My babies journey into this world was not straightforward. It was not really the start that any mum imagines for her or her newborns.
I won’t bore you with all the blah blah birth details (other people’s birthing stories, yawn), suffice to say that my pregnancy was fairly uneventful until about six and half month point. Then my feet and ankles became swollen and suddenly one day I felt faint and unwell. Long story short I was taken to hospital diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and delivered the twins three days later at 29 weeks. Martha was 2.5lbs and Freddie was just 2.1lbs.
For any mum facing the situation I want to shed a glimmer of hope. To tell you what I learnt from being in hospital with my babies for about two months (for the last five actually in a ward although I was not ill myself).
- Being in hospital is boring and alarming in the same measure
Early on the twins were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. All beeps, tubes and high alert. After the birth you will be dealing with a raft of overwhelming emotions ranging from joy to frustrations, courage to confusion. You don’t need me to tell you that bonding with a baby through a barrier of plastic is heartwrenchingly hard. But when the dust settles (which it will eventually) being in hospital is incredibly boring. And this is no bad thing, it gives you time to concentrate on the most important thing. You needn’t worry what is for dinner or if your husband has clean socks. Retreat into a bubble and focus on you and your baby.
2. Nurses are just nurses
During my loooong stay in hospital I was advised, assisted, bullied, scalded and befriended by the nurses. But remember nurses are just people and this is their job. It is not your job. You probably do not know what a blood transfusion entails, you might have never washed a baby while it lies in a incubator and above all that you are learning about your new baby, breastfeeding and the other normal mum stuff. Sometimes nurses know best and their advice should be taken on board, but at the end of the day this is your baby. If you feel uncomfortable, patronised or ignored do say something to someone.
3. A spell in hospital has it advantages
At the end of my two month sojourn a la hospital I was slightly institutionalised (see 4.) In two months I had hardly washed a dish, made a meal or a bed, hoovered or really done anything other than care for my babies and rest up. Lucky lucky me! Consider for a moment all those poor mums leaving hospital with their plump newborns only to be descended on by all manner of family and friends, traipsing in expecting tea and biscuits and a vacuumed carpet. Not me! Dealing with premature babies is a trauma and that itself is exhausting. At least in hospital the visiting hours are short (and if you don’t want visitors just say because that is totally fair enough – you are not in a normal just given birth situation and people will just have to be patient while you and your baby are patients).
4. You will suffer from Post Hospital Stress Disorder for a while
When the twins were eventually discharged from hospital I found it hard to shed the hospital rules. I was measuring formula and recording feed times like a maniacal matron. It took a while for me to rinse the ward rules from my skin. Being in a medical environment is not relaxing, not by a long shot. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel guilty, negligent or overly anxious. Anyone would when faced with what you are dealing with. Eventually you will find your rhythm.
5. This is just a moment not forever
Although some days it may seem like you are getting nowhere this is just a blip in your baby’s beginning. One day you will find yourself bellowing at them to be quiet or telling them off for drawing on the sofa. Things will get back to some level of normality for you and your family. It may seem like forever away but believe me it’s just around the corner. It really is!
Good luck x
Postscript: While in hospital my husband and I found hope in staring at the Wall. The Wall in the corridor outside the NICU was covered in then and now photos of tiny babies hooked up to monitors and rosy-faced toddlers celebrating birthdays and teenagers graduating. All these photos helped us imagine the future which seemed so unattainable, but which is now – three years on.
With thanks to all the staff at Musgrove Park Hospital, Torbay Maternity Unit and of course our families and friends.