My little twin boys arrived at 30 weeks – almost 3 months too early. They were tiny little tots at 1lb 14oz and 3lbs 6oz and so we faced a long stay in the neonatal unit. There’s no doubt that this is the hardest thing that Mr C and I have ever had to do – leaving our little babies every night for someone else to look after.
The first night that I was discharged and had to go home was gut wrenching. I don’t think I’ve ever cried for so long. To be honest, it doesn’t get a lot easier as the weeks and months go on and your babies are stillin hospital. But we did get through it and the joy of bringing our little babies home was life changing. Here’s a few tips that helped keep us sane throughout our neonatal journey:
1. The first time you see your baby will be overwhelming and you will feel scared
About half an hour after my emergency c-section, I was brought down to the neonatal unit in my bed. I was wheeled up to the side of each incubator to see my boys for the first time. I was terrified. They both had lots of wires and tubes poking out of them and they were so so so tiny – like little sparrows that you could cradle with one hand. I was almost afraid to touch them for fear of hurting them. After a day or two, you will get used to holding them, changing their tiny little nappies and caring for your little babies. They really are sturdy little things despite their size.
2. Take lots of pictures
Get seriously snap happy. As soon as you go back down to your ward/home you’ll want lots of pictures to scroll through. Many neonatal units only allow parents and grandparents to visit so you’ll want lots of pictures and videos to show off your beautiful new arrival(s).
3. Try ‘Kangaroo Care’ with your baby
You may not be able to hold your baby straight away but if you can, kangaroo care is a great way to bond with your baby. Kangaroo Care basically means holding your naked (well maybe leave their nappy on!) baby next to your skin.
I usually popped one or both of my babies down the front of my top and snuggled them in close. We needed a nurse to help us with this to make sure that we didn’t dislodge any of the lines or machines. There is nothing nicer than your little baby(ies) asleep on your chest. Sam loved getting some Daddy time too.
There’s been a lot of research into the benefits of kangaroo care for preemie babies – have a Google and read up on it for yourself. Living in a neonatal unit is not what any new parent wants, but you do get a lot of time to just sit and cuddle your babies. There’s no washing machine to empty or floor to vacuum. Well there is, but it’s at home at you’re not! Try and relax and enjoy the 1:1 time with your baby.
4. Send your nearest and dearest out to find you flip flops and very light clothing
Wards filled with little tiny humans are very very very warm. You will want light and airy clothing – preferably tops that are loose enough to allow you to pop your baby directly against your skin. Make this a priority – you will be so much more comfortable.
5. Look after yourself
You’ve just had a baby. You need to look after yourself and let your body recover so that you are ready to take your baby home. I had a caesarean section and it took me at least 6 weeks to feel properly mobile again. Make sure you keep eating and drinking to keep your strength up. We had a parents day room with a small kitchen where we could leave food for the day. It meant that we didn’t have to resort to the awful canteen food and we also got to know some of the other mums and dads.
6. Don’t be afraid to call the neonatal unit to hear how your little one is getting on
You can’t be at your baby’s cot-side 24 hours a day, but you can call and see how they are getting on. We were given a direct phone line for the unit so that we could call at any time of the day or night. Initially I felt like I was interrupting the nurses by phoning at 3am when I was up expressing but they were always more than happy to give me an update on my precious little boys.
7. Get to know what all the medical machinery is and what it does
We found it really helped us to get some understanding of what all the machines that the babies were hooked up to did. If you can read the monitors and have a vague understanding of what they were saying it helps you to feel like you know what’s happening and you feel a bit more in control. You’ll find that the nurses will be more than happy to explain what everything does and how it’s helping your baby.
8. Find an easy way to update friends and family
Everyone will want to know how you and the little one are getting on but constant messages and phone calls can be very draining. Setting up a Facebook page could help – so you can update everyone on progress at one time. Or you could put another family member in charge of updates and make them the point of contact.
9. Take one day at a time
This is the hardest but maybe the most important piece of advice that I was given and that I really tried to stick to. Deal with the stresses and worries of one day at a time and try not to think too far into the future.
Try not to put timelines on when you’ll get to bring your baby home – you’ll feel so much worse if it doesn’t happen. On day 1, we thought the boys were looking at a minimum stay of 10 weeks – but actually Benjamin got home after 5 weeks and Harry was in various different hospitals until he was 13 weeks. If we had known at the start what was ahead of us, I think it would have been even harder to deal with
10. Take all the help you can get
You’ll want to spend as much of your day as possible at the hospital with your babies, so when friends and family offer to help with cleaning / laundry / making dinner, accept with pleasure! It can be hard allowing other people to do your laundry and clean your bathroom but the less you have to think about, the more you can focus on just being there for your baby.
Spending the first few weeks and months with your new baby in a neonatal unit is not easy. But it’s not forever. You’ll get there and on the way you will get to spend lots and lots of time with your little baby and you’ll meet some lovely people on the way. We were so lucky to be looked after by the loveliest nurses and doctors and we will always be thankful for the fantastic care they provided.
Has your baby spent time in neo-natal? Have you anymore tips to share?
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