It was February 2nd 2017 and I had just given birth to my daughter. She was born at 23 weeks plus 4 days’ gestation; more than 17 weeks early. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a joyous occasion.
At 23 weeks plus 1 day I was found to be 2cm dilated and was admitted to the University Hospital Wales. After a healthy pregnancy and carrying a baby that was thriving, I found myself dilated; admitted; and having given birth three days later. Just like that.
So what started this ball rolling? The tiniest spot of blood. A spot so small I could have easily missed it. But little did I know that this spot would be the symbol of the beginning of hell. A hell that would last for months.
I had experienced mild abdominal tightening the night before she was born and around four hours prior to her birth, I called a midwife because I knew something was beginning to happen. Within four hours, I had gone from abdominal tightening, contractions, severe contractions, with little time in between them, to her birth.
The delivery room was filled with obstetricians, midwives, NICU doctors and nurses. Our daughter was slipping away when still inside me and so a quick, live delivery was essential if she was to be given a chance at life by receiving immediate medical assistance.
During the three days prior to her birth, when I was admitted at the hospital, my husband Dave and I were advised that a baby born at 23 weeks’ gestation is considered a late term miscarriage. If able to be medically assisted, he or she would have a mere 20% chance of survival, and half of those surviving 23 weekers will suffer with moderate to severe disabilities. We were advised that a baby born at 23 weeks’ gestation might not survive labour and that the chance of still birth was very high. So when her heart rate started to drop in utero, I worried that my pushing her out quickly to help save her (the only chance I could give her), would kill her.
She was born without making a noise, “in poor condition”, before viability (24 weeks gestation ), still at the stage, I think, where I could have arranged a termination. She was able to fit into the palm of the doctor’s hand and was severely bruised, weighing 580 grams, with a heart that was barely beating and with lungs so immature they hadn’t released any natural surfactant. She was born without receiving a full course of steroids to help mature her lungs and without a full dose of magnesium to help mature her brain. She was unable to breathe for herself and was taken from me immediately to be worked on by the team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for what seemed like an eternity. We were not permitted to see her for the next four hours, while the NICU team attempted to stabilise her back at the NICU. We were advised that stabilisation may not have been possible. For us, it was a waiting game. An unbearable waiting game, and so the counting began again. Our eyes fixed on the clock: one minute; two minutes; three; and so on.
My daughter, my first child, had left the delivery room; she was far away from me; and a tribe of medical staff had followed behind her. Which direction she went in, I did not know. Just like that I wasn’t pregnant any more. I was a mother. A mother to a very sick little girl. A little girl who was thriving only days before, when she was tucked up where she was supposed to be.
In my last blog, I explained that the NICU doctor who resuscitated my daughter, had said to me, as they were wheeling her out of the room, “the odds are not good.” He had a smile on his face; a kind smile; but I mistook it as a sign of positivity; of reassurance; and so I said, “the odds are good?” “Not good,” he said. I felt as though I had been winded. His words had cut through me like a knife and then I watched them all leave with her.
To my right, they walked out the door. I don’t know why I assumed he’d said something positive. He had been very clear all through my hospital stay that her future would probably be bleak and her existence would most likely be short. So why would he say anything different now? It was most probably wishful thinking on my part. My brain telling me what I wanted to hear. Hoping that the sight of her told him a different story. It didn’t.
Once she was out of sight, I brought my head back to centre of the room, and in my peripheral vision I noticed a lady sitting to my left. Still dazed, in shock and heavily affected by the gas and air, I tried to focus and concentrate. I knew she was there to give me information. She looked important. She was clearly a doctor because why else would she be there? And she was dressed in normal clothes; no scrubs; which suggested to me she was a consultant. That’s not a hard and fast rule, of course, but on this occasion my assumption was correct.
She was sat on the chair right next to me and so I turned my head to look at her. A small amount of water and blood was still coming away from me. I could feel it. My legs were almost in the same position as they were when I had given birth, so in an instant, with this woman sat right next to me, I began to feel self-conscious and vulnerable as it had all calmed down and I wasn’t in “push mode” any more.
I tried to cover myself a bit better with the sheet. She introduced herself to me and explained that she was a consultant Neonatologist. Her voice was soft and she spoke to me with an empathetic tone but she was very honest about our situation and the likelihood of my daughter’s future being short-lived. She advised that my daughter’s chances of survival were very low and that a baby of this gestation is just not ready for the world. She informed us that babies born this early, when resuscitation and stabilisation is possible, often have a honeymoon period of 24-48 hours, but once this period passes, things usually deteriorate quickly.
It was clear that she didn’t want me to get my hopes up just because our daughter had survived birth. At this point, even if her surviving birth had enabled me to be positive, that positivity had been dashed as I was still dealing with the blow after mishearing the other doctor and now, here she was giving it all to me again. For the first time since my admission to hospital, I wanted to say, “oh alright! Alright! I know! We know! How could we not know?! We’ve been told every day since being here. At least let me pull myself together before you give it all to us again.”
But I didn’t say any of those things. It wasn’t her fault. I was upset and feeling the devastation of it all but she was only doing her job. She was in the terrible position of having to give a woman who has just given birth, the cold, hard truth about her child and the child’s remote chance of survival. It’s not an enviable position to be in, and if she didn’t make herself available to me or other mams in the same position, then that would have been wrong too. As well as giving me information about the likely fate of our child, she made herself available to answer any questions I might have had. Her being there was right but I just felt overwhelmed. I didn’t show it though. Instead, I just said, “okay, thank you very much.” I had nothing to ask. At least I don’t think I did. What was the point?
I was defeated. The situation was clearly hopeless. And I couldn’t handle hearing another negative word. So I watched the nice lady walk out the door, in the same direction as my baby.
It was a peculiar feeling; a particularly bad one; having given birth to a child (a new experience for me) and automatically feeling an urge to care for; to nurture; to naturally need to tend to her. A complete stranger. But not being able to. And yet everyone else seemed to walk in her direction; able to tend to her. And they were strangers.
The NICU team had been a bit of a mystery to me. During our stay, we had only met with a small number of them prior to the birth but they were spoken about and referred to a lot. I didn’t even know what a NICU was prior to all this and yet for the last few days, that’s all anyone ever seemed to talk about. And it seemed that these were going to be the people that we would desperately need, if we were lucky. So, at the labour, when they seemed to come from nowhere, this only added to the mystery for me. They swooped in, fixed her up enough to take her away, and swooped back out again. Like some mysterious force. Like superheroes. Or at least by some miracle, I hoped they’d be able to be superheroes for us.
Everyone who remained in the delivery room appeared shocked. They gathered themselves in their own personal ways, after what they had just seen. Of course, this wasn’t the first traumatic birth they had ever experienced but I can‘t imagine it gets any easier. No one (except for me and my husband Dave, of course) seemed more affected by what had just unfolded than my midwife Angharad. They were all left to pick up the pieces. They were there to see to me medically, and Angharad, bless her heart, did her best to comfort us and to make everything seem as though it was okay. Dave and I were surprisingly calm on the outside; supporting each other and talking about what had just unfolded. I suspect we were both in shock.
I remember Dave huffing and puffing a lot, as if to apply a self–calming mechanism and attempting to gather his thoughts. Angharad asked us if we were able to eat anything and if we wanted a cup of tea. We thought tea would be a good idea and Dave agreed to take some food. We both needed to keep our strength up if we were going to be in this for the long haul. But were we going to be? We desperately hoped so but it didn’t seem likely. Angharad brought us sandwiches. I saved mine for later.
Being in the delivery room at this point felt very strange. I was so tanked up with adrenaline yet completely exhausted. Physically, mentally and emotionally. It was as if we had experienced all hell break loose a moment ago and now we were suddenly in the middle of the calmest sea. Like the silent, devastated shores during the aftermath of a vicious tsunami; just like that, the morning carried on. But carrying on in the knowledge that another tsunami was probably coming our way, was actually quite creepy. We were like two lambs to the slaughter. We knew that in our future heartache, fear and negativity lay waiting for us, yet we sat quietly waiting for tea. Because, after all, what else could we do?
You try to gather and prepare yourselves for what may lay ahead but you can’t do that properly because you’re saturated in shock. And, quite frankly, even if we weren’t, there is no amount of preparation which would get someone ready for the NICU. I was sat down, as I do every day of my life, but now, and just like that, I was someone’s mother. Her coming and then going, and us still being there, as if she never came, was completely mind boggling. Artificial. Not right.
In my last blog, I forgot to mention that when the NICU team were attempting to resuscitate our daughter, I had asked Angharad questions, calling from my bed at the other side of the room. She hovered around the team, in readiness to help in any way she could and provided me with the answers as soon as she knew them.
I concerned myself with the baby’s weight and so I asked her to tell me what it was. She approached my bed and said, “she’s 580 grams.” Trying to climb onto the positivity train again, I thought, “oh, thank God!” You read and hear about these miracle babies being as small as a bag of sugar and surviving all the time.” In my intoxicated, shell shocked brain, I had worked out that 580 grams was quite a bit heavier than a 2lb bag of sugar. I thought, “see! If those babies can do it at that weight, then she can do it at this weight.” When I discovered, shortly afterwards, that 580 grams was actually just over half the weight of a typical bag of sugar, I wanted to die. 580 grams is actually 1lb 4oz. I was told, “1lb 4oz is actually a good weight for a 23-weeker. It’s quite big”, but this attempt to fill me with hope did nothing for me. It actually did the opposite.
If 1lb 4oz could be considered “big”; EVER; then that only brought home to me the reality of just how early 23 weeks’ gestation actually was. Looking back, I don’t know how I could ever have thought her being 2lb could have been a possibility at 23 weeks’ gestation. Again, wishful thinking, I guess. I know I prayed for a good weight. Even though I knew a later gestation was more important, I knew that we had lost the fight there, so I clung to the hope of a weight which might offer hope. At least if she was a good weight, she’d have something going for her. But she didn’t. 1lb 4 might have been a decent weight for a 23-weeker but she was still a 23-weeker, with organs far more under developed than babies born at a later gestation, and to add to that, she was still a ridiculously tiny 1lb 4. “She’s doomed,” I told myself.
Angharad went on to share her thoughts that Edie looked as though she had been born earlier than 23 weeks’ gestation. “I think she’s earlier than 23 weeks. She looks it to me”, she said. Both her eyes were still completely fused shut and Angharad’s view was that the overall look of her indicated an earlier gestation. I felt dizzy and with every word, the dizziness worsened. “She is screwed,” I thought.
The sheer horror of what Angharad was uttering, caused a weird pins and needles feeling that started from my toes and rose up throughout my body, right to my scalp. “She is absolutely tiny. She wasn’t even born in a state that pleasantly surprised them; she was in a hell of a mess. She didn’t receive the complete doses of the medications that later prems are given to offer them the best chance of survival, and now she’s telling me that she looks even earlier than 23 weeks’ gestation. She doesn’t have a hope in hell and, therefore, neither do we!”, I told myself. I’ll never truly be able to find the right words to describe how I felt at this point in time. It was heartbreak and helplessness in its truest form. I wanted to close my eyes and to slip away. This was a moment in time where I had lost all hope. It would come back again, only to disappear once more.
When Angharad returned to the delivery room with tea and sandwiches, she placed them down and came right up close to me. Looking deeply into my eyes, she said, “you know Nicola, when things calm down a bit and the time is right, if you feel you want to talk to someone about what happened today, then that can be arranged for you. If you have any questions or want to just talk about it then please say so because I’m struggling to understand what just unfolded myself and to comprehend how it all went from one extreme to the other and so quickly, so you must be! You have to be. So please say okay?”
I’m a very strong person. I’m someone that naturally doesn’t allow myself to not be okay. It’s not a good thing but I give myself a hard time for not “manning up,” even though I always do. So when I started to not feel okay by all this, her saying what she said to me, allowed me to not be so hard on myself for struggling. It was verification that anyone would struggle with this. Anyone.
Not long after our daughter was born, Dave said to me, “I’ll be back now, I won’t be long”, and he left the room. I don’t remember but I probably asked him where he was going. He wouldn’t have told me because of the nature of his departure. Shortly after he returned and said, “I have a surprise for you. Give it a few minutes.” “What do you mean? What surprise?”, I asked. I wondered what he could have been referring to, especially given the circumstances.
The window to my left revealed a beautiful, bright winter day. It looked cold outside but it was lovely and light. Shortly afterwards, the door opened and Carmen walked in. I can see her now, the light shining on her lovely hair and face. My crying heart smiled for the first time that morning, and I said, “hello Carmen.” For those that don’t know, Carmen was the midwife who looked after me at 23 weeks plus 2 days’ gestation (2 days prior to the birth). Well she didn’t only look after me, she took me on a completely unexpected, very real spiritual journey that I believe was the start of my daughter’s good fortune. Looking back now, the randomness of it makes it seem like an outer body experience. Dave and I believe that in addition to our daughter’s tenacity, and the incredible care she received generally; the particular sequence of events and specific individuals being present at particular times, is what set her on the right road. The rest was up to her.
You know the image with the stork and the weighing scales? Well, picture that. It’s what I envisage a lot when I think about the statement I just made. At birth, the left side of the scales, holding a large stone, is much lower than the right. The left side is negativity; the right side is positivity; everything we want when it comes to our child’s health and survival. On the right scale, place a very large sized stone that symbolises remarkable expertise in general, excellent care and modern medicine and equipment, and see that the right side moves down. In my crazy brain down is what we want. Downwards is heavier, which means more strength, which is what prevails. Place another stone on the right side that symbolises our daughter’s stubbornness, determination, strength and will to live and the right side moves down again. But is it enough? Then place a stone on the right scale for each positive influential event and it drops lower and lower. The doctor who successfully resuscitated our particularly tiny human, and in the speed that he did it, was one hell of a right–side stone; a boulder; and Carmen was too. We believe she bought our baby more time inside the womb and at 23 weeks’ gestation, a further 30 plus hours is invaluable.
I want to add that everyone who cared for our child are, to my mind, right side stones. Particularly NICU nurses, doctors and NICU consultants who made certain decisions and took particular chances. They all added significant weight to the right. I guess you’ll find that out as I continue taking you through our journey.
If you don’t already know the story of my journey with Carmen, you can read about it in it’s entirety in a previous blog update dedicated to her, called ‘Carmen’.
Carmen approached me; looking straight into my eyes and said, “I heard. I heard she had come.” I wasn’t able to speak but, holding back tears, I nodded.
Carmen always had a smile on her face. No matter the situation, she smiles. It isn’t strange given the circumstances, it fits. It always fits and it’s welcomed. She is one of life’s tonics; one of the world’s special people. Her being; her presence; her smile; her spirit; her personality. I can’t quite explain it, but she certainly had a positive effect on me. A special effect.
She wrapped her arms around me and we embraced for what felt like minutes. She told me that she had lit a candle for us at home the day before and the kindness hurt my heart. She had finished work after looking after me and was still thinking of us the next day. Not only was she thinking of us but she made the effort to light a candle and say a prayer for our family. I was so touched by her concern and kindness. But that was Carmen. A truly wonderful, spiritual soul. We continued to have a personal conversation; it was short but conversations with Carmen didn’t need to be long to have meaning. I’d never share it because its content is precious and displayed such kindness on her part. Writing this blog, I’m sharing the most personal time of my life but this conversation was a gift from Carmen to me and that’s how it should, and will, stay.
After Carmen left and everything settled down in the room, and it didn’t take long, I remember Dave insisting I try to get some sleep. He assured me he hoped to get some too. We hadn’t got a lot over the last 3 days and I hadn’t had any at all for 30 plus hours. I was exhausted. The thing with me is, no matter how stressful a time I’m going through, I’ll still always be able to sleep. It’s as though my brain wants it to happen as a matter of escapism; as a form of defense. If I’m sleeping then I don’t have to deal with what’s going on in the real world. And so I did sleep. At least for a little while. I know that with Dave, he had to, or he’d probably have fallen down.
As the woman, you’re the one that’s gone through the physical element; the giving birth etc. Yes, you are going through it emotionally and mentally too but so is the man. And the man will often feel the responsibility to be the protector; the one holding certain bits together and if Dave was going to do that, such as make the dreaded family phone calls and care for his wife, then he needed to regain his strength too.
I really don’t recall how long I slept for; it’s all a bit of a blur. I know it must have been around four hours because we were allowed to see our daughter then. I’m guessing my sleep was broken by a mixture of people moving back and fore; Angharad taking my sats etc.; and my just generally feeling unsettled. We both did sleep though and it was enough to see us through.
I remember the goings–on of that afternoon but I’m a bit hazy on the exact sequence of events.
The time had come where we were allowed to go and see our daughter. However, when I woke I discovered that Dave had already been. I wasn’t angry. He felt it best that he went first in order to protect and prepare me. I welcomed the initiative on his part. He had been gone for a little while. He had met her. There had been a point in time when they were together in the world. Together in the same room. Together in the same space. He had been with his daughter. I wondered what she looked like. I wondered whether he was frightened; or upset; and what he had been told. I wondered if he spoke to her. I sat in the bed, after sleep, feeling more alert; still wondering how all this could have happened. I was apprehensive and unsettled.
I looked intently at him, examining every last detail of his face. I know him and so I would know how to read each and every expression; a particular type of frown or the sincerity of smile and so I looked hard. Harder than I had done since being there because I knew, for the first time since being at the hospital, when attempting to read people’s expressions, that this time my examination wouldn’t lead to me having to guess; I would know. Or at least know his interpretation of the situation. He looked okay; a little better after some sleep and information. Dave likes to know; he likes to be informed. He seemed lighter; still obviously incredibly worried but more gathered after seeing her.
Without hesitation, I asked about her, firing away questions, even though I might not like the answers. I couldn’t help it. He approached the bed and put things to me just the way I needed them to be put. He was honest but he wasn’t all doom and gloom. He would always give it to me straight; that’s who he is but he also made a point of bringing up the positives. I was well aware that it was my husband speaking to me and that he is someone who obviously knows what will help me and what will do me harm. I knew he wouldn’t have lied or even over–egg the positives; but to protect myself (and him) I had to make sure he wasn’t conveniently making more of, or, more to the point, misunderstanding, any positives. Not that they were that great but I had to divide and conquer before I could proceed.
Sitting by my side and looking directly into my eyes and following my face with his own, wherever it went, as if to demand my attention and set me on the right path, (he knows what I’m like) he said calmly but almost parentally, “right, I’ve been down to see her. I’ve been there for a little while.”
With a little smile on his face; one he couldn’t help but show; he said, “she’s lovely.” Regardless of our utter devastating situation and the fact that no one seemed to think she would survive, he was now a father. A father who had met his child for the first time and in that moment of instant, pure love, the rest can momentarily be shut-out. Part of me enjoyed seeing his face like that. It allowed me to conveniently forget for a second; we could almost pretend all was well. But the other part of me broke. The situation was bad enough when I was pregnant. I didn’t think the feeling could become any worse. Then she was born and it did. We didn’t exactly see her as she was taken away straight after birth but knowledge of her existence made it all so much worse. (I saw her foot; but my God did I worship that foot.)
But now, he couldn’t help but do the new father smile (okay, it wasn’t for long and it was mixed with anxiety and dread but it was there. Sneaking in.) and my heart broke. It broke for my lovely husband; a good person; no, a great person; who despite his better judgement, involuntarily dared to feel the way a dad does towards a daughter. Especially, a first time dad and especially after his first glimpse of her. But she probably wasn’t going to be here for long. Science says so.
“I’ve been speaking to some doctors and nurses …. and she’s stable. Okay? She’s stable”, he said. “She’s on the ventilator and they are happy with the oxygen levels and the pressure in which the oxygen is being given to her. Okay? It does mean she has got a tube down her throat, though. She’s also got a line going through her belly button and a long line going into her arm. Okay? And she is very small, Nic. Very small. And very bruised. All over.” He paused, “Alright? So you can go down to see her whenever you want. Are you ready to go?” “Yes,” I said. “Okay, come on then, she’s waiting to see you.”
I decided that I shouldn’t walk down to the NICU. My head was still fuzzy and my legs were still wobbly from the gas and air, and I was secretly afraid that the sight of my daughter would make my legs buckle and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I know Dave had explained to me how she looked and told me what to expect but I could have still been taken by surprise. You never know. We could have had completely different views with regard to what is considered “okay” and I wasn’t ready to take that chance. I had no idea what a baby born at 23 weeks’ gestation looked like, or should look like, and it was clear to me that when that 23–weeker was your own child, the effect that the sight of that child could have on you would probably be multiplied, relative to a stranger’s response. And so I cautiously got ready to go down to the NICU.
With butterflies in my stomach, I washed my face, put my hair up, my slippers on and waited for the wheelchair. The mix of emotions I felt was incredible. On one hand, I was very anxious to see her, almost itching to soak up the sight of her completely. I didn’t know how long she was going to be here, so I was eager to get to her and to not waste a single second more. There was an element of excitement too.
Giving birth to a baby and being immediately separated from it is completely unnatural; not how it’s supposed to be. So, when making the journey to be united with her, to be in the same room as her, in the same atmosphere as her; the human being I had gotten to know so well when carrying her; the human being who was suddenly and unexpectedly here, almost made me feel as though I was making my way down to meet someone really influential or really famous. Especially when she had already been so well acquainted with so many others. It was as though they were her entourage and I was being allowed the privilege of a meeting. It sounds silly, I know.
On the other hand, I felt so nervous. I was about to take my first look at my severely sick daughter and it was something that made me feel ill. I knew that after that first glimpse I’d fall completely in love with her (I already was but I knew seeing her would be a complete game–changer) and so the journey down was terrifying. Like being lead into the lion’s den. It’s a huge ask of the brain to experience such a vast range of emotions, and all at the same time too. Especially when you consider that this was only the beginning and, severity–wise, just the tip of the iceberg.
I vaguely remember the journey down to the NICU. In many ways it was a blur, but what I do remember is vivid. I remember Dave pushing my wheelchair and that his already knowing the way was a little strange. I remember that the midwives couldn’t help but glance over at me as I passed through the corridors, knowing where I was going and who I was. We had to press buzzers before certain doors would open and it didn’t take us long before we had arrived at the last buzzer – at the door to the Welsh Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We were there. My heart was pounding.
The sense of the unknown was off-putting and made me feel an uneasiness I’d never felt before. We had arrived at “the back door entrance,” as we would refer to it. It was the entrance that parents came through while the child’s mother was still an in–patient at the hospital, as far as I could tell. “Okay?”, Dave said. “Yeah,” I replied. He then pressed the buzzer. Shortly afterwards, a voice spoke through the system and Dave said, “It’s baby Mardon’s parents.” “Ok,” said the voice. “Baby Mardon’s parents,” I thought. “Baby Mardon’s parents!” “Parents!” “Baby Mardon!” Hearing him say that blew my mind. There was a baby somewhere behind that door. My baby. I had a baby. And she had been placed somewhere else. Without me.
(Mardon is my maiden name, and I hadn’t updated my name at the hospital. Dave and I had only been married 7 months and, for someone like me, that was no time at all to get round to letting people know my name had changed. In fact, I still haven’t done it,two years and 7 months later. I will at some point, I’m sure. Therefore, at the hospital, the baby went and still goes by my maiden name.)
There was a ‘clunk’ sound and it was clear the door had unlocked and we were able to enter. Dave continued to wheel me a short way towards another door, the door to the neonatal intensive care unit. I remember moving through a short corridor, before getting to the last door, where there were maybe a small number of rooms either side (I think). I remember seeing empty incubators lined up against the wall and my heart starting to pound as a result. “Why were they empty?” “Where were the babies?”
I remember looking to my right and seeing a lady dressed in a green uniform washing the inside of an empty incubator. I had never seen an incubator before and now I seemed to be surrounded by them. Another rude awakening. I wondered, “how had I gotten here?” The sight of them terrified me. They represented sickness and vulnerability. The lady, who I know now as June and who I think of very fondly, looked up and gave me a lovely smile. I knew she knew whose mother I was. “The 23-weeker’s mother.”
What I didn’t know was why she was scrubbing the inside of that incubator. Where was the baby? I instantly assumed that that incubator was free because whoever had just occupied it was no longer with us and the lady in green was cleaning it for re-use. For the next one who may not make it. It gave me chills, like I was in some kind of conveyor belt situation but we weren’t talking about products here, we were dealing with babies. I think back now and I wonder how I could have thought this but my mind was in such a terribly dark place and had been for days, so to think this way seemed completely normal. The stuff of nightmares was my reality. I imagined her scrubbing my daughter’s incubator in the not too distant future and I do what I usually do when feeling an indescribable amount of sadness and hopelessness, I duck out; I go within myself; I become distant. I try to resist whatever power is doing this to us; all so I can avoid giving satisfaction to whatever it is by not showing my tears; instead I become distant; almost trance like.
Of course, knowing what I know now, after a few weeks of my daughter needing “a nice clean house”’ it’s obvious that incubators have to be freshened up; but at that point in time my mind was in such a bad place, I immediately thought the worst. And in fairness, I’d never seen an incubator before, so why would I automatically know what needs to be done to an incubator? Yes, some babies sadly won’t make it but the majority of the time, an incubator will be cleaned, simply because it needs to be.
To my left, I noticed a private room with a cot/incubator space and I immediately knew what it was for. It was clear. I was quietly horrified. I immediately envisaged a tragic scene; the worst scenario that any human being could ever live through and I dreaded the day we would probably be in there. I tried to prepare myself for it but I wasn’t ready for this. No one could ever be ready for this.
The doctors prior to her birth warned us. They warned us that it was going to be an enormous ask for our baby to survive at this gestation. They warned us that it was going to be incredibly difficult for us to endure as her parents and it seemed clear to us (even though they didn’t say it) that they didn’t think we made the right choice in requesting her resuscitation, but even though we were listening and thinking and attempting to comprehend our situation, an element of me was caught up with being her voice when she couldn’t speak; fighting for her. But now, within a few seconds of being wheeled through that first set of doors, in that corridor, before even reaching the actual doors into the Nicu, it became harder to breathe; and all became clear. Very clear. The intensity became unbearable, like holding the ends of a feeble twig in between your fingertips and applying enough pressure so that it bends. The bending before the snapping; that’s how I felt.
In no time we were there. At the doorway to the Neonatal intensive care unit at the University hospital Wales. My wide, frightened eyes surveyed the room. From left to right. And time stood still.