Pregnancy can be a beautiful, emotional and amazing experience. However, there is one little place the midwives forgot to tell us about. It is the Special Care Nursery.
The Special Care Nursery is the place where babies, especially premature bubs, are sent to have extra care and 24hrs assistance. It's the place where some women take two steps forward, and three steps back. It is filled with strong, courageous parents and professionals who can fill you with confidence to conquer the world, and others who fill you with doubt and fear.
This was my experience.
At first, when my beautiful girl was placed in the SCN I was moved to a room filled with women who had just experienced the incredible journey of giving birth.
For me, this room was torture.
I listened to the piercing cries of the other new babies as I sobbed inconsolably, filled with jealousy, whilst desperately trying to sleep for an hour. I drove myself to exhaustion trying to sit in a chair 24hrs a day beside her in the SCN which led to concerned midwives sending me away with a sympathetic squeeze of the shoulder.
Ironically in my haze of sleep deprived mush, I found solace in listening to white noise with an alarm set so I wouldn't miss the three hourly feed. Only now I realise the hilarity of it all as what new born baby feeds on schedule every three hours? But schedules and routine were the way of the SCN and ticks and approval was what would allow me to leave the hospital- the ultimate holy grail.
After a couple of nights I was moved into a room filled with other mums who had babies in the SCN. Affectionately known as "Border mums", it was here where I met women who finally understood how I felt. These are the mums that wouldn't even need you to speak to understand your despair, it's the women that showed strength, love and most importantly hope. They turned a blind eye when a partner stayed after visiting hours and guarded your dinner like hawks because you had been caught up dealing with feeds and tubes and changes to your baby.
My partner and I became closer than ever and I saw how extremely painful it was for him to return to an empty home every night. He would stay as long as possible, even holding me until I somehow fell asleep then slipping away only to return as early as possible the next morning, always with a little gift in hand. It felt completely unnatural for the three of us to be apart and to be honest it felt cruel. However, hour after hour we would sit beside the little glass bassinet, finding joy as parents in being able to celebrate her little achievements and giggling as we both tried to slip on a five zeros outfit that was too big for her tiny frame.
I remember the snide words of some nurses and the kind words of others. As I was induced early, my body wasn't ready for a baby and it took work to allow my milk to come in- which wasn't helped by my extreme exhaustion and anxiety. I remember as each hour passed, the many different women who would pull and tug at my breasts, whilst I sat there helpless and unable to feed my tiny doll like human. Persistence led me to constant pumping and overwhelming feelings of triumph once I could produce one ml of milky goodness which eventually turned into litres before I even left the hospital.
The little things like being able to wheel them out of the nursery or taking out the final drip become in themselves huge celebratory moments that were the drivers seat of hope for being able to leave the hospital.
I remember the one nurse who said that I couldn't and I remember the doctor that said that I could.
Finally, after over a week in hospital with her having literally no weight loss, I put my foot down and asked for the nasal tube to be removed. The doctor agreed, much to some midwives disgust, and everyone was forced to sign an agreement that stated they understood the pediatricians decision. 24hrs later I was packing our bags to go home. It was the first time since giving birth that I felt empowered.
I remember when the first time I arrived home how even though I finally felt relieved, it also took time for my nervous system to relax. I'd wake up throughout the night in a panic, scrambling to find her and to make sure she was still breathing. I'd have nightmares about the midwives coming into my room to take her. I constantly questioned every decision I made and I found myself like a snappy, protective lioness around visitors, even family. I ignored calls from well meaning friends and kept her close to me always.
Little by little I gained confidence as a mother and began to feel empowered and strong. Today, I make decisions without a second thought and I am proud of how far my little girl as come. But I'll never forget the hospital and all the life lessons it taught me. And most importantly I'll never forget the incredible strength of the women who sat beside me, in the place called the Special Care Nursery.