Life as a NICU mum

Life as a NICU mum

Contributed by Mater mum Lana

It’s so hard waking up every morning with the same thought: what is today going to bring? I sit there hoping it’s a good day—but sometimes it’s not. One day he is great, sats (oxygen saturation) are good and oxygen is down; other days aren’t so great, oxygen has gone up and sats are up and down. I get to the hospital at the same time every day as I feel I have to be there for him… whether I am cuddling him, holding his hand or just sitting talking and looking at him. For myself—I have to be there for him.

Expressing breastmilk is a big part of my life at the moment as it is all I can do for my son. Making sure I do it every three hours, whether it be at the hospital beside him or back at the unit, I always make sure I am on time to do so.

My days start with waking up with my partner around four o’clock every morning as he leaves for work. Once I’ve said goodbye I stay up to express. After that, I go back to sleep till seven o’clock when I wake up to express again, whilst simultaneously having breakfast and watching TV.

I get dressed and put on my shoes to climb the stairs to get to my son. Getting to him around 8:30 am I say my good mornings and tell him his daddy will be back that afternoon. By then it’s time to take his temperature and change his nappy before feeding him expressed milk, which is being gravity fed to him through a tube and a syringe. Then it’s ward round time.

Stepping outside the room, I peek through the windows to see if they are with my little man so I can go in and listen to what his day consists of. Some days they don’t even get the chance to turn around to call me; I am in there as soon as I see movement towards my son. Some days there are no changes. Some days he has busy days. It might be that he has to have an eye or blood test, scans or that his food is being increased by 1ml. Regardless, I feel I have to be there to hear what they say—as any mother would.

Once they are finished, I have to leave the room again. I go to the parents room to have a cup of tea and some biscuits, watch the TV or speak to other parents—always watching the time. I have learnt how long the rounds take, so I know when I can go back into my son.

Some days I get to cuddle him and some days not, but on the days I do it’s a long time before the nurses put him back into his cot. I love cuddling him. Sitting there having cuddles I talk to him about his two dogs and his cat, and how they are going to love him when we go home. Sometimes I sing and hum to him, quietly so the nurses don’t hear my out of tune voice, but my little man loves it and that’s all that matters to me.

I stay at the hospital until 2 o’clock or later in the afternoon, depending what time my partner gets back from work. I go back to the unit to cook dinner. We eat early so we can go back up to the hospital and spend more time with our son. We try to have an early night, so we leave our boy around 8 o’clock. It’s hard leaving every night without our son but knowing he is in good hands makes it that little bit easier.

How we got here…

This journey started when I got a phone call after being at the hospital one day, telling me they needed me to come straight back. I called my partner and waited for him to get home to take me. By then I had so many thoughts running through my head…

I was 24 weeks pregnant, living in Warwick, and had just had an antenatal check-up. They did blood tests, took urine samples and endless blood pressure tests. I had high blood pressure and protein in my urine which determined I had preeclampsia. We were referred to Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane. It was the longest, quietest drive we have ever taken to Brisbane, not knowing what was waiting for us or our baby at the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital, scared. We were taken into a birth suite where I was hooked up to a CTG machine. My blood pressure was checked constantly, I had an IV in my arm and they took numerous blood tests. My partner and I were exhausted. Finally we were taken to a room where we could rest. We sat there in silence not knowing what was coming next.

The next day we had visit after visit telling us we were going to have our baby prematurely. Whether it be that day, the next day, the next week or five weeks later—we were going to have a preterm baby. Day after day was so precious. Each day we held on was better for our baby’s growth. But each day was like a time bomb and not knowing when that bomb was going to go off. After a visit to the Mater Mothers' Hospitals' Neonatal Critical Care Unit on the Friday we knew our baby was going to be in the best care.

Two days later and 10 days after I was admitted, my blood pressure was going up and each second our baby was going downhill. At exactly 26 weeks we had our baby boy.

The first few weeks after having our boy were hard. I wasn’t in a routine to express nor could I do anything else but just stare at him… I just wanted to spend my whole time with him and do nothing else, but I was determined I would do a little more for him. Day by day it got easier and now I’m in a routine.

My partner and I have learnt that staying positive is our key to getting through this together—even when times get hard we’re always there for each other.

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