Friday 24 August 2012

Permission to Parent

I have a growing community of bloggers who have experienced NICU, most of whom have guest posted for me. I hope over the coming weeks that I will be sharing more from them, as I would love nothing more than to build this community, as we are all so different, all with amazingly different viewpoints. Having a premature baby or sick baby has united us, but its our friendship and unique trench humour that has made us strong I think.

Yesterday I did this guest post at Mummy Pinkwellies. Of course Leanna over at Diary of a Premmy Mum had to go and pinch half the title, and even worse, write a better post! I jest of course, I love how we bounce and share ideas off one another.

I find I often can't explain why the NICU experience hurt so much. Sometimes parents who haven't been through NICU just can't understand the emotions that go along with having a premature baby. These thoughts have been bubbling away for a while.

When you have a term baby, you have a large degree of autonomy straight away. You are making decisions (often scary ones) immediately. I can't imagine what that must be like. How to feed, when to feed, how much to listen to your baby or your own instinct, how to dress, how to sleep your baby, so many decisions.

When you have a premature baby, or a sick baby, you immediately become disempowered as a parent. Your baby is taken away and put in a box, and that's it. Yes, you express if you can, but you can make absolutely no decisions about the basic care of your baby.

Of course, its medically necessary, and I'm not saying for a moment that it isn't. The premature baby needs specialist input, the baby needs the charts, the protocols, the procedures.

As your journey with your premature baby progresses, you are an integral part of the babies care, but there's a barrier. You have to ask permission. You have to fit in with the hospital's guidelines and protocols. It can be sould destroying. Nurse A may let you have kangaroo care whenever you want, nurse B may not. The head nurse of our unit wanted Joseph's monitoring turned off for kangaroo care so that a) I was learning Joseph's cues and b) trusting my instincts and c) the machine wasn't giving off false readings every 2 minutes. But this scared most of the other staff and would not allow me to switch it off.

I, like many other mothers of former NICU babies, really struggled when home. Should I pick him up if he cried? He seems hungry but feed time isn't due yet what do I do? He's unsettled, is he being a normal baby or is there something wrong?

A good unit will work to empower mums and dads early on, but this practice is not yet widespread.

Perhaps the key then is good, sound peer support and empower one another to parent.

You have my permission to parent your baby.


  1. This is so true. I remember asking if I was allowed to touch my son the first day.

    Was he allowed to wear this rather than that?

    When he came home we put him on demand feeds as he was always so hungry, I cuddled him until I wanted to put him down.

  2. charlotte.cheshire24 August 2012 at 11:24

    This post so resonates with me, thank you Kylie. We all know the care given in NICU is essential to savings our babies lives and yet it also leaves us feeling so helpless even as either the illness or prematurity in itself does. Instincts are funny things and when we spends days, weeks or months being forced to ignore them in favour of our babies best interests and hospital protocol, it just isn't that easy to kick them into life again the moment our children come home. The NICU experience just doesn't go away the moment the doors close behind us.

  3. It IS soul destroying. Looking back I'm so shocked by some of the things that happened that were so disempowering, but at the time I was too vulnerable and overwhelmed to notice the impact they were having on me *sigh* x

  4. So true it's so hard to feel like they're really yours. The staff at our hospital were wonderful but we had one day when hubby clicked off monitor as others had told him to do but a different nurse was on and gave him a right earful about the risk he was putting his baby in by doing so. It was horrible added all sorts of hurt and awkwardness to our visit and I dreaded her being on shift afterwards - wanted to put Fifi under my coat and take her home there and then! x

  5. diary of a premmy mum27 August 2012 at 23:17

    I agree, it is disempowering and it's like a gap occurs. It's not a gap in loving, its not a gap in wanting but its the gap in fulfilling all that is instinctive which sneakilly disempowers us I think. I sometimes think i was lucky that I had a term baby first, I knew what I was missing out on. I think it must be so much harder to put your finger on when your introduction to motherhood is under such dire circumstances xx