Thursday, 23 March 2017

Dear Mum of an NICU Baby

Having a baby in Neonatal Intensive Care is something you would never expect to happen nor can you prepare for.  You'll feel emotions of grief, depression, anxiety, guilt and fear throughout your NICU journey, whether it's a day, a week or a month.  You will celebrate things you wouldn't have before and witness heartbreaking moments you could never have imagined.

Spending time in NICU is a place you didn't anticipate being, helplessly watching your baby fight for its life, endlessly wishing for it to be over and asking yourself, why me? why us? why MY baby? If you're like me, you will have dreamt of the moment you first saw and held your baby, you had every intention and reason to believe you'd be holding a healthy and chubby baby shortly after delivery.   Introducing your older child to their sibling and leaving the hospital with that tiny bundle in tow.  But here you are, watching your fragile little one, through a plastic box, with nothing but the sound of machines to break the silence.

I wish there was something I could write to make this situation easier on you, but I know there are no words anyone could say, that will change the nightmare you are living.  I can however, share with you, some words which may help you through this difficult time.

When Oscar was born at 32 weeks gestation, we were terrified.  We were about to enter a situation completely blind having no idea what we were going to be faced with.  I'll tell you now, you're going to be bombarded with people who care for you tremendously and people who genuinely want to help you. Some will want to fix the situation and take the pain away and some will say completely insensitive things that will make you want to explode.  Some will think your baby is in NICU to simply 'get bigger' unaware of the fight your baby is facing, they may even tell you to pull yourself together, that your baby is alive and you shouldn't be upset (yes that happened).

The fact of the matter is, no one will understand how heartbroken you are, unless they've lived this, they won't understand that you would do anything to have that baby in your tummy, go to term, or even further just to save them from the pain.  No one will understand how your dreams have been shattered or the questions you're asking yourself; how are you going to pick up the pieces, stick them together and start over? You don't need people telling you to be grateful, you are, I know you are because I was.  It's ok to be grateful for your child whilst being utterly terrified for their future. All the conflicting feelings you have, even the awful ones are completely normal, you don't need to explain or justify them.

NICU is a traumatic place to be, the uncertainties and obstacles you'll watch your baby face, the pain and the awful statistics you'll be unable to stop yourself from googling.  It will, at one point or another, all become too much.  But I promise you, one day you'll go into the ward and a strength you didn't know existed will take over, you'll see your child's strengths over their weaknesses and you'll be cheering them on as the win their battles.

As you go through this testing time...

...Allow yourself to correct others when they misjudge your fears of the future as an inability to appreciate your child's life.

...Grieve and don't apologise for it.  You've lost a normal pregnancy, normal birth and departure from hospital to name a few, you're experiencing a tremendous amount of loss, allow yourself to grieve and let it out.

...Keep yourself focused on the here and now, no one can ever, but especially at this time can predict the future.  Take each day as it comes.

...When the "what ifs" arrive in your mind, when you're doubting the road you're on, don't beat yourself up.  Face the "what is" with strength and courage, you'll only get stronger as you face every new hurdle.

...Ignore those statistics.  Your baby will determine his/her future.

...Don't be afraid to ask questions, the same question 100 times if it helps.  Find your voice and make your feelings and worries heard.

...Finally, remember you're not alone, connect with other NICU mums and share your story, whether it be in the hospital or online.  Don't be afraid to talk about your experience, it may provide comfort to someone.

The journey you are embarking is a constant battle, it will take twists and turns, you'll move forward and then go backwards.  You will emerge, you will make it to the finish line and one day you'll look back and it will be a distant memory.  You'll find happiness and enjoy good times again.  You'll be immensely proud to look back at your time in NICU as something you and your baby have conquered.

With love and prayers,
A former NICU mum.


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