When Piglet was born he spent some time in the neonatal unit before he was able to come home. I was lucky, he was only in special care as opposed to intensive care or the high dependancy unit. But that didn’t change the way I felt at the time.
Despite complications at birth, Piglet stayed with me on the ward for a few hours. The paediatricians checked him a number of times as the midwives had some concerns but each time they said he was ok. One midwife finished her shift when he was still with me. I found out when I saw her again the next morning that she had been worried at home all night about him.
I had convinced myself that he was ok, so when the paediatrician suddenly said he needed help and took him away I felt lost. It was after visiting time had ended so I was alone on the ward, surrounded by other mums with their babies. And mine was gone.
The midwives were fantastic. The quickly found me a space in a room with no other babies and told me they would take me down to see him as soon as they had him stabilised.
It was almost 3am by the time I could see him, 5 hours from when he had been taken. He was in an incubator to help regulate his temperature, receiving oxygen, a nasal gastric tube for feeding and IV antibiotics. It was a lot to take in. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. They just knew he needed a little extra help, not unusual for a preemie.
The next few days passed in a blur. I quickly learnt Piglets schedule and tried to be with him for each of his changes and feeds. Once a day the doctors did ward rounds and I was able to listen to what they had to say about Piglet and what steps they wanted to take next.
I was taught how to feed him through his NG tube. How to check it was still correctly placed in his stomach, calculate how much milk he was to be given. Feeding was very clinical, no breastfeeding which I had been so keen to do. I was expressing for him, so the majority of his feeds were expressed milk with the occasional formula top up. I had to simulate a newborn feeding schedule with expressing in order to develop my milk supply.
I began to recognise the other parents on Piglets ward. A smile and a nod, a quiet hello, we always acknowledged each other but never really talked. Everyone was focussed on spending some time with their little ones.
After 3 days I was discharged from hospital. Leaving without Piglet was heartbreaking, but I knew he was being kept in for the right reasons. I had held him one time since he had been moved to neonatal and it felt so wrong to be leaving him behind.
And so began my new routine. Up at 6am to call the ward and check how he had been through the night, express and then head up to the hospital myself. I would move between the ward, the expressing room and the little cafe for the rest of the day. Sometimes JHogg would come up to the hospital and have lunch with me, then spend a little time with Piglet. I would usually go home to get my tea, before returning at 11pm for another of Piglets feeds. Throughout the night I set an alarm to get up twice and express. It felt good to provide milk for Piglet, like I had a purpose.
As quickly as our neonatal journey started, it suddenly ended. Piglet went from an incubator to a cot to ready to come home within 24 hours. 8 days after he was born he came home with me. Unfortunately he was readmitted to hospital 5 days later due to jaundice, but that was to the children’s hospital which was an entirely different experience in itself.
I look back on our time in neonatal and it feels like it happened to someone else. Piglet is so different from the fragile baby covered in wires and surrounded by machines. He’s happy, he’s healthy and he’s thriving – and thats the way I like it!
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