My baby girl weighs 3.65 kg, she fits nicely into her newborn clothes now. She is 10 weeks old. When she was born at less than half of that, 1.78kg, she was only at 35 weeks gestation and small, even for that gestational age. And that is nothing compared to the “micro premmies” who are born at seemingly impossible weights, babies who are born at 500g and 700g…Find something in your fridge with that weight to see for yourself how small that is.
I never knew that 5g could make or break your day! I never realised that one little measurement in a day could send your spirit soaring one day and reduce you to a puddle on the floor the next. But when your impossibly small baby child is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it seems to be the overpowering thought on your mind. It is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning and it’s the thing that keeps you awake at night. It is the question you ask when you walk in the door of the neonatal ward. “Has she gained weight since yesterday? How much?”
It’s on your mind because you know that it is one of the major factors that will answer the question you dare not ask: “When will she come home? How much longer does she need to be here?” And this is the tough one which no-one is willing to answer; not the doctors, not the nurses. Nobody is willing to tell you because they know that anything could still happen and if they give you any indication of hope and that hope is shattered, that will snap the precarious tightrope that you have found yourself teetering on.
This must be one of the worst experiences any mother can have. Your 3 or 4 days in the hospital are over. There is nothing wrong with you and you are sent home. But your tiny person has to stay behind. She is still fighting for survival and you are in hell.
Although most of the nurses working in this ward are wonderful, there are certain ones that only add to your anxiety. They presume to tell you when you can visit, (I do understand that there are times they don’t want the parents in their way, but that is not what I’m talking about), how often you can feed your baby and even that you now have to stop holding your baby for no other reason than they think you have been there for long enough…Not only are you stripped of all your powers of decision-making, you are also being deprived of holding and caring for that little being, of mothering her. You are left feeling utterly helpless.
Every day, for eleven days, my life consists of nothing besides driving to and from the hospital, expressing breast milk, and attempting to sleep. Every single time I stop outside the hospital, I have to remind myself that I am the mother of a premature baby. I am a mother, and yet, I don’t have a baby…I have a baby, but I can’t take her home… It seems so unreal. It feels as if I am inside a bad dream and I keep thinking that I will wake up any minute now. But that minute never comes.
So I walk up the stairs, wash my hands and then rub them with some more disinfectant. I walk inside to find out how much she weighs today…