When you’re pregnant, the things that flash through your mind mostly involve the health of the baby, or you. Will it be OK? What happens after it’s born? When will this blasted heartburn go away? But rarely (for most) does the question of the baby being born prematurely occur. I had never heard of anyone having their baby early, most pregnancy stories involve women desperately waddling around at 42 weeks trying to jiggle the little bundle out. After having my first baby at 37 weeks, I had a little taster of what a surprise labour could involve; mostly worry about the baby being OK, but at only 3 weeks early I didn’t really have much to concern me.
When baby number two came along, life became a whole lot different. From a normal pregnancy with no complications, no worries and nothing to report, 30 weeks hit and…whoosh! Literally. My waters break. From then on it was steroids, scans, monitoring and hospital appointments with the joyous addition of waters that kept on breaking. Yes, that happened. I was the woman in shops who would suddenly wet the floor. People do look at you as though you are about to have a baby in front of the tins of soup, but I just carried on as normal (with some disposable underwear safely stashed in my bag at all times!) Thankfully my baby was OK, she was still growing and there was no cause for concern. They thought it best to induce me at 34 weeks, which is terrifying, but when you hear of babies being born at 27/28 weeks, I still felt pretty good about it all.
Baby J was born at 34 weeks weighing a huge(ish) 4lb 10oz which put her smack on the 50percentile. One of the first pics we have of her is awful, she’s grey and on a Resuscitaire, looking like a doll. But she was OK. Perfect, I thought, I’ll be home by morning. Oh the naivety.
I remember walking into SCBU after she was whisked away from me with only a small hug to send her on her way; firstly she was dressed in a pink hoodie; why do they even make hoodies that small? Secondly she was fed and had a nappy on, was hooked up to wires and had a cannula in her hand. Not really the ideal way you want to see your baby for the first time. But she was fine, great! But…no! Jessica decided that she wasn’t going to feed with a bottle, which is extremely common in preemie babies, so she was fed with a tube. She had to be 24 hours of pure bottle feeding before they would release her, so cue me trying everything to persuade her to drink.
Walking into SCBU is a weird feeling, all the babies are in little plastic cots (we were not in the NICU so didn’t have an incubator) and you do have an initial thought of ‘which one is mine?’ How awful is that? You don’t even know which baby is yours. But apart from the toys you leave with them, it’s really hard to find your one, especially when they often move all the cots around. We were really lucky, no surgery, no problems, no need for any intervention, except for the addition of a Bili blanket which is a UV light to help with jaundice. It just makes the baby look like they are having a little rave up in da club!
There was just a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between SCBU and TCU; which is a Transitional Care Unit, basically where they put babies who aren’t ready to go home but don’t need 24 hour monitoring.
This was the point when it all went a bit south, for me not the baby. They didn’t know if she would stay in SCBU, so I had to stay in hospital just in case she was ready for me to look after her again. I was on a ward, no other mums and no baby. Which may have been OK, except for the other child I had at home. I felt useless, not looking after either child and often going without company. I could sit in SCBU as long as I liked, but it’s a very quiet and calm environment, so not really much better for companionship. The midwives were great at seeing my troubles and I was allowed home, which meant leaving baby J alone in hospital. Now the guilt kicks in.
There was two weeks of tag-teaming with my husband between the two children, but we were lucky, it was only two weeks. She is now a happy, healthy three year old, but my time on SCBU still holds great emotional ties and is sometimes hard to talk about. The rocketing emotions during this time are difficult to deal with, so is keeping healthy and happy for the rest of your family, as well as showing a brave face to everyone who asks how the baby is, when all you want to do is cry most of the time.
There are great organisations such as Bliss, who have volunteers which work on wards to help families, they are such a fantastic organisation and do loads to help, but as a charity they need all the help they can get and often can’t provide the support which is needed. They are a great source of comfort for mums during this difficult time, so if anyone wants a new charity to support, please consider them first!
Hopefully this has helped other mums in the same situation to know that they are not the only ones feeling those feelings and thinking those thoughts, it really is a crappy time but we should all be grateful for our little miracles.