A guide to surviving the Neonatal Unit

This is by no means ‘one list suits all’ but it is how we survived the battle of the neonatal unit.

Advice for Mums

  • Be kind to yourself
  • If in any doubt ask – do not be afraid to ask the neonatal staff anything and if you feel you need to ring in the middle of the night to put your mind at ease, even if it’s just to find out what your baby is up to, then do
  • Try to eat and drink – even if it is just chocolate during the day and wine at night
  • Listen to your body, if you’re in overdrive all the time it will go into shut down
  • Listen to your gut feeling and mother’s instinct – you know your baby best, if you are unsure of the slightest thing, make someone aware of it
  • I bought the yesmumum cards and each card gave me something new and positive to focus upon each day. They helped to give me hope. I continue to use them.
  • Don’t feel guilty for being away from the hospital – you are still being a great mother and doing what is right for you and your baby at that time
  • Don’t feel guilty full stop – guilt is a wasted emotion. Granted this is easier said than done.
  • If you need a good cry, have one. It doesn’t matter where, on the toilet, in the shower, in bed, on a dog walk, to a nurse, next to your baby’s incubator, down the phone, whilst expressing, in the car – the neonatal unit is a difficult and an emotional place to be.
  • If you feel your mind is working overtime, start writing your thoughts down into a posh notebook with a snazzy pen
  • If you see another Mum on your ward who you think you will get on well with, don’t be nervous to go and say “Hi.”
  • Don’t be annoyed if you wake up in a bad/anxious/nervous mood, don’t fight it, just roll with it.
  • Take up a hobby or something new to occupy your mind and keep yourself from panicking: for example, knitting
  • When you are not in hospital, try to do things which you enjoy, shopping, walking, seeing friends or just watching rubbish TV like 90210 or Gossip Girl on Netflix
  • If it gets to a point where you feel I can’t do this anymore, turn to hope.
  • Even on your toughest days, don’t give up and never stop believing that everything is going to be ok.

Advice for Dads

  • Frequent coffee breaks
  • Read the news or something to keep your mind busy
  • Find a job to do in the hospital to help your partner
  • Whilst the Mrs is in hospital, busy yourself with jobs to do in the house prior to bringing the little one home. For me this was nothing major (jokes), just refurbishing a loft, keeping the garden immaculate and building a ridiculous amount of flat packed furniture that kept being delivered

Advice for Both Parents

  • Be kind to each other
  • Try to understand and accept that you will both be handling this stressful situation in your own way – there is no right way
  • Each day is a new day, try to see the best in your child and the best in yourselves. When I found it upsetting looking at all the girl’s tubes, wires, cannulas and how hard they were fighting to stay alive, I looked at their perfect hands, fingers and toes.
  • Hugs are the best therapy
  • Try to relax/switch off in the evening by watching something you both enjoy
  • Send photographs and updates to your family and friends – share the good news and the hard/upsetting news
  • Don’t try and fight anything, just go with it
  • Remember to remind yourselves: Take control of what you can and let go of what you cannot

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What our family and friends did which meant the world to us:

  • Made scrumptious meals for us or bought us delicious microwave meals which we could freeze
  • Bought us posh chocolates to enjoy in the ward
  • Offered to look after and walk our dogs
  • Were always there at the end of the phone
  • Gave constant support and encouragement in our group messages
  • Told us how beautiful and amazing Charlotte and Esme looked
  • Came to visit us and see the girls in hospital – I was so grateful when family and friends gave up their time and visited us. I was nervous about what they would think about the neonatal environment and seeing my tiny babies but it meant everything to me when they saw Charlotte and Esme and said how beautiful and perfect they were
  • Asked questions about Charlotte and Esme
  • Gave us cards and presents to celebrate the arrival of our babies – I found it useful telling my Mum when we were ready for cards and presents and she let everyone know.

 

I hope these suggestions that Connor and I learned by experience, will help other parents in similar, very difficult situations.

Here is my last piece of advice that continues to get me through each and every day:

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Remember best foot forwards, always.

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