Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Loneliness Of NICU.

It's strange because you can have the most well meaning of nurses looking after your baby, You can have the very best of doctors  leading their care, You can have the most supportive family in the whole world and yet  still you can feel so incredibly alone when you have a  baby in intensive care.

The issues that caused me to feel isolated were things I didn't want anyone else to know about, they were deeply personal to me and even the slightest suggestion that others' had cottoned on to 'the inner me' had me flaring up inside with anger and resentment.

The problem that I had was, there were two sides to this  Premmy Mum. There was the side that went in to the NICU each day and put on a performance. The performance that  everything was good, fine and dandy. The side that sat along side the incubator trying to find words for a foetus that couldn't be touched, couldn't be held,couldn't be heard.

Then there was the secret Mummy that was heartbroken. Heartbroken because what she had wasn't what she had planned, yet she knew she was lucky to have a baby that was hanging on in there fighting for her little life.

And this Mother, the heartbroken one, could not bare the idea that she would be perceived as unbonded, disconnected or uncaring. Because she wanted that baby to live so much. Nothing in her life was more important or more crucial than that very thing.

So when, after a week a nurse held up a small premature baby nappy and asked me if I wanted to change Smidge, I was deeply hurt and offended.

'I don't need to change a nappy to connect with my child' Said the Heartbroken Mama with in.

'I'll change a million nappies when I get out of this place, and I'll sing to her, and I'll rock her and do all of the things we can't do here and we won't need you, bossing us about or leading the way, not now and certainly not then'

But the NICU Mum Smiled politely. 'You do it' she said sweetly.

The nurse nodded her head with understanding. She thought I'd declined because I didn't want to be involved, that I wasn't 'ready' to care for  Smidge.

I was ready.

I never stopped being ready.

I wasn't ready for 'being allowed'

I wasn't ready for 'being permitted'

But always,always I wanted to do my personal best for her.

But when staff came in with all their guidance and schedules, I didn't feel I was doing my best. I didn't feel I was being a Mother at all.

Which is one of the reasons I think this publication by Bliss is so important.

This booklet explains everything to Parents. In a nutshell, it tells them how they can learn to read their baby's cue's so that they, the parents may make informed decisions about  how to interact with their babies, when they might 'like' to be touched or handled.

And because this publication is written as though it is coming is from the  baby, it is disarming, endearing and empowering to Mum's in this situation.

I think these should beside every incubator as standard.

Eighteen Months down the line and four NICU's later, I think a great deal about what I was encouraged to do as a parent. There is no doubt at all that leading  the care of your baby helps the bonding process and affects the attachment relationship.

But NICU's vary hugely in their approach to how this is managed. Some unit's are very 'precious' over the babies with nurses leading the care in all instances. Bizarrely it was being in the two level 4 surgical units that enabled me to get more involved with Smidge, which was ironic because it was then when she was at her most unstable.

I'll never forget walking in to the surgical unit after Smidge was transferred. There was a big notification up on the wall. It read:


It was music to my ears. Finally I could choose! Finally I could start being a Mother.

So If the sickest babies in the country can be cared for by their own parents.. Why can't all unit's commit to the same principles?

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