Lulu came every early indeed, at 28 weeks and 5 days to be precise. She weighted a whopping 2 1/2 lbs (that really is big for a baby her gestation!) and remained in intensive care for nine weeks until finally we could take her home. It was a ‘groundhog day’ like existence; get up, get dressed, get expressed milk out of fridge, get cab to station, get train and bus to hospital, stay by her incubator for nine hours, give her medicine, feed her through a tube in her nose, rotate her sleeping position so she doesn’t get a flattened head, change her bedding, all done through two holes in the side of the incubator, it was a challenge.
My hands eventually cracked and split from the sanitizing fluid that was necessary to put on almost constantly, and I expressed milk for her every three hours, day and night. Everything was covered in breast milk! The challenges of every minute of everyday were all worth it. But goodness it was hard. I felt like I was waiting for her to die, but wishing, oh so hard, that she wouldn’t. The machines that enabled her to breathe and grow had alarms that went off every time she stopped breathing or her heart rate dropped. I still hear those bells in my dreams. I was always waiting for the midnight phone call to say she had passed away. She did superbly well for the first five days and came off the C Pap, (breathing apparatus for prem babies as their lungs haven’t developed fully) and then a few days later she went back a step and back onto C pap she went for 48 hours (see the main photo – sob sob). Everyone in the Intensive care unit tells you this is common with prem babies, two steps forward, one step back. That was the point when she was at her most unwell and to be entirely honest neither my husband nor I expected to her to make it through those days. We got home from the hospital and he wept and wept, I was trying to focus on getting on, expressing, trying to sleep, ‘groundhog day’, so I sent him to the spare room for the night – I felt that I couldn’t afford to unravel, I couldn’t be tired the next day when I saw Lulu, she needed me and I needed my sleep.
Lulu is now four years old and I still can’t watch any programmes about prem babies, they make me cry and my heart leaps into my throat. I probably haven’t dealt sufficiently with Lucia’s early arrival but I don’t want to cry any more, she is here and miraculously she is completely well. There are no issues with her sight or her hearing, which is very common in prem babies due to their exposure to so much oxygen when in the incubators. However, her early arrival has played a big part in my decision not to have anymore children and I am still coming to terms with that but I simply don’t think I have the reserves of emotional energy required to deal with such a poorly baby again and for me in this situation, no matter how sad it makes me, knowledge is power.