As you may know, I have recently started offering free of charge photoshoot sessions to parents of those with babies currently in the neonatal units across Bristol. These mums have also been telling their NICU stories to me for this blog, so, I figured if I was going to tell all of their stories, I should start by being brave and finally telling my story. (Well, Jess's story... well, my family's story.) This post is about Jess's arrival and I will eventually post about her whole NICU stay.
Without delving into too much detail, I had a bit of a tough pregnancy. Jess was a rainbow baby and so I spent much of the pregnancy worried about if I would get the chance to meet her. (You can read more about my pregnancy with Jessica here.) I was also very ill with a bad tooth infection. I was unable to receive a CT scan to get the tooth removed due to the pregnancy, and the infection cause me to have a lockjaw. I was therefore unable to eat anything solid at all and unable to sustainably eat anything that wasn't very fine liquid (no lumpy soup, porridge etc).
There were a few scares with 'false' contractions from about 20 weeks. I had around six scans in those first weeks. I ended up in the hospital with the contractions right down to three minutes apart twice before 33 weeks and so when I really was in labour at 33+5 weeks, I didn't really believe it. I think that would sum up the whole labour, birth and NICU experience. I just didn't really believe any of it.
After many tests, a drip to try and stop the contractions, false alarms, steroids, pethidine, more false alarms and a lot of nitrous oxide, Jess was finally here. I say finally but even after 30 hours of labour, it felt far too soon. I was lucky enough to be able to hold my baby after she was born. I then passed out from exhaustion.
When I awoke, I was alone. No husband. No baby. I'm sure I'd been told a million times that my baby was very little and would have to be taken to the neonatal unit. I'm sure my family had told me they were going to take my son home. I'm sure I'd been given all the correct information. However, that was not how I had felt. I felt panic stricken - where was my baby?
I was told that Jess would be in the special care unit and I was taken, in a wheelchair, to meet her. (After 30 hours of labour apparently weak legs and fainting are a given!) She was not in the 'special care' room. I was left in the corridor, waiting to see my baby. It turned out she had been moved to the high dependancy unit with some 'grunting', which apparently meant breathing problems.
When I finally got to see her, she was not in a little cot, like the one I remember my son being in. She was in a see through glass box. An incubator. She was attached to lots of wires with tubes up her nose and in her mouth. I would find out what these were all for, but at the time, they just seemed scary. She was so tiny. She was so fragile. But she was alive. I could finally breathe.
It was a long journey from that moment to finally coming home for good, but it was a battle I was willing to face. Perhaps not one I was ready for, but I knew I would do whatever it took to take care this tiny human being. At least that was a feeling that felt familiar - it's called being a parent!
Thanks for reading - I will post about Jess's recovery and journey soon!