Parenthood is a never ending rollercoaster of emotions. Even more so when something unexpected happens.
This is my personal story of my premature baby's arrival. Which I'm hoping may help those of you going through this.
I don't think I ever fully took on board, how much of a shell shock it was, for us as new parents, when our son arrived prematurely.
All I knew was that my body had decided it no longer wanted to stay pregnant and my baby was on the way.
I didn't get any time before my baby arrived on maternity leave like I had hoped to have. I went straight from working to a bank holiday weekend in labour.
At 34 weeks my waters broke, just a trickle for a day and sure enough, just after midnight the night after my waters breaking, my contractions began.
18hrs later, (yes it was a long labour!), he finally came into the world and we were parents! 4lb 7oz and other than his talipes foot, which we were already aware of, he was healthy.
Which was all we could of hoped for.
As we were not expecting our baby quite so soon, we had no clothes or nappies ready for him, as everything we had was too big!
He started his first few days in the lovely knitted clothing kindly donated to the hospital for tiny babies and my husband was sent off with a list of things we would need for him.
We were moved to the postnatal ward and over the next day, I began to notice he was constantly being sick. It was thick, very yellow and smelt very strong. I knew babies are usually a bit sick after feeds and after expressing my concerns, I kept being told it was all normal. So as a new mum I figured they must know best.
I was wrong to not trust my instincts.
By the evening, I was still concerned and finally a Dr came to check him over. He was very poorly by this time.
He was immediately moved to SCUBU,(now known as NICU) whilst I was taken to a separate room. I broke down! I was absolutely heartbroken this was happening to my baby. Plus being exhausted from birth, hormonal and alone. Having to make a very late, emotional phone call to my husband to tell him what was happening.
After some time, I was allowed to see him. He was now in an incubator box with wires coming out of everywhere. Nothing prepared me for this.
They thought what was sick, was actually bile and that he had a blockage in his tummy, meaning he hadn't passed his meconium, like he should of. As he was so poorly, they decided he needed more expert care than they could provide, so he needed to be transferred to Kings Hospital in London.
I would not be able to travel with him either. It would be an ambulance car and Dr collecting him, so there was no where for me to travel with them.
So eventually, I had to leave my baby, not really knowing when I was going to see him next.
I was discharged from hospital late that night and told the best thing to do was to go home as they wouldn't know when he would be arriving at Kings.
I didn't in a million years ever think I would be leaving hospital without my baby. But I did.
My first morning home, was not quite how I had imagined becoming a parent would be. Our priority was getting up to London as soon as we could.
Those early days in the NICU
I'm not going to lie, it was tough whilst our son was in hospital. Lots of tests, different drs and different opinions as to what was best.
I would'nt be able to stay with my son as the housing was very limited and as you can imagine, there are sadly lots of premature and poorly babies, whos families had travelled even further than us, across the country. So we were not a priority being that we lived in Kent.
A small tip for anyone having to travel daily to a London hospital. It was costing us a fortune to pay for parking daily and that's if we could manage to get a space. So we paid for a months parking permit. which worked out much cheaper and meant we could park on the streets around the hospital.
It was such a relief to be reunited with our son again, even if we could'nt hold him to start with, we tried to spend as much time as we could at the hospital with him.
It was the hardest part of the day, leaving him there but you cannot fault the amazing care the nurses provide. They helped guide us as to what we could do in those early days, even if it was just simply changing a nappy in his tank. They helped us be parents in a not so normal situation.
I was keen to continue breastfeeding him but he was being tube fed, due to his tummy issues. I tried my hardest to express as much as I could, but I think with all the stress of everything, I was struggling to produce enough to meet his needs. So we opted for him to be given donor breastmilk to help top him up.
As for me this was something personalyI wanted him to have, to give him all the help I could in getting better.
I also wasn't recovering well. Not being able to really rest properly due to all the travelling, I was exhausted and was finding my ankles and feet were swelling. Having time to think about my recovery was not a luxury I had though and definitely wasn't my priority.
After a few days, he was still improving so we could hold him once more. It was lovely to hold him again even if we did have to manouver many wires and monitors around us.
He continued to be a tough little one and just kept improving. So eventually after a week and a half, they were happy for him to be transferred to Tunbridge Wells hopsital so he was closer to home.
This finally meant many of our family were able to meet him for the first time and after a few more days in hospital, I was allowed to finally stay the night to make sure I was comfortable with him coming home for the first time.
Bringing our baby home
Bringing him home was such a relief. We were so happy to finally have him home but it was also quite daunting too. I suddenly had this small person home and felt like I had missed out on those early days with him. Plus my poor husband had used all his paternity leave up already, so literally returned to work the day after our baby came home.
So I was alone with this tiny person, that had a very strict feeding schedule that had been programmed into him whilst in hospital. With numerous hospital appointments to continue going to on my own.
But we did it! This was our normal for our first child.
Looking back at how we started life as parents, I actually wonder how on earth we did it. But we did! We didn't once think about how stressed and exhausted we were from everything that happened. We did what we needed to do for our son. I have no idea how we were functioning or holding it all together.
I'm so thankful he recovered quickly.
I personally think now more than ever, that as a parent, having those early or poorly babies makes us even stronger. These babies, that can be born so tiny and fragile, that are also so tough!
For those going through any of this right now, there will be hard days but there will be plenty of good ones too. Take those small wins and use them to keep yourselves feeling positive.
Please feel free to share your stories too, if your comfortable too. It still takes me a lot to talk about everything now, even after all this time.