The NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for those unfamiliar (which I was until it rapidly became my second home for 10 weeks), can be a very daunting place. My first experience of the NICU was so overwhelming.

I was briefly shown around it once in the days leading up to my emergency ceserean section. However, because I was in a complete daze and shock at what was transpiring, and I kept being told they were trying to get my baby to stay in the womb to 32 weeks, I could barely take anything in – I was 29 + 1 day pregnant at the time.

I just remember there were a lot of machines. I couldn’t even tell you if there were babies in there at the time.

My first experience of the NICU came the day my baby was born.

My First Experience of the NICU

Arthur came into this world at 3.13am on a Sunday morning. After my c-section, I was heavily sedated due to a few complications in the operating theatre. I’d been wheeled back to my room, and I remember being awoken by my partner Jonathon, who had just been up to see Arthur, at around 11am.

Unfortunately, due to how premature Arthur was, and the complications in theatre, Jonathon wasn’t present for the birth as it had to be done quickly – they whisked Arthur out of the room and Jonathon into it. Therefore, I hadn’t seen my baby at all and neither had he until late that morning.

All I wanted to do was head up and see my baby boy. I couldn’t believe he was here and that I was going to meet him for the first time. Still in a complete daze, Jonathon helped me into a wheelchair and himself and a nurse took me up to the NICU.

As the NICU is a restricted area, we had to first phone and be buzzed in through an intercom. Then, we had to wash up in a waiting area before we even got close to the rooms holding the babies.

I was so sedated and didn’t quite realise how hard it would be to stretch and move after the c-section. The nurse helped me to wash my hands and put on a gown and new mask when we entered the unit. It’s common practice to scrub twice with soap and warm water, then to use alcohol gel, and swap your mask for a new one so you don’t transport any outside germs to the babies.

I remember putting on the blue plastic gown for the first time. I was still in my nighty with a dressing gown on top, and as the NICU is kept at around 26 degrees to keep the babies warm, I was sweltering – my hands became as swollen as my ankles.

They wheeled me over to what looked to me like one of those chicken incubators you see at the farm when you’re little, with the eggs inside. One of the nurses lifted up a blanket that was covering the top and blocking out the light, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

There he was, my beautiful baby boy.

Nothing prepares you for seeing a premature baby in the flesh. Pictures and videos just don’t do the size of them justice. He was minute. To put it into perspective, he was the size of a Beanie Baby teddy bear., weighing less than a bag of sugar at 865 grams.

Arthur had a big mask on his face, which I later learned was called C-Pap – it’s an oxygen mask. He also had canulas in both hands for his drips, three monitors on his torso and a monitor wrapped around his foot. He was surrounded by machines and equipment.

Suddenly I had this incredible urge to touch him and let him know I was there and he wasn’t alone. I was still numb from the waist down, but somehow I mustered the strength to stand and open one of the hatches, and I got to touch my baby for the first time.

My First Experience of the NICU

My stomach started to cramp up, and I was told it was the contractions. For the first ten or so minutes I think I was in complete shock, but then the reality kicked in, and I couldn’t stop from sobbing at how precious and small he was, and that I couldn’t even hold him. I started to become aware of what was going on around me.

The noises in the NICU were atrocious. Machines beeping, the C-Pap machine exerting whooshes of air, the nurses chattering away as though this was completely normal and they hadn’t a care in the world – which I know to them it is, but for me it was the most overwhelming experience of my life and it felt like my world had the potential to crumble down around me at any given moment.

After 20 minutes with him, the nurses told me I had to go back down to the postnatal ward to rest again and because they had another parent coming in, and so I was wheeled back out.

Whilst I know we live in uncertain times, I wouldn’t wish any mother be separated from her baby like I was. Covid restricted the visiting times and allowances and at that point I had no idea the battles we were going to face in order to see our sick child over the next 10 weeks.

The babies were spaced out into areas of the room, each with their own machines, and each in a different state of prematurity.

That was my first experence of the NICU, and it was incredibly daunting, especially since I’ve had a phobia of hospitals since I was a little girl – but you’d be suprised how quickly you adapt and learn how to manage your own emotions when your child needs you. Oh, and how rapidly the NICU becomes your second home for the time your child is in there.

Next post Expressing For Your Premature Baby In The NICU

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