When our daughter was born 12 weeks early and admitted to NICU it was without doubt the most traumatic event that had occurred during my life. Seeing my daughter connected up to machines with wires and tubes coming out of her was not the image I had in my head when I had been imagining her birth. It doesn’t however, take long before you realise that there are many ways you can interact with your child whilst they are in their incubator and it isn’t long before the nursing staff have taught you to change nappies, feed and comfort your newborn.
A typical day arriving in NICU is to stop in the milk room to refrigerate the milk expressed the night before. There will often be other parents doing the very same thing and you will find you have an instant rapport with them as you are sharing a common experience. It becomes like the water cooler in the office. You will catch up about their babies and the previous night’s games in the World Cup. Talking to other parents is a huge help and sharing experiences allows you to understand that you are not alone.
Each day in NICU brings routine. After the milk room then onto the ward, where the nurse looking after our daughter Isobel, updates us with how she is progressing and any changes that the Doctors have requested to her treatment. The pattern of the day is then dictated by feed times and nappy changes. It is great being involved in the day to day care of our daughter, we soon learnt how to change a nappy, accessing our daughter using the ports on the incubator and navigating the tubes and wires, with only the occasional messy moment! Changing a nappy at home will be a doddle by comparison!
When our daughter is changed and we have cleaned her face it will usually be feeding time, she is currently tube fed as she is too young to suckle, the nurse will check her tube and then we measure out the correct amount of mother’s milk into a syringe and are able to feed her. Following a feed the babies are allowed to rest for a while, then, because our daughter has been in NICU for a few weeks and no longer needs to be in a humidity controlled environment, we are allowed to have her out for skin to skin contact. This is my favourite part of the day holding my daughter close and developing that parent child bond, it is great for their development and great for the mum and dad as well. Twice a week the babies are weighed and my wife and I hold a small wager on our daughters new weight, it makes for an interesting experience and is a brave nurse who weighs the babies without their nappies on!
Coffee and lunch can be taken in the parent’s room or weather permitting the parents garden and as with the milk room, it allows further opportunities to discuss our experiences with other mums and dads. By now it’s visiting time and the day’s first visitors have come to see us. It’s amazing how the time flies and the days role into weeks. The nurses are fantastic and you develop good relationships with them as well as the other parents.
Nappies need changing again and then it’s time to feed before we leave for home - we need to clean and feed ourselves too!
We phone the unit and speak to the nurse to check on Isobel and wish her good night before we ourselves head to bed, looking forward to tomorrow on NICU.
Love from Isobel’s Daddy