Buzzzzz…. I waited for permission to enter the next section…. Buzzzzz…. Door unlocks, I was given permission to enter the locked down area. I’d just collected my lunch tray, a nice helping of beef pie with mash, gravy and carrots. A brief hello as I pass by another inmate In the corridor. No one really stops to speak, we just shuffle past each other.
Back on the ward I sit at the table with some others. Meaningless chat about the day, what we were doing there, how long we had been there. I had been in for nearly 8 weeks and every day was just as tough as the last.
It was nearly 3pm, visiting hours would begin soon…. I longed that people would come and see me. I was in a lonely place. At some points there was just me and the staff inside with no one else to talk too.
It felt like prison…. The truth was this was meant to be the happiest time of my life. I was actually in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or the special care baby unit (scbu) this was my first experience of becoming a mother and my baby was with me on special care.
Today is #worldprematurityday and this is a little bit about what looking after a premature baby can be like.
Having a baby can be hard enough even if they go to full term and you are at home within a few hours. Having a premature baby or a baby that needs special care can bring a whole host of challenges you never imagined. I had a few friends that had premature babies and i truthfully didn’t realise how hard it was until i was in the same situation, i just don’t think you can understand something until it happens to you.
Often babies will start in incubators, some babies can not be touched or held for along time after they are born. A lot of babies are taken straight from their mothers and fathers and taken to special hospitals, sometimes 100s of miles away from where the parents live. This in itself can be challenging. You have to either travel on a daily basis to see your child or move away from home and live in a strange place to see your child.
A lot of premature babies have extra complications (even full term babies can have complications and need special care), breathing difficulties for example because their lungs are not as mature. Often they can have complex medical needs, some examples are babies suffering a brain bleed at birth which can leave them severely disabled, some babies have heart problems, cystic fibrosis, downs syndrome, a lot of premature babies have to have lots of physio and occupational therapy. Even with the extra challenges they can bring, you still try and stay strong for them.
When babies are in the SCBU / NICU units lots of different tests often need to be done. They usually get an eye test done if they are quite early, which is rather unpleasant for both family and baby! They hold your babies head down and then stick things in your babies eye to examine them and shine lights in them. They often do brain scans and heart scans which are quite painless. Depending on what medical intervention your baby needs they can also do lumbar punctures which is sticking a needle in your babies spine to try and draw fluid out for testing, they also might need blood giving. Often this can be quite a challenge trying to find a vein on a small baby..as a parent you have to watch helplessly whilst they prod and poke your child with a needle over and over to try and get a vein, in my sons case they had to start shaving his head until they found a vein to fit a cannula in.
They also often need medicines given over a long period of time through a drip and usually fit something called a long line in. Basically a big cannula that they thread through the babies vein right into the main body. Its a horrible thing to watch, there is a lot of blood and you are not allowed in the room with them when they do this as it has to be sterile.
I know I am lucky and I know not everyone is as lucky with #pregnancy and #birth and I really am grateful for the staff at the hospitals for looking after my son and doing the best they can. The staff that look after our little miracles work tirelessly to help the babies and the families and often still have a smile on their faces even at the end of a very hard day.
Of course, it does have it plus side… my baby has had a full MOT for free thanks to our wonderful NHS! I am also grateful that we live in quite a rich country where we have some amazing equipment and the best medical teams. Think about people who are in a poorer country who have nothing like this, it makes you really appreciate the #NHS, even with its flaws! Lets try and raise awareness so that people in poorer countries can get the help they deserve!
These are just my experiences of things that have to be done, there are plenty more things and plenty more stories out there… have a read on #worldprematurityday. Of course, the baby doesn’t need to be premature for a family to experience similar feeling and emotions, often poorly babies born full term can spend a lot of time in SCBU or NICU and it can be just as daunting and challenging.
In no way is having a premature baby any “harder” then having a baby born full term without complications. Its just a different experience and is often an unknown world and one that people know little about.
I wanted to write this post to inform you of what it can be like and what might happen should you ever need this information.There is a lot of support out there if you need it!
There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard it can be.
Feel free to share if you think someone may benefit from this post or if you can relate to this post. I hope this has given you a small insight into a often unknown world. Thanks for reading. P.S if you see a building light up purple today, then you now know why! Purple is the colour for #worldprematurityday! #bliss #kangaroocare