If you’ve landed here chances are parenthood hasn’t been the ride you were expecting. Or, at the very least, someone you care about is embarking on the unexpected ride that is premmie parenting. Just over four years ago I started down this path with the birth of my first child Erin who was born at 26+3 weighing 428 grams. At the time she was the second smallest surviving baby born at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Despite her tiny size and early gestation our NICU stay was fairly uneventful. I’m incredibly grateful to have never received that phone call. The one that makes the blood drain from your face while your head prickles and the world spins. It was long though. 148 days, nearly five months of daily hospital visits and expressing milk in the wee small hours, watching other babies “graduate” while for yours nothing much changes. Some days I think that might be one of the hardest things.
Things started to get hard for me by the middle of our stay. The shock had worn off and I was becoming worn out both physically and emotionally. We were into our third month and Erin was still in the same room, she’d finally made it off the vent and on to CPAP but again nothing was happening. Now I’m not good at waiting at the best times, but sit me in a NICU day in day out and watch me crumble.
This particular day a mum of triples came into the expressing room excited that two of her sons had been graduated to room two, one step closer to going home. That day I just went downstairs and cried. To some degree you expect the “rollercoaster”. You’re told to expect it at least, what no one tells you, or at least they didn’t tell me was to expect the incredibly long periods of nothing. The days when you weren’t sure you were ever going to get home, not because things were bad, but because things were the same. Always the same.
We did get home though. My daughter was nearly five months old, weighed a healthy 3.2 kilos and was still very much a baby—one thing I was sad about missing out on. Things were good, if a little bit of an anti climax, we got to be together, just us, as a family for the first time ever. Things were good.
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