It was a Saturday, I had just come home from my baby shower, and put my eldest 2 children to bed. Although there was copious amounts of yummy food at the baby shower, being a glutenous pregnant woman I made myself comfy on the sofa and ordered in a Fat Toni’s. Local people know this is the trophy of all pizzas.
I was 34 weeks and 3 days so not expecting what the night had in store for me but fast forward to 9.50 am, Sunday (I will save my birth story for another day) I had my little baby girl in my arms. Weighing a healthy 5lb 14oz she was in almost tip top condition. Although she was making noises when she was breathing, for what we call ‘grunty’. This is common in premature babies and is a sign that their little lungs are struggling to breath… so off she went in an incubator over the corridor to NNU (Neonatal Unit).
This was Nancy in the first 20 minutes or so after being born, just before being taken over to NNU. You can see a slight ring around her nose and mouth where she needed help with her breathing from a mask.
Although my delivery was very calm, I happened to lose a fair bit of blood, so I stayed on the delivery suite till I was deemed safe to venture across the corridor. And there she was. My gorgeous little girl warm, cosy and peaceful in her incubator, not even aware that she had entered this world.
I looked onto her like she wasn’t my baby.
A baby that I couldn’t hold. I sat there watching her sleep. Scared to touch her; in fear of knocking a wire. I felt so useless and disconnected that I went back to my delivery room. Filled with guilt and dread I sat on my bed and expressed some milk as that was something I knew I could do. As a midwife I have been into NNU many times, looking at other mothers baby’s who I have delivered. This had felt like one of those moments- just an onlooker.
That evening I visited again. I sat watching her in tears. I was unprepared for her arrival and unprepared for not feeling ‘the bond’ with my baby. That evening, with the help of the amazing NNU staff, I held her against my skin and could smell the top of her head. I can remember this feeling more than when she was first put in my arms. We stayed like that for about fifteen minutes, then she was placed back in her incubator. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed with love but I knew that the little bundle in my arms was mine to protect. We named her that evening, Nancy Constance.
The following day, Nancy was discharged to the nursery. Then, only 48 hours since birth, Nancy was discharged home. We were extremely fortunate that she was able to come out so quickly. There are certain things as a midwife I think you need to go through totruly understand. A baby on NNU for me was clearly one of them. From the short time we spent on NNU and from caring for other mothers with baby’s on NNU I would like to say to any mother who finds themselves in the same situation…
- Don’t feel guilty for not being able to sit at your baby’s cot side.
You have just given birth. You will need to eat, drink, take your pain relief, visit the toilet, have your post natal checks, sleep and shower. Those trips up and down from maternity ward to NNU can take its toll. You can only give to another from a full cup. Most of all your baby needs you to be well.
- Think of your baby’s time at NNU as an extension of your womb. The unexpected trimester.
In Nancy’s case she should have still been in my womb, in my mind for reassurance, that’s what the incubator replicated.
- You WILL bond with your baby.
If you don’t feel connected to your baby, ask for someone to help you into skin to skin, stroke her hands, smell her head. This will all help with bonding. If you can’t do these things have faith that soon, you will be able to. Your feelings now are not a reflection on your future relationship.
Babies recover at different rates and no amount of time at medical school can make a doctor or nurse predict the future. It’s unsettling to be not given a time frame of baby’s discharge but this is not through lack of knowledge from the staff but from plenty of experience. We were told to expect Nancy to stay in for 2 weeks, when she was out the following day. Expect the longest then anything less is a bonus.
Most importantly, know that you are doing your best and you are doing incredibly. Nobody can plan for this unexpected trimester.