Just One Thing - NICU
You might know my next contributor, Vicki Cockerill as the author of the blog The Honest Confessions of a NICU mum. Vicki, who now writes articles for a number of websites including Scary Mommy, Blasting News and Huffington Post, writes honestly about her experiences of Neonatal Intensive Care, mental health and parenting.
I asked Vicki to tell me just one thing she would tell new parents or parents to be - "It isn't always picture perfect".
"Things go wrong.
I wish someone had told me it isn’t always picture perfect.
It isn’t the snap shot you see on the front of the glossy parenting magazines.
Have you ever seen a new mum, bedraggled from the birth and worried for her baby’s life looking at her child wired up to an incubator on the front cover?
You can sometimes find yourself in a world no one warned you about.
You can find yourself in the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) watching your fresh out of the oven bun fight for his life.
This isn’t to scare you, but if I had been informed before I gave birth then perhaps this all wouldn’t have been such a shock.
Perhaps if I was offered some help, some support I wouldn’t have broken down as much as I did.
Why don’t we talk about this in Ante- Natal classes? Midwife appointments? Why are we as expectant parents not educated about what could potentially happen when things go wrong?
Why are we not as NICU parents assessed mentally at the time? With follow ups afterwards? (Funding? Government policy?)
I became a shell of myself, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 18 months after discharge.
It is not deemed as socially acceptable to speak of bad birth experiences, of when things make people feel slightly uncomfortable, like an ill baby.
If we speak about these experiences, then perhaps it will help others in the future. It will break down the walls that we have around these seemingly ‘taboo’ subjects.
We must look after those who have had a birth trauma or a NICU stay, we must support them in any way we can. Respect them when it is all they want to talk about, tell them not to feel guilty about the negative emotions they are feeling. No one tells you what you are feeling is ‘right’, they may push you away, remain close by for when they are ready to come back.
You become ingrained in the routine of the NICU ward, craving and longing for them to utter the words you want to hear; you can go home.
You have a whirlwind of emotions that you do not understand with not knowing if what you’re feeling is normal or not.
Time stands still, control is taken away and you watch as others take care of your baby, a job that you should be doing.
You are resentful of others who go in and have healthy babies, who get to leave with their bundles of joy.
I left the hospital with my wash bag in an empty car seat.
Just one thing, it isn’t the fairy tale ending when you come home.
The flashbacks, the smells, the noises and the fear, it does not leave you.
It consumes you, slowly and surely you become more transfixed on what happened to you all, unable to process it.
You are not able to be grateful for the fact you have your baby home now.
You try and take back the control that was taken away from you, by punishing yourself, by pushing others away.
You become riddled with bitterness, that it wasn’t fair you all went through this and now you’re left to just move on and get on with your lives.
You put off having another baby, what if it happens again?
Surely, it cannot happen again can it?
It plagues you, for the next nine months, you try to do everything you can to get the birth you wanted last time.
You become content with the measures they have in place, you know how it all works now.
You are smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable of the potential outcomes.
You are prepared.
There is hope it will work out, I am proof of that.
My second birth was at home (not planned!) in less than 50 minutes with no NICU admissions or hospital stays.
It was my closure, but I am determined to help others, to speak about what happened and to break the barriers we have up surrounding NICU parents and the lack of support on offer.