Updated: Aug 27, 2020
The past week has been an utter whirlwind with so many different emotions, the primary emotion being LOVE.
I have experienced three very different births. Sophie was born on the #BirthCentre, I arrived at the @RoyalOldhamHospital at 9cm dilated and just managed a beautiful water birth. Joshua was born at home as a planned water birth and Oliver was born on the #LabourWard after a very quick but ‘difficult’ birth. Oliver’s birth scared both James and I, firstly we knew that our baby was only 33 weeks and would therefore be premature. More so, we have already experienced such tragedy, that of losing our beloved son Joshua (aged 15 months old), followed by a miscarriage and so we were extremely #anxious about Oliver’s birth at such an early gestation. However, Oliver had decided to make his arrival and there was no stopping him! The #midwives and staff on the #antenatal ward were incredible, they listened to me and trusted me when I explained that I labour extremely fast and also seem to have a high pain threshold during my births and that therefore I could be progressing fast. They listened and trusted my judgments and after an examination it was clear that I was further on in my #labour, I was moved straight to the labour ward. Oliver had worked very hard during his birth and then began to struggle, the ‘panic’ alarm was pressed and many professionals entered the room. Oliver was too far down the birth canal for a #CSection and therefore it was imperative that I birthed him even though my contractions had stopped. With lots of wonderful help, encouragement, advice and support from the team in the room, in particular from the registrar (who I believe was called Hannah Wright) I birthed Oliver and he cried straight away, he was breathing! The relief to hear his cry was instantaneous; it was an incredibly emotional moment, the arrival of our 2nd son, such a special little boy!
Oliver’s first week on #NICU has been so moving, he has thrived and changed so very much in just this short time. Born at 4lb 2oz, he latched on and has breastfed beautifully for 6 days, he has not required oxygen and has had lots of lovely cuddles with his Mummy, Daddy, our family and our visitors. We realised how lucky we were to be able to hold him, to be able to enjoy #skintoskin #kangaroocuddles and to have avoided Oliver being dependent upon machinery etc. Oliver’s bloods showed that he had jaundice which meant that he needed to go under a lamp, his jaundice bounced back and forth a little for a few days but I still managed to have cuddles during his feeds. However, Oliver’s weight dropped to 3lb 9oz, a drop in weight is expected but Oliver became very sleepy, perhaps because he has worked so very hard this week and has had the added jaundice, he stopped waking for his feeds. We were reminded that Oliver should be sleeping in my womb still and not having to work for a breastfeed. It was decided that Oliver needed to conserve the calories he was being given for growth and development, that in having to breastfeed for his milk at present was counterproductive as he was then exerting the calories. So, Oliver had an #NasalGastric (#NG) tube fitted on Thursday night (11th). Mum’s are always right…My own Mum had warned me that I may be ‘taken aback’ seeing Oliver with an NG tube, that it would bring back memories of Joshua having his NG etc (not that I forget). I wasn’t worried as I explained that I worked every day with children who had NG feeding tubes and also I knew that this was for a different reason. Yet, when I saw Oliver with his tiny NG I was emotional, it was difficult to see and upsetting but I reminded myself that it was necessary and was due to very different reasons therefore I have now done my competency training again and I am feeding Oliver Expressed Breast Milk #EBM by NG . This means that Oliver does not need to wake or work for his feeds, ideally he stays asleep and conserves all of the calories for growth and development. We only disturb him, for care duties with every other feed, this (every other) feed can be a breastfeed if he wakes, for example in changing his nappy. Oliver has slept all day today without waking for any feeds and has therefore been fed by NG all day, this was a difficult day for me in that it was the first day since Oliver’s birth that I didn’t get a cuddle but I remind myself that it is in his very best interest!
Doctors and consultants have many questions about Oliver's older brother Joshua and the diagnosis, symptoms, cause, etc of his passing. James and I both know of the importance of relaying this information to each individual. Of course it hurts to do so but they do it because they must and therefore we discuss Joshua's illness with openness knowing that it is for the best.
Life on NICU is extremely tough, it’s tough of the normal circumstances of course but when you ‘ve experienced our time in the @ManchesterChildrensHospital and @DerianHouse #ChildrensHospice then it only serves to add to the #anxiety. I feel like I have got past a lot this week, I am very comfortable sat by Oliver’s side in the hospital because that is where I need to be, shared between him and his sister of course. This is one of the difficulties of life on NICU, or in any hospital situation, the feeling of splitting yourself amongst your children, trying to be by Oliver’s side at the hospital but also being Mummy to Sophie. Due to our circumstances, Sophie needs more reassurance and consideration that most siblings, luckily for us we have been well supported this week by family and friends, Sophie has had an exciting week at school as she has shared her news with her teachers and support staff and they have all been thrilled to hear that she is a big sister for the 2nd time; she has also had a variety of family members collect her from school and do her bedtime routine etc. However, though she has been spoilt and lavished with affection and attention, she also requires her Mummy and Daddy, of course!
This brings me to the next predicament of life on NICU… Usually my husband would take two weeks paternity from the day of birth to enjoy time as a family and be of assistance. However, we felt that due to the fact that Oliver has been under the lamp for his jaundice etc. that we would prefer James to enjoy family time with us when Oliver was able to come home. This meant that James went back to work on the Monday after I had birthed on the Saturday. Instead of ‘putting my feet up’ and ‘being weighted on hand and foot’ after birthing on the Saturday I found myself doing the school run on Monday and have done so all week. In actual fact our family and friends would have done this but I felt that as I have been at the hospital most days from 9am until 9pm that I wanted Sophie to have some normality with me, so we have had breakfast together and I have dropped her off at school before going to the hospital.
In addition, there’s the fact that I have to wake up, as many neonatal Mummy’s do, every 3-4 hours through the night to express, so even though our babies are not beside us, we still can’t take the opportunity to sleep through for a consecutive amount of hours. Initially I had thought this was the only ‘plus side,’ that I was able to recuperate from the birth and sleep through, missing the night feeds however I am now aware that I have to set alarms to wake up and express to keep my milk flow available for those times when Oliver is home.
Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat…. Remove the ‘Rave’ and replace it with Feed/Express and this is life on NICU. I am expressing like most mums to create a bank of milk for Oliver so that he can enjoy cup feeds of have his NG feed with the nurses during the evenings.
Leaving your baby is so difficult, it’s awful but I know that Oliver is in the best hands. Thank you to all the NICU staff, every single person who makes the Unit function, from the cleaners, healthcare assistants, nurses, outreach nurses, etc. we are extremely grateful!
My brother and sister in law experienced the miracle that our #NICU and #NHS can do for premature babies, Isla my niece was born last year at 28 weeks gestation. I also knew of @Spoons and the support that they provide to families with children on/after neonatal care. Kirsten, the founder of Spoons, visited @JollyJosh for #WorldPrematurityDay in 2017 and 2018. My sister in law found the Spoons group incredibly valuable and stayed a part of the Spoons family in attending their #stayandplay sessions. Many of our #JollyJosh babies and toddlers are also Spoons babies; they were born premature and their families were supported by Spoons. I have met several of the Spoons volunteers this week and it has been very reassuring to hear of their journeys, it is also amazing to see that these volunteers give their own time back into helping other families, so thank you! It has made me reflect on the fact that had Kirsten and I not have had such life experiences and have been empowered to #makepositivechange then such services wouldn’t exist, therefore I am feeling very proud of both our efforts, along with those who support us to have founded such valuable charities in our #community.
As much as we want Oliver home as soon as possible, we await for him to gain strength. For now, we watch him through his incubator, stealing little touches through the doors, and tell him how much he is loved. x