What is it like going through a prem journey? From labour, through the alien world of NICU and back to home, Elen tells the story of her baby Oscar; a teeny tiny superhero.
Our wonderful Oscar was born at 29 weeks, a whole eleven weeks early. I never experienced the third trimester, and neither did he.
I had the most amazingly normal pregnancy so it was a complete surprise when he showed up early. Oscar’s labour was long and difficult and my body took several days to recover. All I could think about was holding my newborn close to me for the first time. Before I even had a chance, Oscar was whisked away from me and placed in an incubator in a hospital on the other side of town. I cried and cried.
Watching my baby inside that incubator left me so lost. The umbilical cord had been cut only to be replaced by dozens of wires. This wasn’t the mothering I was expecting. I had no idea how to nurture a baby I couldn’t hold, couldn’t feed, couldn't rock to sleep.
I came across The Neonatal Trust by accident. I was walking around Auckland Hospital with my husband when we noticed a table with a basket of teeny tiny little hats on it. The Neonatal Trust door was open and we popped our heads in. It turned out to be a portal into a world of empathy and understanding.
The Neonatal Trust became a great source of support through my whole first year of parenting. One of the first things The Neonatal Trust gave us was a tiny teddy bear which I clung to as a symbol of hope, imagining the day Oscar would be strong enough to play with it. They also gave me a lot of excellent advice about dealing with a premature baby and supplied us with some great clinical books on the subject. I read as much as I could about what to expect and what was most important and felt a lot more confident about the whole situation.
The Neonatal Trust also had a great selection of children’s books. These helped us form a bond with Oscar over the hours and days we sat with him. Oscar’s first book was The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. I couldn’t help crying every time I read it, thinking of all the places my baby would go as he grew up and went out into the world. I still read it to him every birthday and there are always a few tears in my eyes.
The words spoken around you during this time are so important. It’s great to have people who understand how hard it is to leave your child in the hospital when you want so desperately to take him home; why you need hand sanitiser at your front door, and how scary some words can be, especially when you aren’t sure what they mean. The Neonatal Trust understood all these things. They made me feel less alone.
Slowly with time, machines got smaller and then they began to disappear. Eventually, I got to hold Oscar for the first time. It’s the most amazing moment of my life. Oscar opened his eyes and made the cutest sucking noises that filled me with hope. Is was clear to me that he knew who I was and the mother-baby bond was absolutely there. For the first time, I finally felt like his mummy.
The Neonatal Trust continued to support our family for the year following Oscar’s birth. This time is scary as you’re discharged with a baby who is more vulnerable and weak from early birth than other typical babies. The Trust provides a specialist play group with other premature babies who are extra vulnerable and prone to illness if those around aren’t vigilant about their health. As most babies were slightly delayed or have conditions that require ongoing care, The Trust provided a developmental occupational therapist who can offer support, therapy and advice on how to continue the best care for our babies. Being in this group, surrounded by other mums who were on the same journey as me helped me from feeling alone and isolated during this difficult time.
Four years on, Oscar is a bubbly bright little dude. He loves fishing, playing in the rain and roasting marshmallows on the fire. His language is great and he loves cracking jokes any chance he gets with a wildly cheeky grin. Although he was always a little late in meeting his physical milestones, he got there in his own good time. He thinks outside the box and has so much of the strong, resilient personality we saw in those early months in the NICU.
My Dad visited us in hospital in the first weeks and whispered to Oscar that Superman came to earth in a spaceship that looked just like his incubator.
Oscar is our little Superman. He gets more amazing every day.
Words and images by Elen.
The Neonatal Trust are often an unseen hand working tirelessly to make the neonatal experience that little bit easier for families. That might be through access to support material for worried mums and dads, a community to connect with, or helping provide neonatal units with the important equipment to help ease their journey. We’d love you to learn more about them and support them with a regular donation!