Dear New Neonatal Mum,
I saw you when you walked into the room that our daughters are in. You smiled and said hi, I congratulated you on your beautiful girl. You said how surprised you are that my teeny tiny girl was nearly 6 weeks old, we politely swapped stories.
You looked frightened. I remember feeling like that.
I don’t think you ever know what goes on behind those doors until you’re there. All those tiny babies, all those poorly babies and the parents who are as white as a sheet. The beeping…oh god the beeping. It drives you mad to start with doesn’t it? Understanding what the numbers mean; when they are okay and when they mean your baby is in trouble. Then there are the wonderful nurses who try and make you feel okay about where you are but they have a job to do. You watch them caring for your baby; doing what you should be doing but the truth is you are a little scared to ask to do it. All the wires look scary and you really don’t want to knock that mask on their tiny faces by mistake. The nurses ask if you have managed to express any milk; you worry about saying that you didn’t manage to get any out. They ask you if you want a cuddle with your baby, of course you do but you’re actually scared stiff about doing something wrong, breaking your baby or knocking yet another wire. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be was it? Your baby wasn’t supposed to on a different hospital ward to you. You’re actually really tired and in quite a lot of pain but you know you have to sit there staring at your tiny baby but feeling like you’re in the way.
It gets better. Another mum said that to me when I arrived. I watched her tube feed her baby wondering how I would ever do that, I watched her pick up her baby out of the cot because he was finally out of the incubator, I watched her confidently talk to the nurses whilst completely understanding all the medical terms. I wondered how I would ever be able to do that.
It got better and although every day is hard and once you get discharged leaving your baby at the hospital every day rips your heart out. It gets easier and you do start to understand things a bit more. In fact, this room that we are in, it will become your second home. After all home is where the heart is and your heart is very much in that incubator.
Let me tell you how it got better for me. The beeping….I don’t hear it anymore. I know the beep that means danger, I know the light that means something is wrong. The numbers….you do eventually stop watching that screen and you know what number your baby should be at. You will get to do what the nurses do; you will learn how to tube feed and change a nappy through the port holes in the incubator. You will work out how you want to feed your baby and whichever way you choose the nurses will support you. It is their job to encourage you to express but they will also totally support you if you choose to formula feed. Whatever is best for you and your baby is fine by them.
The cuddles…oh the cuddles, once you get that first terrifying one out the way you will love it. Your baby will more than likely be most settled on you, after all it is where they are used to being! If you are offered kangaroo care, do it! And as for the visiting; do whatever works for you once you are discharged. It took me a long time to realise that I couldn’t be there all the time especially with another child at home. Some Mums will be there 24/7 and if that works for you do it but don’t feel guilty when you can’t be there. They are well looked after and you can call up as much as you want to check on them.
Just remember, it may not feel like it but you are her Mummy. It may not be the normal way for a while but she is yours. Just remember to look after yourself, this is your time to recover and that little baby is going to need you so rest when you need to and remember to eat and drink!!
I am 5 weeks in and still have a long road ahead and I’m sure I will need another Mum who is close to going home with her baby to tell me that I will get to take my Little Lady home soon and that it does get better.
We’re in this together.