I want to start the blog off with IMAGINE imagine being a NICU mum but sadly so many of you do, far too many parents both mums and dads do.
Our pregnancies were cut short for various reasons, we hadn’t finished the nursery, bought the pram or started nesting. We hadn’t excitedly packed the hospital bag with brand new overnight things and beautiful going home outfits for our bundle of joy.
Truth be known we raced to hospital with nothing, not even a phone charger to phone family with news but saying that the camera on it would be no good as premature birth is the last place you get those special birth pictures your only concern is your child surviving.
Why are we talking about exhaustion? Because it is the most exhausting experience you will go through in your life. Mentally and physically.
- The sheer emotion and worry of giving birth prematurely.
- Not being able to rest because you stay awake for every single update.
- Many parents are trying to organise cover for other children at home and worrying how they are reacting to the news.
- The constant phone calls from family and friends wanting updates is exhausting.
- Trying to express milk every few hours because you know it is the best and possibly only thing you can do for your baby right now.
- Trying to eat and drink when you really don’t feel like it but you know you need to keep your strength up for your baby.
- Trying to support each other as partners making sure you both get through this experience.
- Spending all day next to your baby’s incubator willing them to be strong, listening to every beep and alarm is exhausting and when you go home you won’t sleep from worry and hearing these alarms in your sleep.
- Waiting for the dreaded phone call with bad news.
- Trying to physically make yourself look presentable because the last thing you want is staff or relatives noticing how exhausted physically and mentally you are.
- Telling everyone you are fine constantly because you want them to worry about your child not you Is mentally exhausting.
- Trying to carry on with everyday things, the journey to the hospital driving round for ages trying to desperately find a car parking space, doing the food shopping and knowing you haven’t put the washing machine on in a week as it is the last priority.
- Worrying about the what ifs, what if your baby never makes it home or comes home on oxygen, how will you cope, how will you cope keeping your baby away from germs etc.
- How are we financially managing if parents need more time off and of course emotionally managing when dad goes back to work so soon. The financial implications on having a premature baby are enormous as reports prove.
- Then there is the big one, how do we react with that phrase probably said to every one of us preemie parents “I don’t know how you are coping with everything?” the one you want to scream back at that you’re not but you are far too polite and just say “I’m fine!”
The fact is that it is OK not to be fine, it is understandable to be exhausted and feel like you are not strong enough but you are.
- Take some time out every now and then, buy a book, buy a coffee and huge slice of cake and try to think about something not preemie related.
- Keep a diary of how you are feeling and every now and then reread the early days, it is incredible how empowering it will make you feel knowing you have already got through the days you never thought possible.
- Don’t feel bad if you sleep through the alarm of the odd expressing time. Your body needs rest as much as your baby needs an extra few bit of milk.
- Don’t forget you are a couple going through the worst time of your life. It is OK to cry and lean on each other.
- Most importantly if you feel you are really struggling see your Doctor, there is nothing to be ashamed about you are going through a journey you didn’t ask to or want to be in. The important thing is dealing with your situation, regaining your strength and being able to physically and emotionally enjoy every second of having your little miracle home.
- Make preemie friends via your unit and online support groups like ours. It is so good being able to vent and ask questions with others who understand what you are going through.
- Do not bottle up any worries you have about your baby, talk to your neonatal staff they want to look after you as much as your child. Once you go home talk to your health visitor or Doctor if you have any concerns. A parents gut instinct is normally right don’t ignore it thinking you are just being over protective (although we are all super over protective about our little miracles).
Most importantly remember you are stronger than you think. There will always be bad days far more than we would like but the preemie experience we never asked to be part of will change you forever. Once you realise you are strong enough to make it through you will realise you are strong enough to deal with anything xxx