Saturday 13 November 2010

The Delivered

Image courtesy norfolkdistrict

Joseph was born on a Friday, I had to spend Saturday in the delivery suite hooked up to all my lovely monitors and catheters, until Saturday afternoon when my lovely Dr K finally said "right, catheter out, lines out, you can go up to your room". I was taken to ante natal, into a private room which would be my home for the next 6 days. There are three sorts of people in our antenatal ward. Expectant mothers with complications of pregnancy, expectant mothers with very serious social problems who need to be looked after, and "the delivered", whose babies cannot be with them, but they are not well enough to be discharged home.

It isn't easy being a delivered mother at the best of times, but when your baby is not by your side, its pretty horrendous. Biologically you are going through all the things an ordinary new mum is going through in that immediate post natal period, that period of elation, followed by crushing lowness (baby blues is such a ridiculous term, its more than feeling "a little blue"), your milk coming in, the constant feeling of burning and fullness, and the post delivery bleeding, and if you've had a section, the pain and discomfort of your scar.

In our hospital in both post natal and ante natal you are expected to get your own breakfast. Which, if you are a normal expectant mum, or a delivered mummy, is no biggie, afterall pregnancy is not an illness, and post childbirth isn't either.

So on the Sunday morning I woke up early, expressed, and was looking forward to my breakfast. To my dismay it was all served in big containers with cereal, and huge jugs of milk. My hands were bruised and battered, I still had a canula in in case of emergencies. I had just had my heparin injections and my legs felt weak. I wrapped my hand around the jug handle, and nothing happened. I had nothing left. I couldn't even put milk on my cereal, and the tea was served in massive stainless steel pots. There were no staff members around to help.

One of the mums was standing at the trolley, so I asked her if she could help me, which she was more than happy to do. We got chatting, she'd had her baby on Friday too, and she was knackered. She'd been feeding all night, and exhaustion had reached a peak point. She asked when I was due, and I explained to her that I had had my baby but was put in the "room of the delivered" as he was born at 27 weeks, and they didn't want me to be tortured by being surrounded by new mums. I watched the colour drain from her face. She quietly got my breakfast ready and took it into my room for me. I didn't see her again.

Many months later I was at baby group on a Monday. I was, at the time, very teary, always on edge. My post traumatic stress disorder had been identified but wasn't yet being treated, as I was waiting for a psychiatric referral. I got chatting to one of the other mums whose little girl was enormous, lying on her tummy lifting on to her arms, something Joseph at the time, was still 3 months off doing. We talked about our babies birth dates, they could have been twins..... then her face flashed with recognition. She was the mummy who had helped me.

She looked at Joseph with amazement, and then a tear formed in her eye. She said "I rang my husband after talking to you that morning. I felt so bad whinging about how tired I was when you were going to lose your baby." I went white, I started shaking. "I'm really sorry", she continued, "but I thought a baby born that early would die." And whilst that exchange was, at the time, painful, it was positive. She had become educated. That early babies can not only survive, they can thrive.

I still strongly believe that premature delivery and birth is a taboo, almost as much as pregnancy loss. We don't talk about it as a society. In my pregnancy books and magazines, its sometimes mentioned, sometimes there are even articles, a before and after picture, a birth story, but we don't talk about beyond the glowing success stories.

We don't, as a community, and I believe treating professionals don't either, talk about how we deal with not just the babies, but the parents. My husband was treated the same as any other partner in that hospital. He had to go home at 8pm. I was left, alone, in my little room, with my breast pump and my ipod, my baby a ten minute walk away (and for many other mothers its worse, and I've talked before about babies being accommodated many miles away from the mother).

My husband once, in a heated moment, complained about my "premmie crusade" and how I act like I am the only person in the world who has had a premature baby.

That's where he is wrong. Although there are many, many high points on the premmie journey, they do not compensate for the crushing, frightening lows, the hurt and the trauma that carries on, usually for years, that never truly goes away. If 1 in 8 babies are born premature, sick or small, that means 1 in 8 mothers have gone through and are going through this trauma.

I am on a crusade of sorts. But not to say "look at me, I'm special, I've had a tiny baby", but to increase awareness, to impart to others some knowledge of what its like to have a premature baby, and to help all mothers support and care for one another.


  1. Testing testin 1,2,3. none of my comments has ever made it through. But this time it might.

    Good comments Kylie. It's curious but possibly understandable, that people avoid frightening and uncomfortable health issues. For me, this year, the diagnosis and treatment of breast cncer has been made much more bearable by the support and love of my family and friends as well as by all the additional supports for women with cancer including K, my McGrath foundation breast nurse, wig advice and purchase through an OT, a monthly support group and the "look good feel better" program where women meet together to get wig, scarf and make up suggestions and demos, experiment themselves and get a bag of goodies to take home as well as lots of laughs.

    A few years ago I had clinical depression whish went on and on. It was such a lonely sad period, with daughter far away. Finally the right drugs and psychiatrist set me on the road to recovery. Perhaps it is something I will have to address in the recovery phase.

  2. Kylie - you have just made me really tear up. Although we did not have the heart ache of a premature baby or even 10 long weeks in hospital, I can relate to some of what you have said. The image of sitting in a room away from the post natal ward after delivering your baby, with only a breast pump for company is very real for some new mums.

    I look forward to reading your blog posts, as I truly think that what you say about babies born too early, or even too sick or too small is important and more people ought to be aware of it and not make it a taboo subject. I have had various people not know what to say when I have said that D spent time in two NICUs, especially with her being born 8 days late, a healthy weight and a very easy delivery.

    Please keep doing as you are, you are an inspiration :)

    Claire xx