Celebrating every milestone - A NICU journey By Josie Selby
I remember it clearly, “pregnant 2-3 weeks”. That was it I was pregnant, I was going to have a baby. Although I was quite aware of statistics of not making it to 12 weeks I was over the moon, I started reading up everything I could. Week by week I marvelled at the size of my tiny baby growing inside of me, a poppy seed, an almond, an avocado, I was amazed at what was developing day by day, neural connections, specialisation of cells into tissues and organs – it was a biological dream for me to try and follow.
We prepped for what furniture to buy, what colour scheme to have, we deliberated over what pram would be the comfiest and most practical, we spent hours reading through names books whilst sat in coffee shops throwing suggestions about, crossing off and finalising our list.
Not once did we consider I wouldn’t make it to full term.
It’s not the start to parenting we imagined having our first born child 11 weeks premature. I had a feeling in the back of my mind a week before I had my eldest son, I had done some research on preterm labour, yet I hoped that this was just my overactive imagination and that it would be something that would never become a reality – but it did.
I never expected to start my life as a mum sitting alone in a room, devoid of company and comfort as I sat with no baby in my arms. A hive of activity of consultants and nurses, the neonatal team bustling with incubators, intubation tubes and machines and then suddenly silence.
My first moments as a mother I hobbled to the shower numb from what had just happened – had I really just had a baby? Was he ok? Will he survive? I held onto the wall of the bathroom and cried as the shower washed away the remnants of after birth – was this it?
Hours ticked by before I could see my son for the first time, I felt like I was existing in a state of limbo, not able to celebrate, not able to mourn – I didn’t know how to feel. I glimpsed at my baby inside the incubator, intubated, wired up. This tiny frail baby, all downy skin and bone yet perfectly formed. I remember my heart stopping and feeling like it had been squeezed, my breathe was taken away as I awaited the first of many reports;
“He’s doing well, he’s a strong one and a good weight” smiled the nurse
At 2lb 15oz and intubated I found it hard to fathom what she meant by doing well, but soon I came to realise that actually he was doing well. Around me were babies so much tinier than mine, born so much earlier as well. The look of anguish and worry of every parents face as they stared into their little plastic box that contained their baby was palpable across the room. You could tell the newbies as they stood too anxious to move, whilst the experienced ones went about their business conducting the ‘cares’ of their baby, simple wipe downs across the eyes with a damp cotton ball, wiping away the dried out saliva from the corners of their lips, negotiating the wires whilst changing a nappy. This was the parenting journey that we were on. This is how we started being a parent.
You see it’s not quite what we imagine when we set out to have a baby, but when faced with NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) you just have to deal with the cards you have been dealt and hope that you can make it out the other side as quickly as possible so you can join all the ‘normal’ parents out there. It feels like life is on hold until you can finally celebrate the real milestones – but in reality that’s not the case, we as NICU parents have so much to celebrate and we do celebrate every single day; coming of CPAP or no longer being intubated, becoming drug free and no longer needing caffeine, putting on weight and finally becoming “chubby” at 3lb whatever, wearing those first teeny tiny outfits and finally waving good bye to the wonderful doctors and nurses and letting the doors of NICU close behind you for the last time as you finally take your baby home.
I remember the moment when I was told we could ‘room in’, that moment of elation when you KNEW you on the cusp of going home, those first couple of nights just you and your baby, still in the security of the hospital but together as parent and child should be…and then we were free.
I wanted to put our time in NICU behind us as quickly as possible and finally become a ‘real’ mum, but you see it never leaves you. Yes, memories fade and many more happy memories are made but NICU never really leaves you, that start to being a parent is forever engrained within you. You feel so isolated, alone, a wannabe ‘normal’ parent peering into the real world desperate to join in. But it shouldn’t feel like that, so despite it being three years since I experienced NICU with my eldest son and then again 19 months later with my youngest, I wanted to create something to help parents feel part of the normal parenting world.
You’ve seen all the rosy milestone cards celebrating the whimsical moments of smiling for the first time, sitting up, crawling et cetera, we’ve even got our own set of funny alternative ones over at Pudding & Chops, But what I really wanted to create was something special. Introducing NICU milestone cards by Pudding & Chops. Each pack contains 30 individually designed cards celebrating many of the milestones that premature and sick babies may go through.
Each set is individually wrapped in tissue paper and packaged inside a gorgeous Kraft box, a brilliant way to keep and store your cards. These are retailing at £14.95 and can be purchased from our Etsy store.
But it doesn’t just stop there!
In order to support as many parents and babies as possible, we at Pudding & Chops have partnered with Bliss, the leading national charity for babies born premature or sick. We are supporting Bliss’ vision that every baby born premature or sick in the UK has the best chance of survival and quality of life. For every pack of cards sold we will be donating £2.50. For more information please visit us www.puddingandchops.com
We hope that our cards reach as many parents as possible and bring a smile during the hard times, but ultimately we aim to help every NICU parent feel part of the parenting world right from the start.