Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm the Mummy!!

Parenting a child in the neonatal unit is a bit like putting sugar on frosties, Somehow it feels like you're just not needed.

I remember those early days, the  feelings of helplessness as I loomed in the background,clinging to hope, terrified to invest anything more than a physical appearance.

I think it was  my second visit, post c-section when upon entry,it appeared to me as though all the parents and the entire staff team were focused on me. I turn to Steve, who is propping me up with both hands and I say 'They are all looking at me..'

'They are all looking at me and they are thinking..'there is the mum...there is the mum of that tiny baby'

'Don't be silly' says Steve as I blubber snot into his one remaining clean shirt.

'They aren't thinking that at all, they are thinking.. there is that mum, so off her head on morphine,she needs propping up'


'Really.' he confirms, giving me another hug.

In truth I don't think I ever fully accepted my role as a NICU mummy.
The doctors and nurses did all they could to help me feel a part of the team. They offered detailed explanations and updates,they tried to encourage me to change nappies,  put on new sheets  and assist with tube feeds.

The difficulty  was I didn't want to be a part of the team. I wanted to be the one in charge and frankly, being thrown the odd nappy wasn't really doing it for me.It just felt a bit like being assigned the role of 'baby' in the game of mums and dad's. You just just have go along with everyone else's ideas, let out the odd cry and hope that one day you get to play mummy.

Similarly, as is the case with all well behaved children I waited patiently for my turn.Well at first I did, but then what would happen next?  the rules would change, and we'd be carted off to a different hospital and there would be a whole new staff team.

When we arrived at the fourth and final hospital,after the sixth transfer I was all but shouting 'I'm the mummy, it's my turn!'
I would turn up with little piles of carefully ironed sheets for the incubator, and muslin squares to go over her 'nests.'

'She doesn't like those  towels in there'  I'd tell the nurse

 'She likes muslin squares, they are softer on her skin' Then I would race down to the milk kitchen and get the milk before she had a chance to even think about it.

Of course its not that neonatal nurses don't understand a mums  need to feel involved in their babies care, On the contrary they are always 'saving poo's and such like, but  gestures like these,although appreciated, did little to enhance my sense of maternal well-being .You see I didn't want to be 'invited to participate' and I didn't want to do jobs that any old nurse could do. I desired independence, craved exclusivity,and the only way it seemed I could achieve this was to shunt the nurses out of the picture and 'take the reigns' myself.

The nhs bed space dilemma did add to my stress. It was difficult always being on new  territory. Also,different hospitals vary in the approaches they take to parental involvement and like the over keen advocate that I was,  I never ceased to miss an opportunity to highlight inconsistencies in care.

'You don't know her as I do..' I'd gloat to the nurses whenever I disagreed with a decision.

'I have been with her all along, you haven't ' (so.. na-nah-na-nah-na)

As embarrassing as it is to recall, this was none the less  all a part of my NICU experience.Looking back  I feel the utmost  admiration for the neonatal nurses who bore the brunt of my emotional distress.

Who smiled when I smiled and acted appropriately somber when I looked stressed or angry.

Who worked with patience, kindness and humanity when I was confused, tired and upset.

Who showed  relentless compassion, courtesy and respect when I was being an argumentative, self-righteous old bag.

And,  who always found the time to do all of these things in between delivering life saving interventions, administering drugs, writing up notes and tending to the countless needs of a case load of babies.

It really is a truly amazing job that they do! :-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The end of an Era.

Today is the end of an era, A day that represents the end of something amazing and the start of something incredibly scary. secondary school.
I am officially old. Yes I got me a big kid now and it is utterly terrifying.
So it's goodbye to little orange chairs with holes in the back, you were impressively hardy and never showed me up by toppling over,even post pregnancy.
It's adios to the after school cake sales, it was a bitter sweet relationship that we shared but I will miss you none the less.
To the raffles and tombolas, I never won you but you gave me hope when the other stalls did nothing.
To the parents, Thank you for shuffling ,chit chatting and making school orientated small talk with me and preventing me from looking like a complete moron.
To the teachers, The thought of one day in the life of you gives me gray hair but you have all done a marvelous job and we liked you..
But most of all goodbye to little Mr G,to watching his proud and angelic little face singing in the school plays...
An image that will soon be nothing but a happy memory that will remain forever in my heart and if I'm  very very lucky..
will serve as some pretty good ammo in the years to come when I am faced with a gangly loud mouthed spotty teenager with attitude.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Half man,Half machine.

Dearest blog,
I am living in exciting times! Every day now smidge is coming up with a new trick  to impress me.
Last week she discovered her hands, like really discovered her hands! Once she realised their potential she immediatly put them to good use, manoeuvring small cones that were obstructing her visual field and such like. ( damn those baby gyms and their stupid dangly bits)
Feeling more confident with the concept of cause and effect, she went one step further and shook tortoise with one hand whilst simultaneously batting plastic hanging musical teddy with the other!
Somewhat  alarmed by her own leap in progress,she turns to me with an astonished look on her face as if to say "Did I do the right thing?"
I gently clarify the situation.
 "It's half you and half 'toys'r'us', a multi million dollar corporate company trying to monopolise on your development."
 "AAh-goo" she says, understandably relieved for the explanation.
Contrary to my desire to be a modern day Earth Mother who watches her children happily snacking on homous as they play with their one wooden toy (which they very much appreciate) I have to confess to getting drawn into all kinds of marketing traps promoting overpriced  plastic tat.. Oh the shame.
Captions like 'designed in conjunction with physiotherapists' or 'supports babies physical and  social  development' have me stood in the queue purse at the ready. Why?
Is it a girl thing? A western thing? Or a need to tidy the house and this will keep you happy thing? Whatever it is it's a bad habit, an expensive and shamlessly bad habit.
However after yesterday's spend in mothercare smidge also succumbed to the wicked western ways as she revelled in the joy of her new cot mobile.
This morning I awoke not to a crying, hungry smidge but to the sounds of a happy babbling smidge gazing joyfully up at the duck,horse and bunny bobbing on the mobile as she asked the question she asks all social phenomena with eyes... 'Are you from my species?'
I look at smidge and she offers a great big gummy grin back.
Oh the joys of developing in contemporary society..
Its a minefield, it really is.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The every day mum fantasy

Its no secret that most premmy mums despair at the idea of going to baby groups. Come to think of it, it's a fairly detested concept all across the board.

Its not just the socialising aspect of it, the being thrown into a room with a bunch of randoms, the only common ground being that you all reproduced recently, It's the getting ready bit.

Yes the getting up, the doing the hair, yes the actual doing of hair. The fishing around in the wardrobe for non-frumpy, maternal like clothing that flatters your post pregnancy shape. The careful selection of babies outfit. The pleading communications with baby, 'mummy  won't be long now.. '

The banging out of 'old macdonald' whilst simultaneously thinking where the hell are my shoes..
and finally the guilt of being so preoccupied with appearances that baby has made a real  tear  in the interim.

Then, when at long last you get out of the house, its the superficiality of walking into baby group all smiles like you manage  to do this every bloody day of the week no bloody problem.

And that's just before you get talking to people.

But if you're a premmy mum and you can get this far then you absolutely have my respect.

In actual fact premmy mums' non attendance at baby groups is not something that has gone entirely unnoticed.

Quite recently I attended a neonatal service user feedback group that were looking to discuss this very matter.One of the proposed ideas to help integrate families of prem babies into mainstream  groups was to bring support workers from sure start into the neonatal unit. ( If Mohammed wont come to the mountain sort of thing.)

Following this proposal I think I became aware of a number of possibilities worthy of further consideration.

1. I am actually a bit of a snob
2. I'm developing a 'right wing' political perspective.
3. I have a very low state of self awareness.

You see up until this day it was my understanding that sure start was for families from disadvantaged backgrounds.Well that cant be me. (For a start  I have a dyson.)

But by all accounts this is not the case at all. Apparently gone are the days when sure start workers lurked on the edge of housing estates hoping to grab mum on her way back from her weekly shop at costcutter. These days sure start is for everyone.

If sure start is for everyone then surely everyone can decide if surestart is for them. no?

You see  as a pregnant mum to to be I dared to have this little fantasy. The fantasy not only involved me having a healthy baby, born at approximately 40 weeks gestation but it pertained that  I, now  a much older mummy would do all the mummy like things that I didn't have the confidence to do the first time around. Yes i was going to be this baby group bonkers,club crazy mummy who felt at one with her community.

And although  I was never in any denial that i had a very prem and poorly baby, equally there was absolutely no way that i was parting with my fantasy either.

After all, it was this fantasy that kept me going through some of the toughest times.It was the idea that that one day, cuddles with smidge would be when i wanted them and not when the nurses said it was okay. It was the thought that I could offer  milk without it involving expressing,freezing and nasogastric intubation. And it was the fantasy that one day, damn it.. I would push my lovely baby girl into baby group and I would be an every day mum,there to meet other mums and talk about every day mum stuff like how many hours sleep you haven't had and weather budget baby wipes really are the crime of the century.

It is well documented that premmy mums often feel robbed of so many things. Of a long and healthy pregnancy, of those precious first few hours and now, it seems services want to get  in on the 'every day mum'  fantasy too!!
But as tempting as it  is to rant on  about  the nanny state and creating job opportunities out of peoples would- be private lives i suppose it would be rude not to consider the possibility that  the new surestart neonatal service might amount to more than a professional handholding exercise.

To help the sure start workers along, I have put together this short check list which may be of some assistance when  trying to determine why their neonatal mum hasn't attended the local baby group.

1. They want everyone to bog off so they can finally enjoy their baby.
2. They fear alienation because all the mums know each other from antenatal classes.
3.They are trying to have a nervous break down in peace.
4.They have heard enough insensitive comments in the supermarket.

However, with all that said and done, wouldn't it be handy for someone to be in the know about these sorts of issues and could prepare us premmy mums in advance?

In her blog about 'what makes a good neonatal nurse'  ex-premmy mum and fellow blogger Kylie  (notevenabagofsugar@blogspot.com) highlighted the fact that at times a professionals' insight can act as an effective preventative measure for handling emotional upset or stress.

"She never tried to pretend she knew how it felt to have a tiny baby, but she always seemed to understand exactly what we were going through. I remember her saying to me in about week 3 that a time would come where we really resented the staff and would feel bitter about their involvement, and she was absolutely right. By week 7  I was so, pardon the French, pissed off with the whole thing and just wanted my baby to be mine. I was sick of sharing him. The fact that she recognised this and pre empted it really helped me understand that what I was feeling was normal."

 I really ought to say at this point that despite all of the above listed anxieties, my experience of baby group has so far been a positive one. Obviously that could change, but such a shift is most likely to be associated with the fact that i am an over opinionated, hyperactive gob shite with a dodgy sense of humour as opposed to it being because I'm a premmy mum.

                              Post baby group smidge, dropping hints to daddy.