strangers who very quickly became friends.
And I’ve seen my own reaction, again and again, on the faces of other new parents who come into the NICU after the traumatic delivery of their precious baby. Like a rabbit caught in headlights. Dazed and confused, they stare at their baby and the screens around them, trying desperately to take it all in and make some sense of the situation they have just been thrown into.
Well at least that’s how I felt.
In those early days we didn’t have that excited feeling of wanting to show off our new baby to the world. Instead I felt a deep sense that I wanted to protect this tiny and vulnerable little person who had just left the safety and security of my body.
We wanted visitors to come; for friends and family to see the enormity of the situation and the mountain we faced ahead of us. But any time someone visited I felt anxious that their presence was distracting me from my daughter and her needs which could change dramatically from minute to minute. I was gripped by a fear that at any moment she might stop breathing and our small talk about what they or we had been up to that week would be interrupted by the reality of our situation and surroundings.
So we kept visitors to a minimum and their time with her brief. After all, they could only peer through the foggy windows of her incubator to stare at her. It felt more like looking at an animal at the zoo than introducing them to the precious new member of our family, not the sort of first introductions we would’ve hoped for. Only we were allowed to reach in and touch her anyway.
The care she received, from the doctors and nurses, in those first hours and days was phenomenal. They fitted lines which provided nutrition straight into her veins, helped her breathe using different levels of support, rubbed tiny drops of breastmilk into her mouth and humidified her incubator to protect her fragile skin. She even received her own dose of caffeine daily. Much of this was done to mimic the conditions of the womb she had just left. All the while I watched on with an aching heart in awe of what they could do for her.
But most of all I was in awe of her, Norah, our tiny, fragile baby daughter, here so incredibly early and yet so perfectly and wonderfully formed.
To be continued…..