Little Lady spent 9 weeks on the Neonatal ward. When I look back I’ve no idea how I did it. I had a 4 year old at preschool and a baby in hospital. I had to split my time, my energy, my attention not only on 2 children which was new to me anyway but 2 children in two different places. Little Lady in the early days was fighting for her life and Little Man was confused about what had happened. Not only had we had to tell him that one of his twin sisters had passed away but that the other one was very tiny and in hospital.
I remember the first time Little Man visited Little Lady, I was still in hospital and we took him in to see her. He could barely even spot where she was underneath all of the wires and mask but you could see right there and then that he was in love. He was old enough to understand enough, to understand that she was poorly and wouldn’t be coming home for a while. Over the 9 weeks we fell into a routine of taking him every Saturday.
Young children on a hospital ward is tricky and hard work so here are my top 5 tips for involving a sibling in visits to Neonatal.
1 – Get them to make a picture – This was one of the first things Little Man did for his sister. He chose a My Little Pony magazine because he thought that’s what she might like and then we cut out the photos and he made his own picture with it. The nurses very kindly let us put it next to Little Lady’s incubator and it was with her for the whole of her hospital stay. He was over the moon to see it there when he visited.
2 – Give them a break – Lets be honest, babies are boring to older kids. We tried to time Little Mans visit over a snack or meal time so he could go out and have some food, a run around and then go back in to see her again before we left. I remember on one his visits he went out to have lunch with his Daddy and when he came back I was cuddling Little Lady. It was the first time he had seen her out of the incubator and he was able to stroke her head and give her a kiss. Such a special moment.
3 – Let them ask questions – Neonatal is a very confusing place to be for a little person and I found just telling him to be quiet wasn’t enough. He wanted to know why he had to be quiet, why he had to wash his hands each time he went in and out, what the beeps and the wires were. Kids just take everything as it is so he accepted the answers and wasn’t frightened at all. I wish I had felt that way being in there I have to say.
4 – Send a present from baby – A bit like some people get a present from the baby to an older sibling we, with the help of the nurses left a present for Little Man under the incubator from his baby sister. He was thrilled and even now says it was from Little Lady.
5 – Give them a job – Little Man’s job was help me put the washed clothes from home into Little Lady’s drawers and to collect up the dirty ones. It sounds simple but it kept him focused for a little while. This with sticker books and snacks kept him happy for half an hour or so.
Neonatal isn’t easy but the weekly trips to take Little Man to see Little Lady really gave me strength. Watching their bond grow even with an incubator in between them. Little Lady was in hospital on my birthday and I remember having the best birthday present of them both being in the same room with me! If you are going through this at the moment, keep going when you get to have them at home together it makes it all worth it.