Thursday, June 28, 2012

What I Didn't Know.

Some of the most ignorant attitudes best opportunities for self development I have encountered since coming out of the NICU  have arisen from the conversations I've had around premature birth and people's understanding of how it works.

I cant get too uppity about it though. After all, I was one of those people. I was one of those people who thought that babies born too early were just smaller, cuter versions of their full term peers.

'How sweet they must be' I thought, envisaging a real life tiny tears doll. 'It must be just a little bit special for those parents to have a tiny little miniature baby' - Oh yes, it was a little bit special all right.

And when I thought about  those 'special  babies' in incubators, I imagined  them being popped inside to be kept warm until they grow big and cuddly and their Mum's can take them home.

I assumed the taking them home bit was a 'given' once they'd survived the birth.

I had no idea that these babies had to fight for their tiny lives, sometimes for months on end, every day another hill to climb, another infection, another setback, another threat to their survival...

Monitors, heart rates and saturation levels, That was  stuff to be seen on casualty. It was high tech medical equipment- to be used only in the height of drama!

I didn't realise that in the NICU the 'height of drama' goes on and on, that its neverendingly-horrid and that no doctor or nurse will ever dare to even suggest you  might actually get to take a baby home.  (until you are actually expected take a baby home).

And finally didn't know why, a year or two after it happened, parents of premature babies still talked about premature birth like it was yesterday, even when they clearly had a thriving child before them, who seemed fit,healthy and well.

I didn't know a lot of things back then.

I do now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My NICU - By One-Day Hubby.

My NICU experience can almost be defined by the passage from the Tao de Ching :

When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. 
When people see some things as good, other things become bad. 

I say almost because my experience was actually the complete opposite to this.

I was plunged in to the ugly and dark reality of seeing my daughter, my flesh and blood, being pulled from the safety and comfort of her womb where she was exposed to an existence of constant pain and suffering. For her every breath was a battle, she had to work for every aspect of this new thing called life. As her father, that was supposed to be my job. I could only stand aside and helplessly cry the tears that she was yet incapable of shedding.

And yet through the ugliness the beauty could not help but shine through.

My Smidge was in the second best place she could have been. By some amazing stroke of sheer coincidence I had been born in the twentieth century so by the time Smidge had to face into her trials she had the full force of twenty first century technology on her side. I was blown away by the precision with which her care was administered. Years of study and fine tuning carried out by thousands of dedicated men and women around the world meant that everything she needed could be given to her when she needed it. The doctors and nurses didn't stop for a second to make sure everything went as well as it could. Not once did they expect me to thank them for it, they didn't even send me an invoice for their trouble! Even I can't comprehend how deep my gratitude towards them is.

Likewise, we were faced with the ugliness of having our family ripped away from their home. Yet faced with this potential disaster, beauty shone through again. People who didn't even know who we were stepped in and offered us their homes. They didn't even waver at the prospect of having a whole tribe of hippies, kids and german shepherds invade their house over christmas. I am deeply humbled by the beauty that shone from their kind souls.

If it hadn't been for the bad, I would have never seen the good.

And I saw in Leanna a strength I had never seen before. She transformed from being the girl I loved to hang out with to being my warrioress. Not a single day went past when she wasn't fighting for our daughter at her side with a steadfast determination.

Leanna did everything she possibly could for our daughter. Woe betide any of the medical staff whose standards of care slipped even slightly! She expressed milk every three hours and through the night even when we felt our daughter would never take it. She persisted even when tears of agonywere streaming down her face. (expressing milk can be pretty painful or so I'm told)  Then she would ensure she was promptly with our daughter by 9 am for the doctors rounds and to be involved in her regular cares.

I will always be in awe of what she did for our daughter in that time. She fought with the power of a true mother. I have no doubt that it is because of Leanna's strength the our Smidge is alive and thriving.

And none of that compares to the most beautiful thing of all.

Tomorrow as the sun rises I will be awoken to the wonderful sounds of "Da da". I will raise my head and look over and there in the cot with her little head peeking over the top will be my Smidge calling me to action and reminding me that no matter what today throws at me, somewhere in amongst the chaos there will always be beauty.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Great Doctor, A Great Deal.

It's Smidge's consultant appointment this week and I'm really looking forward to it. I love her consultant, he is an incredibly understanding man with a trunk load of patience, and believe me you a need a whole lot of patience when dealing with this here Premmy Mum.

The thing I am most excited about showing him is Smidge's amazing walking, I just know he's going to love it! It means so much to us as a family, to have a doctor who cares and who puts his time and confidence in to us.

When I first him, the man I describe above, we were nearing the end of our NICU journey. 

Locked into a fearful way of thinking, I was terrified he was too relaxed. Didn't he know Smidge was most important baby there? The centre of the entire universe? 

'Do you remember when we first met? he once remarked, smiling. 'I had to spend nearly an hour convincing you that I was up to the job!' 

*Blush* The man had at least 30 years clinical experience.

I have to say he was incredibly understanding about our situation, which had been difficult, we were  moved around a lot you see, throughout our NICU journey. 

Between the 4 different hospitals we stayed in, there were at least 30 different consultants taking the lead on Smidge's care. Not to mention the numerous registrars and SHO Doctor's who helped Smidge along her way. 

On arrival at the final unit we were washed out and tired. There had been so many transfers and setbacks,so many different medical opinions. I was not fully understanding the emotional upheaval that was mine. 

What I did feel was a great sense of responsibility as an advocate for Smidge. After all, One-day Hubby and I were the only consistent people involved in her care. It was us who followed her  around the south west, like add-ons in some sort of frightful version of  'follow the leader'

But our designated Doctor seemed to know all too well what we had been through because he never lost his patience even when I doubted every second word he said, even when I outwardly challenged his professional judgement and did nothing but convey my own (rather poorly informed) views and opinions.

*Blushes again*

And despite the emotional upheaval, the upset and the totally barking behaviour from me, our doctor has never failed to show us his support, to tell us that we are doing great jobs as parents to Smidge and that she  is doing brilliantly as a tiny developing being.

And that has meant a great deal to us, her Mum and Dad, a great deal indeed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Even Less Of A Mum.

Lying in the hospital bed, post c-section, I was unable to move. I would hear the telephone ringing in the corridor. Was it the Neonatal Unit? Were they calling to inform the nurse they'd soon be down to tell me the bad news? Each ring made my heart leap, my mouth would dry with worry. Tilting my head slightly, I'd strain to hear the tones of the midwife talking on the phone. They were barely audible. Did she sound cheery? surprised? concerned?

This was very much the nature of my mental state during those early weeks, I can truly say I have never known anything like it. No words can describe how it is to have a child on the cusp of survival, week on week on week.

It's like a never ending game of deal or no deal, each day having to re-live  the moment  they uncover the cards, has your dream come true or have you lost everything?

The day I was discharged from the hospital. One day Hubby and I went to stay in a room across the road. We wern't far away but for the first time since she was born I wasn't under the same roof as Smidge. I was away somewhere else breathing fresh air, away from the bleeping telephones and the sound of rubber soles pacing the corridors at variable speeds.

It was a relief you know. A much needed break and for one mad moment in time, I didn't want to go back ever. I'd decided, to put it simply, that I didn't like it.

I didn't like the monitors and machines.I didn't like the intercom and the lingering at the door. I didn't like the lockers for my bag or the hospital coffee or the sitting in a blue plastic covered chair looking like I was at peace with the situation and coping just brilliantly when I wasn't.

And for that one crazy day I just couldn't face it all over again so I didn't. For just one day, I was even less of a Mum.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Soooo Not Moving On.

A lot of my posts recently have been about how I need to improve on myself, be cheerier, put the past behind me, that sort of thing.

But today I'm not going to post about that. Today's post is going to be like the big fat slice of chocolate cake that you're not really meant to have.

Today's post is going to be like maxing out on your credit card when you're current account is already overdrawn. In short, today's post is going to be an indulgence. 

The thing is you see, I'm feeling miserable.

Miserable that my Smidge, (The cutest baby that walked the earth this decade) is not able to go to baby groups any more due to stupid illness. Not the illness of her you understand, but that of the other babies (The one's we pretend to like because of the developmental benefits)

And now my Smidge has gone and made me prouder than proud by learning to totter, probably even beating some of her full term peers and now we have no one to show off to. How enormously frustrating.

I feel maybe just a tiny bit selfish that I am keeping Smidge from the groups but I can not, just can not see my little girl get sent back to hospital again.

I hate the hospital.

I hate standing around in resus an anxious gibbering wreck...
I hate prizing my moody pre-teen away from the computer and telling him in a fake-chirpy voice that we're 'popping' to the hospital, again. 

>I hate seeing my Smidge crowded by doctors and having needles poked in to her tiny veins.

I hate knowing that every decision I make is considered in the context of her medical history, her medical present and her medical future.

I hate that I carry the fear of making the wrong decision with me.

I hate feeling like I am selfish for protecting her because I can't face another trip to A&E

And I hate the fact that it really didn't end when we got discharged from NICU and that here we are today, still feeling like we're waiting on that dreaded NICU phone call.

And even when I see my Smidge playing happily in front of me, pouring cups of imaginary tea and shouting 'dog! 'dog!' (not at me), I am still in my minds eye ready and waiting.

Still a part of me sits braced for tragedy, ready  to act, ready to grieve.

And no part of me wants to feel this way or think these things.

This, to me is not depression or some other clinical condition, it is a reality placed in truth and the only thing that can take it away or make it better is good health and time, until then, I'm just going to have to wear it.

*Picks up napkin and wipes chocolate crumbs from mouth*

Thank you so much for being interested in my life.

Here is your reward...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Febrile And The NICU Garden.

Not so long ago, before Febrile came in to our lives, I wrote a post about trying to move on from the whole NICU saga. You can read about it here.

I'm a great believer you see, that thought creates reality, or at least I used to be until reality started to create thought, then it all changed.

Putting things behind me and moving on..It's still on the agenda, however  recent events seem to have set me back and that pesky Febrile just won't leave me alone.

Take the other day for example, I popped down to the supermarket to pick up some veg and mid-way through selecting a sweet potato, Febrile popped in to my head. I reached in to my bag, pulled out my phone and rang  One Day Hubby. The conversation went like this.

ME: 'Hi, it's me, is Smidge okay?'

ONE DAY HUBBY: 'Er Yes...Why?'

ME: 'I just she hot?'

ONE DAY HUBBY: 'No...Why?'

ME:'I just wondered..'


ME: 'Pardon?'

ONE DAY HUBBY:'Why did you wonder?' (a bit louder)

ME:'Because I was feeling anxious (quietly)


ME:'Because I was feeling anxious'  (slightly louder with shady look on face)


ME:'We'll talk about it when I get home'

ONE DAY HUBBY:'What do we need to talk about when you get home? was there something wrong with Smidge?'

ME: 'No....its just me!' *blushes*

ONE DAY HUBBY:'What's wrong with you?'

ME: 'Nothing'

ONE DAY HUBBY: 'What's wrong with Smidge?'

ME: 'Nothing'

ONE DAY HUBBY: 'Every things okay then?'

ME 'Yes, every things Okay'

ONE DAY HUBBY: 'Okay then....'

So sometimes, the fear, it takes me over. It's like the weed that will not disappear. It's wildly out of control  creeping out through the smallest of cracks. It's stalks are thick and stubborn and even if I cut it down with garden sheers and spray it away with weed killer, it's there, lurking in the background,waiting to recreate itself in all sorts of ways.

The weeds in the NICU garden, they are plentiful and need no attention to thrive.

The weeds in the NICU garden will willingly pop up through the flower beds and overwhelm everything that's beautiful.

And all that is pretty in the NICU garden, the vibrant flowers and plants, they don't thrive all alone, they need time,care and attention.

But if each time I'm the NICU garden, I just kill the weeds, then nothing else will grow.nothing else will be nurtured, nothing else will thrive.

And sweet potato shopping wont get any easier either, that's for sure.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Got Me A Toddler!

Today is a proud, proud day for this here Premmy Mum because today, Smidge did something amazing.

We were there in the front room,One-day Hubby and me. Him at one end of the carpet, Me at the other.

I was clutching on to Smidge's newborn sized hands, she was dribbling freely, revealing her monster-like smile. (Hurry up other front tooth we are in desperate need of some symmetry here )

When all of a sudden she lurched forwards,but instead of landing  in a pile on the floor she continued to manoeuvre herself in a toddler like fashion, her style strongly resembling my own after a few white wines.

One-day Hubby caught her in her flight as I wildly applauded her efforts.Unsure of what all the fuss was about, she stared at me blankly, mindlessly joining in with the applauding, trying to figure out what she had done that was just so brilliant.

But as the day has gone on, she has gained more and more confidence and is increasingly keen to hear the applause of her dedicated fans.

I am so unbelievably proud of my Smidge.

At 18 months of age (fourteen and a half months corrected) She has taken to the floors.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Widget And The Gang.

Well HUGE congratulations are in order for Ruby-Dog who gave birth to a litter of five puppies just the other night.

They were born a little earlier than we would have liked and sadly, we did loose one during the birthing process but the others are doing fine, with the exception of the smallest one, Widget.

Widget was the second of the five to be born, weighing a little over 300 grams. He made a fighting start, getting in there with Ruby, suckling for milk. We thought he was doing great.

But last night during the family meal, I looked over to Ruby-Dog's whelping box to see little Widget lying there apparently limp and  lifeless, One-day Hubby jumped to attention, scooping him into his hands and started stimulating him rapidly but Widget was frightfully unresponsive.

I called the breeder for some emergency advice who told us to keep trying to stimulate the puppy and keep him very warm.

After a few minutes One-day Hubby cried out that he thought he had seen him open his mouth, and would you believe it, he had!  and just a few minutes later he made some faint squeaking noises.

In something of a fluster I quickly filled a tupperware tub with some warm water and wrapped it in a towel. We then placed the puppy on the make shift incubator whilst continuing to rub him.

Ruby-Dog did look a little concerned at our intervening as she looked on with fear, We did try to keep her  as involved as possible, allowing her the odd lick  but Widget was week, his life hanging in the balance.

Then the makeshift incubator started to melt, So he had to be provided with some emergency Kangaroo Care whilst a hot water bottle was located.

With in ten minutes, our breeder arrived with some nutra-drops, a glucosey type mixture that is fast acting.
After tasting the mixture he slowly started to pick up. We tried to get him to take some milk from his Mother but the poor little soul was still weak as he slid off the nipple, tired and exhausted.

Next we tried to express some milk from Ruby to raise his energy levels, but I am not adept in the realms of dog milking and the amounts were insufficient.

Acting on the breeders advice, we continued to give the drops every few hours until the puppy built up some energy. We put him next to Ruby and willed the little fellow on, hoping for the best.

One-day hubby and I decided it would be a good idea to keep a closer eye on all of the the pups, so we marked them apart using tipex, this way we could tell more easily how often each puppy was feeding.

We drew up some observation charts to monitor their progress, noting their sucking and sleeping activity every two hours through the night.

Then, the puppies were officially named. We called them Gadget, Sprocket, Widget and Disqus, with Disqus being the only girl.

And would you believe it, hour on hour little Widget's strength grew and once again he was active, suckling from his Mumma.

Today Widgets suckling away like a champ, sweetly nestled in with his brothers and sister.

We are so proud.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Intellect and Instinct

Quite often, animals who are bred in artificial environments end up rejecting their babies early on because they don't believe that they will survive and who can blame them?

Thousands of years of evolution have caused these creatures to develop powerful instincts, Instincts that equip them to give birth to and nurture their offspring in a way that only they know how, In a way that keeps them alive, protects them and prepares them for life in the wild.

So when a Lioness, Tigress, Giraffe or Elephant finds themselves clock watching for the next bucket feed in concrete  enclosure with windows looking in, you can easily imagine why they might think...what's the point?

Just like a zoo animal, this here Premmy Mum had those doubts and worries, those fears and concerns. What was this place I was in? These machine's have nothing to do with what I'm geared up to provide. Who are all these people interfering and watching me? (The looking like an elephant wasn't so far from the truth either)

But unlike my primitive friends, as a human being I have cognitive functions that allow me to see things from numerous different perspectives, the ability to understand what others may be thinking and why they act in the way they do.

So when I saw these doctors and nurses interfering with my baby, stealing my role and keeping her safe, I accepted it, tolerated it, understood it but it went against all that felt natural, against everything instinctive.

It was no wonder it was confusing, these two processes occurring simultaneously, I felt torn between what I hoped for and what I felt.

It was the intellect that reminded me to hold on to tomorrow, to the idea that I could one day take over, be the Mother I wanted to be, knew I could be. It was intellect that took me to the unit each day, that motivated me to express the milk, to sit along side an incubator hour upon hour.

But the instinct was a selfish and nagging source of contention. A persistent and constant reminder that my baby was not my own. Not in my arms, Not protected by me. Not nurtured by me. leading me to believe on an unconscious level that my actions were fruitless, inconsequential, pointless.

So when I think about the issue of bonding, of connectedness of being a 'good' mum. Do I feel guilty? 

A little.

But I also see that I fought my way through the fear, cuddled through wires,machinery and bleeps and found some hope in hideousness..

And for that I feel okay.