If you have ever been to your local hospital for scans, appointments, etc have you ever noticed the Neonatal unit? I hadn’t. I had been to my local hospital numerous times when I was pregnant for the second time. Consultant led care came with having twins so I was in the hospital often every two weeks. Looking back on it now I probably walked past the Neonatal unit nearly every time I visited. Not once did I notice.
The first time I noticed where it was was when I was being wheeled down there nearly 12 hours after having my beautiful girls to visit Little Lady and to properly meet her for the first time. When people ask me what it is like on that ward I often say that it is hard to explain unless you have been there. You just don’t know about that unit until you have to and that probably means you have or know someone that has a very poorly or very early baby.
Walking into the Neonatal ward for the first time was frightening yet comforting too. They are tight on security and once you are through all the doors and you have washed your hands you enter into this different world. The only way I can describe it is is walking into somewhere and feeling like it’s giving you a big hug. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by poorly babies but you are also surrounded by hope and the most amazing people.
The noise is something that takes a bit of getting used to. There are all sorts of beeps coming out of various machines, machines that in our case were keeping our baby alive. Once I was a seasoned visitor I understood what each beep meant and if it wasn’t my baby that was setting them off I would always check around the room to see if the the baby was okay.
The incubators, the wires, the many many drug rounds, it all takes a lot of adapting to but you are there so much it becomes normal so very quickly. I began to know the time of the Doctors rounds, the time of the drugs round, Little Lady’s feeding times and when it was time to change her clothes. All of this gave me a bit of control back which helped immensely.
Despite the intense hospital environment the one thing that got me through was the people. That is where the hug comes from, the safety net of Neonatal. The people that know exactly what you are going through, the people that you don’t have to explain how you are feeling to and the people that care about your baby as much as you do at that moment in time.
It is often said that Neonatal nurses are angels in disguise and I agree 100%. Never have I met before a group of people that care so much about their job. They cuddled my baby when I wasn’t there to do it, they represented me to the Dr when I couldn’t do it. They willed Little Lady to put weight on as much as I did and they helped us achieve that. They showed me how to bath a baby with a feeding tube, they showed me how to feed a baby with one too!. They took a photo of my baby when they were changing her tubes over night so I could see her face for the first time clearly and put it on a birthday card for me. They chatted to Little Man about his sister and they hugged me when I needed it. They may not have been in my life for very long but they will always remain special people in our lives.
Then of course there are the other parents. I never thought small talk was something I would enjoy but when you’re sat next to your sleeping babies incubator day in day out small talk with other parents gets you through. Seeing parents go home with their babies gave me hope and watching new parents come in with their baby allowed me to give them hope too as we were a bit further along. We were in this strange environment that nobody really knew how to deal with but we were in it together and that sense of unity with every other parent that walked through the door for those 9 weeks made life that little bit more bearable.
But all in all what is behind those Neonatal doors is pure inspiration. Being surrounded by little tiny fighters inspires you. The nurses inspire you. Other parents inspire you. Yes, there are scary machines and noises but there is also strength. It oozes from the little bodies in the incubators and cots, it pours out of the parents sat next to them and even though it doesn’t feel like it it passes on to you too. In such a tense environment and the scariest time of my life I felt strong because of Neonatal.