The day my daughter was born was the best day of my life and also the worst day of my life. The best day of course because I got to meet my little princess for the first time, the new love of my life. The worst day because as soon as she was born she was snatched away from me, and we spent the first few hours not sure if we would have a baby at all to come home with us.
I thought long and hard whether to write anything on my experience, it is not the most uplifting topic! But I went through so many mixed emotions, so many challenges, so many “missed firsts” that it took a while for me fully deal with what happened in my head, long after my baby girl was at home with us. At the time I didn’t know anyone else who had gone through the same thing so I had no-one to talk to. So I’m hoping my words might help someone else who ends up in a similar situation.
The medical bit:
I was lucky to have no medical problems with pregnancy, and my labour was fairly ‘text book’, but when my waters broke it was obvious I had thick meconium. This is common and is not usually a problem if it can be sucked out the baby’s mouth before they breathe it in. Unfortunately my baby did breathe it in, it filled 1/3 of her lungs and she couldn’t breathe properly. She spent her first 7 days in the Special Care Baby Unit at Warwick hospital until she could breathe properly and had fought off an infection.
The emotional bit:
This took a lot longer than 7 days to recover from. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, so:
Here is my advice to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation…
Your baby doesn’t have to go off alone. In my NCT ante-natal class they touched on when things might not go to plan, and mentioned that your husband/birth partner is usually allowed to go with your baby to special care. So when my daughter was whisked away I shouted for my husband to go with her. I’m glad I knew this fact as the doctors don’t usually have time to discuss such things during an emergency. Knowing that my husband was there with her gave me some comfort later on
You might not feel your true emotions at first. As my husband was watching our daughter be resuscitated, I was happily sat with my tea and toast reading my magazine. My hubby kept coming in to give me updates, obviously really distressed, and my reaction was always “it will be fine, don’t worry”, bizarrely I was actually really happy! I felt such guilt about this for such a long time after, I obviously wasn’t a caring mother. Now after having a 2nd child I realise what I was experiencing was the endorphin rush immediately after your baby is born, I literally was on a high. This occurs to help you bond with your baby, but you still get it even if your baby isn’t there. So please don’t feel guilty, it is just nature.
Trust your parental instincts. From a few minutes old you are asked to make important decisions about your baby, “do you approve us doing this test and that test” etc. This is really scary, we have just become parents we don’t know what the right answer is! We learnt that it is ok to ask the big important doctors for some time to think, ok to ask lots of questions, ok to ask one of the midwives to be with you for moral support. Everyone talks about that “gut feeling” as a parent, it is there you just need to find it and have faith in it early on.
Demand a private room. The worst moment for me was after I’d finally met my daughter in special care, I was wheeled round into the normal post-labour ward and left amongst all these new mums with their babies. It was horrendous having to listen to them coo over their babies when I didn’t have mine with me, hearing the staff talking about me “she doesn’t need that she doesn’t have her baby” etc. I wanted to scream “I do have my baby, she is just in another room!”. My mum arrived a couple of hours later, took one look at the state I was in and demanded they give me a private room, I was in one an hour later! It definitely helped to have some space and privacy to deal with things.
Grieve the “missed firsts” but then move on. I still can’t watch an episode of One Born Every Minute without crying when I see a new mum hold her baby when it is born, as I couldn’t do that with my daughter. I wasn’t the first person to hold her, to speak to her, to feed her. I grieved over these “missed firsts” for such a long time. The only thing I can say is that although they are obviously massively important things to a new mum, there are so many more cuddles, conversations, meal times to come that in the end it doesn’t matter if you missed the first times, these are such a small part of your child’s whole life. You will be no less bonded to your child.
Finally, our experience has completely justified us paying our taxes towards the NHS, for the staff at the SCBU in Warwick hospital are absolute angels. We were so impressed at the care our daughter received and also the emotional support they gave us as new, overwhelmed parents. In the grand scheme of things we were the lucky ones, our daughter was the least ill of all the babies in SCBU at the same time, we actually felt lucky. So whenever you see Nikki fundraising for SCBU please support it- it is a very, very worthwhile cause!
Take It From Mummy is proud to support Warwick Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit, you can donate here xx