The bedroom seemed so bright throughout the night as corridor lighting beamed in through the frosted door window. My head was still a bit scrambled the next morning, it had been a rough nights sleep, to be expected.
It felt heartless not to rush into the ward immediately to see my brand new son, but I needed to get myself together and perform a quick bit of life admin. Firstly I checked A was 'A Ok' while recovering 50 miles away from her baby. Then I texted the parents, other family members and quickly called my boss to explain the situation as my availability would pretty much drop to zero for a while, he was incredibly supportive. Life admin done , that was 10 minutes or so and some weight off my shoulders I ran into the shower area to quickly freshen up as I figured hygiene was going to be essential visiting a ward of premature babies.
After a nice cold shower inspired by the previous nights (Wim Hoff) read I gained access to the Neo-Natal ICU via their secure door buzzer. It has to be secure and you had to buzz every time you left the ward, which included popping to your room, that buzzer soon became a place to socialise with other parents while we waited upto several minutes, especially in the evenings when staff numbers were low, to get let back in.
Inside ICU the little fella was segregated while blood tests established if he'd contracted anything after the breach and eviction from his private womb dwelling.
It might sound silly to say, but he looked so complete!
He was a tiny bundle of limbs, so well formed, so much detail going on! Those little fingers and toes with those tiny nails that looked like a craftsmen had spent a lifetime perfecting, that big bonce with those startlingly big blue eyes and that furrowed brow aimed at a world that makes so little sense.
The nurse was brilliant, answering any and all my questions without judgement and assisting with my first skin to skin contact which is surprisingly important in a premature babies development.
I definitely needed some assistance picking him up. I was terrified I'd hold him wrong, break him somehow, it didn't help he was bright red and sore looking ( their skin is very thin those first few days ) but also the trail of wires and tubes attached to him or disappearing up his nose down into his stomach added to the fear.
As I learnt the ropes and did that first nappy change, the contents of which is sooo similar to marmite, I got the welcome news that A was coming to join shortly, getting a lift over with a colleague. Very welcome news as the prospect of spending time in ICU alone with tiny even for a few days wasn't all that appealing and baby feeding, that was going to get tricky without mum.
A arrived and all was good , a welcome sight after that dramatic (traumatic) little break, seeing her with him triggered a relieving good feeling :)
We were given a couples room, the bed was bigger and there was a bit more storage space , we went about unpacking to try and establish some kind of acceptance to the situation that we would be there for a while even though we hoped it would be days.
Days did indeed become weeks.
The main daily routines involved nappy changes, feeding via the ng tube, checking the PH levels via the same NG tube, skin contact , attempting to read books, attempting to do some work, coffee at the hospital M&S cafe, vaping just off the premises next to mentally ill patient reciting the bible which included their own special take on the stories ( one chap started listing off all the animals taken on the ark ) , getting to know the other couples, sharing in the joy as couples left then suffering the down feeling shared with the remaining parents a few hours later.
One downside to the ward was the heat. It got pretty hot in there proven by my dad who upon spending a few minutes in the ward had to vacant to the family room where he slumped into a chair looking dreadful, so much so it alarmed a passing nurse who ran to get the on-site doctor. He just needed some water luckily.
Sat in that room for hours on end could get a bit stifling!
At night because our room was so close to the labor ward things could get pretty theatrical, one thing I highly recommend in that situation is ear plugs, absolutely vital! As nice as it is to share in someone else's special moment.....sleep!
Because we were there a few weeks I'd established where the nearest budget supermarket was and would make periodic trips to buy gourmet microwave meals. Confined to a kitchen with only a popty ping (meicrodon) our choices were limited a bit but it wasn't bad really, the microwaveable meals were a nice welcome step up to the free packed lunches we got each day....not to be scoffed at I must say!
Meeting and chatting with the other parents helped a lot , we made friends with a few couples who evolved into facebook buddies and a whatsapp group where we've shared in the good times since ICU graduation.
So now we have a little bundle of scream ( collick ) , but the ears throb less and the heart melts when you see those tiny smiles and silent laughs from that tiny little face peering up at you , anyways , all for future posts.
I couldn't finish this without saying thankyou so much to the kind staff at Taunton ICU and Bristol ICU. They are brilliant , every single one and at those moments when you are lost, you don't know what to do, they are there handling things perfectly.
Appreciate them! They do so much!
If you are reading this in ICU in a similar situation then I hope you get out soon, I hope everything works out and make sure you get enough sleep! God bless.