Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Surviving the Special Care Unit

When your baby is admitted to the Special Care Baby Unit or Neonatal Unit it is difficult, it is confusing and it is upsetting, but you have to figure your way around this new and unexpected world.

I say surviving the Special Care Baby Unit, because that is all you can do. You can’t plan for tomorrow or next week, you must survive the day. You must push through the set backs, the continuous tests, the temporary diagnosis, the daily weigh ins and all the foreign bodies poking into your baby. 
Because this is the best place for your baby.

Abbey in the incubator

Your baby
I am sure for any first time mother, it is difficult to comprehend that this perfect being in your arms is your baby. But if you are forced to look in at your tiny bundle, to stand by when they are crying or upset when all you want to do is cuddle, to hold, to care for your baby, but you can’t, then you really do feel detached.
She is my baby, despite the wires and monitors, the drip and the feeding tube, she is mine.
Ask - ask what you can do, ask if you can help. The nurses in Cavan General Hospital SCBU were angels, they had so much patience and kindness for my questions, for my requests for skin to skin and for my distress. Take control of what ever you can - for me it was to provide breast milk, that was my "job." More on breastfeeding soon.

Get Support
Like with any new born baby, you need the support of everyone around you, family, friends and neighbours. For me it was getting lifts to and from the hospital, getting nappies, clothes, having meals cooked at home etc. Delegate some one to answer all the well meaning questions, and to inform well wishers to keep their distance.You do not need to hear the question “When is she getting home” 
twenty times a day when you just don’t know.

Visiting times
The visiting rule in Cavan SCBU allowed only for parents and I have to say I was happy with that. I got to spend so little time in contact with my baby, I really didn't need to be sharing that time with anyone other than my husband. If your hospital doesn't have this rule, work out short visiting times for immediate family.

Your Partner
I can’t imagine what the experience of SCBU was like for my husband. I didn't have time to think about him, but looking back now I realise it must have been hell. At least I could provide breast milk - I could do something. The majority of the time she was handed to me for skin to skin, as he was left looking on. I know when I was discharged from hospital, he was delighted to have me home, and all I could do was cry. It is only now I see how soul destroying that was for him. The only thing I can advise is talk, save all your thoughts and news for him. Talk about the news, pictures on Facebook, about the hospital car park - just talk!

Our little glow bug - the wires were monitoring her breathing

Get Out
After the first week in SCBU, I took an hour and a half every day to have lunch and walk around the hospital. Sometimes I called my friends during that walk or I just enjoyed walking - without being in pain (I had suffered pelvic pain). Fresh air does help to clear your mind.

Go Home
The hardest and best decision I made was to leave the hospital after I was discharged. If I had pushed hard enough and kicked up a fuss, I could have got special accommodation beside the SCBU, but at that time we didn't know when she would get home, we had been warned it could be a month and the nurses advised that a month in hospital would drive me nuts. I went home each night and actually got some rest in my own bed, in my Pyjamas with my husband. I needed it so I could be 100% when I was with our baby. Before she came home I spent a weekend with abbey in the hospital accommodation.

It was amazing to finally put clothes on our little baby
I remember taking pain killers every day, but that is my only recollection of my post-partum body. I was too busy pumping milk, calling the ward, driving to and from the hospital and pacing the ward. I did make sure to walk outside every day, to eat lunch and to sleep at night. To be honest I could have rested more, it might have helped with bringing her home. But all new mothers are victims of not resting enough.

Items of distraction
I would have called them entertainment, but when your baby is in an incubator wired up, you will not be entertained. Music, a book, magazine, internet and portable games can keep you distracted though.

Focus on your baby
This is obvious right? Well as you search for a distraction from your own situation, sometimes parents can get talking to other parents in SCBU. You ask about other babies and this can have a negative effect. If other babies are doing better than yours, it can put added weight to your situation, visa versa a positive step for your little one can be overshadowed by a set back for another baby you have gotten to know. The advice is cruel, but stick to your own baby’s welfare. Be nice and talk to other parents, but keep it general.

Free from wires and tubes and heading home
Stay informed
A week into our SCBU experience after numerous tests and diagnosis we learned that Abbey had sleep apnea, which was caused by her premature birth. She just needed time to catch up, she needed to grow bigger and stronger, her mind needed to focus on the art of breathing. We were assured that once the caffeine started to work and she got a few incident free nights under her belt, it would not be a reoccurring issue.  We knew what to focus on - she had to store as much energy as possible to grow stronger and put on weight. She needed the feeding tube as bottle and breastfeeding was taking too much energy from her frail little body. Putting clothes on her would also take up energy, over cleaning took up energy. We understood this and so it was easier to see her with the tube, the wires which monitored her breathing, the drip for the caffeine and just a nappy on. Make sure the medical team explain simply the procedures and diagnosis for your baby.

As I have said before, we were very lucky that Abbey only had to spend two weeks in SCBU, before she was discharged. She has been thriving since.

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  1. Aww bless it must have been such a tough time but this must be so useful for other parents going out of their mind with worry and the unknown #maternitymondays

    1. Thank you, I hope this does help other parents through a tough time x

  2. I can't imagine what it's like to go through what you have been. It sounds like it was a tough tough time, but this post will be so useful to other parents going through the same. X

    1. I really hope it does help other parents to see the light in such a difficult situation. Thank you for commenting x

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to reply, it is really much appreciated.