From prepared to unplanned; my time on the unit – Rachel’s story

'Prepared and organised' was Rachel's motto during her pregnancy. Yet no matter how much we try to plan in our lives, sometimes things are outside of our control. She shares her experience of giving birth to her son at 31 weeks.

'Prepared and organised' that was my motto when it came to my pregnancy. I was pregnant with my first child, a boy, and I was prep-like-a-boss mad! By my 20 week scan I had bought all his clothes for the first 12 months of his life, assembled his cot and decorated his nursery. We had even begun laying artificial turf in the garden for him to play on.

Late in the evening, when I was 31 weeks pregnant, I decided to get my overnight bag packed and ready for lift-off. I sent out my daily Snapchat to my friends who thought I was mad; the Queen of Organisation they called me. However, no one could have prepared me for what came the next morning…

I awoke at 5.00am, the baby kicking furiously as always. I chatted to my husband about our plans for the weekend when I felt a strange sensation and I realised I had begun to bleed. We rushed to our local hospital, and without going into too much of the gory detail, I turned out I had grade three placenta praevia. After much effort by all the wonderful staff on the maternity unit to try and keep the little one in, baby Jack entered the world quite dramatically via c-section. He was only 31+5 weeks. I didn't know what this meant. He weighed 4lb 5oz. I thought he was small but I was assured that he was quite big for his gestation.

Jack Day He Was Born

I had never felt so out of control in my life. I had gone from expecting a 10lb baby via a planned C-section to this sudden and rather traumatic birth.

I was confused. My son had been whisked away and all I wanted to do was see him, hold him, and feel him against my skin. I felt scared and alone, even though I was surrounded by doctors, nurses and family. After the operation I couldn't stand. I had three different cannulas in my arms and I was told it was going to be six hours before I could see my baby boy.

My husband stepped in to help me at this point. He was taken to the neonatal unit first to meet Jack. While he was there, he took lots of videos and photos of Jack and the environment in which he was living. This was a huge help and I recommend that every partner does this. You'll be surprised how a few baby snaps will help mums feel more connected to the baby and will also prepare her for what she is going to see when she gets up to the unit.

I shed many tears and I felt like a failure, until I did my first cares with the neonatal nurse

Being the organised women I am, I had decided to formula feed my baby. Being a Company Director I felt that this was the best option for me to fit into my heavily scheduled lifestyle. As you can imagine I had bought all the gear for formula feeding months earlier! However, when I saw my teeny, tiny baby for the first time I wanted to give him my milk and colostrum. I struggled with this at first; I had no control over my boobs and milk supply. I shed many tears and I felt like a failure, until I did my first cares with the neonatal nurse.

At midnight on my third night in hospital I was able to touch my son for the first time. I changed his nappy and cleaned his eyes and face. Then I dabbed what I thought was such a small, insignificant amount of colostrum onto his lips with a cotton tip. He opened his eyes, licked his lips and cooed. The strongest wave of love I had ever felt came over me. I cried - my heart had completely melted. To my surprise Jack’s nurse was crying with me.

Our little boy spent 26 long days on the neonatal unit and at the time it felt like a lifetime. My husband and I would spend 10 hours a day just sat beside his cot. We went from the Octopus Room (Intensive Care), to the Starfish Room (High Dependency) and finally the Turtle Room or as we liked to call it, the 'fattening up' room.

I would be lying if I said the neonatal experience was easy, it’s not, but it’s like you are joining a big family. A family of nurses, doctors and other mums who are there not only to take care of your baby, but to take care of you too. I felt very much out of control during the first couple of days but once I had got into the unit schedule, it become much easier. My husband and I planned our day around doctors’ rounds in the morning, three sets of cares and feeds, visiting hours for family and the visit from the pharmacist. Having routine gave us a sense of a normality and the feeling of being on a timetable meant we were always busy and distracted.

Holding Jack For The First Time In Icu

Thankfully we are all home and Jack is now 12 weeks old and he is just amazing.

My advice to those organised types who are used to being in control: get on the unit timetable. By doing this, not only do you maximise your time with your baby but you and your baby get into a cycle, a cycle you will take home with you. Jack has been home for eight weeks and he still takes his feeds every four hours like when he was on the unit.

No matter how much we try to plan in our lives, sometimes things are outside of our control and that’s ok. Just do your best in the circumstances you find yourself in and never be afraid to ask for help from those around you.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can call our helpline on 0808 801 0322 or view our online support pages.

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