I am a NICU mom.
I am a 1-in-7 statistic.
Knox was born at 34 weeks, needing an oxygen machine to breathe for him and a feeding tube to sustain him. I spent night and day pumping breastmilk when I should have been rocking my baby to sleep. I was not the first person to hold him, and our newborn days were filled with tears, heart rate monitors, alarms and hospital grade hand sanitizer. I never wanted to experience that again, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. My son is a warrior, he is big and strong – healthy as can be… but he fought damn hard to get here. My little Knox, our fighter, turned out perfectly fine.
That does not make it any easier, it does not make me feel any more prepared and to be honest… I am terrified. This is not going to be an encouraging blog post. I am not going to pretend that everything is fine, that I am strong and that we will push through because moms are rock stars. This is going to be very real and honest, because I have a lot on my mind and I don’t know where to go with it.
On Thursday morning last week I started feeling mild contractions. I was hoping that it was just Braxton Hicks, but in my heart I knew it was not. My business partner and friend was with me and we were busy packing up products for a client’s product shoot. I sorted out my emails, sent off some invoices, made a quick list of what we still needed for our baby and quietly asked my husband to take me to the hospital. I phoned ahead and they were ready for me, my room set up and the CTG machine blinking to life. The monitors were strapped into place, I turned on my side, closed my eyes and waited.
I was still hoping I was wrong, but there they were… 8 minutes apart and lasting 1 and a half minute. My husband went to sign me in to be admitted and I cried silent tears when no one was around to see them. I was only 31 weeks pregnant – if they could not stop the contractions I would go into preterm labour and he would be born three weeks earlier than Knox. I could not even comprehend how we would get through that. I was given my first round of steroids to mature his lungs, and the nurses all looked at me with that kind “everything is fine, leave it to us” look that I cannot stand.
Give me facts. Prepare me for the worst.
They gave me some Adelat and kept me hooked up to the monitor while my husband went home and attempted to pack a hospital bag for me. Around 11pm that night the contractions were so painful I could not breathe, and I was given a shot of Pethidine. Luckily they were no longer regular, which was a good sign. The entire time I lay there, all I could think about was every complaint… every moan about my aches and pains, the heartburn, the heat… and all I could do is wish that I would get all of that threefold if I could just please carry my baby full term. The pethidine got the contractions under control, but as soon as the Adelat and pethidine combination wore off the next day, they started again and I was given a second shot of steroids. Just in case.
My Adelat dose was increased and I stayed in hospital for 4 days avoiding going into active labour. I was also given an antibiotic just in case there was an infection somewhere (we were still waiting on my urine results to come back from the lab). The roller coaster of having hours where things were fine, to the contractions returning was a mental mind game. I remember thinking “maybe they can just tilt my bed upside down” or “why can’t my body do this properly?”.
My doctor agreed to send me home, being away from my kids and husband was just too hard. I felt alone, scared and it was making things worse. I have been home since, continuing my dose of Adelat religiously and resting in bed as much as possible. I have a check-up tomorrow, and my heart hurts. The reality of having a baby now at 32 weeks is a lot to take in. The thought of my baby not surviving the delivery, not breathing, having brain damage, a brain bleed, spinal cord issues, permanent vision problems… it is there and it is a weight I carry so heavy in my heart. At least we have made the 32 week mark so far… the realities for a 31 week baby is vastly different to that of a 32 week baby. You just never know what could or couldn’t happen and we just have to wait and see how this plays out. One of my readers told me not to focus on the weeks, but rather to focus on each day and it really helps. Every day is one step closer.
I have really been suffering from the side-effects of the medication… headaches, dizziness, hot flushes, fatigue. I don’t know how long I’m going to need to keep taking it, but I will do whatever is necessary to keep this little guy inside for as long as possible. At this point the contractions return even if I take them half an hour late.
I have had some incredible messages of support from other NICU moms who get where my fear is coming from, but then I have also been inundated with messages from others that send me into a spiral of depression and anxiety… I know that the questions are innocent and that they come from a good place, I just cannot help how they make me feel. So to avoid that – let’s clear a few things up…
Please stop asking me how far along I am, there are a million posts on all my platforms and you can work it out for yourself. Having to keep repeating it over and over is killing me.
It is not okay to ask me what the possible complications can be should he be born now, please Google it.
As much as you mean well, please stop telling me how glad you are that we are doing okay and that we are fine… because we are not and it makes me want to cry.
I know that prem babies are strong, that they are fighters and that they grow up to be perfectly normal. I have been through it. I also know that it does not always work out that way. I feel like my fears are disregarded and downplayed, even though I know people are just trying to help.
Please don’t ask me which hospital I am giving birth at, because I am pretty sure you are only asking because you want to recall some horror story of how the hospital failed a previous time… or to asses their capabilities in dealing with a premature birth. I chose my hospital carefully, i like my privacy and I have faith in the medical staff.
Don’t tell me how exciting it is that I might go into labour. This is not exciting, this is terrifying.
I am allowed to be scared, and I am allowed to be anxious. I am trying to find outlets to express them and to find people to confide in to help me feel better. I am focusing on getting his nursery nook ready and packing proper hospital bags to help me feel a bit more in control. I have always believed that life forces you out of your comfort zone and its how you respond and grow. I am leaning on my friends, family and doctors to help ease my fears and to focus on hopefully having a full term chubby baby. Every single day counts.
Having a premature baby has it’s challenges at all stages.
I never thought I could be this grateful to post a 32 week bump update in my life.