I recently visited a mother and daughter in my local neonatal unit. For various reasons they would prefer not to be named. To avoid confusion, I will refer to the mother as Beth and the baby as Lucy throughout this blog post.
Beth found her pregnancy quite intense. She suffers from lupus and was increasingly symptomatic during her second trimester. At 28 weeks, it became apparent that Lucy's growth was trailing off and complications seemed more likely. There was a chance that they would need to deliver the baby imminently, however their obstetrician aimed to get them to at least 32 weeks.
Amazingly, Beth made it to 34 weeks before having a cesarean section. The moment Lucy emerged during the procedure was one of Beth's happiest moments. During the chaos of it all, it is so important for all NICU parents (and parents in general) to take in these beautiful moments and keep them with you.
When Lucy arrived, she was taken straight to NICU for monitoring. Apart from being very tiny, she did not need much medical intervention at all. Beth describes the moment when she first held Lucy against her skin as a very special moment.
Beth was discharged after only four days but was lucky enough to receive accommodation nearby. This was something she was extremely grateful for as it made it possible for her to spend more time with her baby girl. Within the first week, however, Beth was suspected to have a bug. As a result of this, she was kept away from her daughter for 42 hours. This was the most difficult part of Lucy's stay in hospital and was heart breaking for her.
Babies who are sick or premature in the NICU are so much more susceptible to illness. It is completely heartbreaking to not be able to hold or be with your baby. Knowing how necessary it is and how it is in the best interest of your baby, does not take away the pain. Grandparents and other family members are generally not allowed to have physical contact with the babies at all.
Beth and Lucy had an amazing support network with friends coming to visit, being supplied with meals and help with transportation to and from hospital. She also enjoyed conversing with other parents in the NICU and advises anyone in a similar situation to "Talk to other NICU parents; they are a great source of information and support and there is a strong sense of community. I met so many other parents who inspired me with their courage and determination."
Beth describes the staff that cared for Lucy as 'brilliant', and they made a great effort to include her partner and herself in their daughter's care. Other benefits the hospital offers to NICU parents, such as free parking, meal vouchers and access to the staff cafe can make a huge difference.
Lucy spent three and a half weeks in the NICU, primarily to make sure she was putting on enough weight. Taking her home from the hospital was another amazingly happy moment for Beth.