Our stay in neonatal began about 80 miles away from home in Crewe, after the umpteenth visit into hospital since having labour stopped at 28 weeks. This was such a strange time. I was transferred there due to lack of Neonatal beds in our area, having two babies on board we were blue lighted up the M6 to the nearest place with the right level of care, just in case they arrived early. We knew we would end up having a stay in Neo, especially when I originally went into labour being told they would be delivered that very night! But the truth is, we had absolute my no idea what to expect.
Absolutely nothing prepared us for it. Although I’d researched it, I clearly knew nothing. My bag was packed full of wipes, first size vests, grows and blankets along with their coming home outfits just like any mum would pack in her hospital bag. There was me thinking a few days, we’d be heading home and life as a four would begin. Not even thinking the outfits wouldn’t fit for weeks, some even months and we weren’t allowed to even use wipes on their little, delicate skin. Let alone the fact they couldn’t even wear clothes for a good week due to being in incubators.
It was such an alien environment, alarms bleeping, wires all over the place and babies in glass boxes. I remember on arrival in Crewe they said we would be shown neo. I had to wait for Keith who was still en route from Coventry after having to leave me in the ambulance with a nurse to hand me over at Leighton Hospital. When he arrived the staff set him up a lazy boy bed next to me and offered us a Chinese takeaway! (No joke). We were then shown to neonatal, where I asked stupid questions like “how much does that baby weigh? ” pointing at the little doll in the little glass house and “how long are we likely need to stay?” I really had no clue, and it wasn’t until that point i realised, even though I knew they were weighing ahead, I had no concept of size or anything that I could relate to until they came. I was completely blind. Of course, they weren’t allowed to disclose information like that. I later knew all the do’s and don’ts and cue’s when I needed to be out of earshot when I was in there.
I’d just become a mummy after a very long road to get there, full to bursting with love and excitement for my new bundles of joy and wanted to show the world, but there was still such a long road to go. Keith found it very hard being in those clinical rooms. He didn’t hold the boys until about day 3, the wires and bleeps were just too much and they were so delicate he was scared he’d break them! We were reassured that things would be ok as the boys weighed well for their gestation, our saving grace.
After 4 days of stop and start contractions in Crewe, I finally went into labour at 11pm on the Thursday. This lasted until 8am when a consultant came to me and suspected placental abruption, and I was advised to have a cesarean. The babies were in no distress at this point but I couldn’t carry on and they were worried this could soon take a turn so I was gowned up for an emergency delivery. I loved all of it! I must sound mad, but I was so relaxed. One thing I said to Keith and nurses is that I just wanted calm.
At 10:03 on Friday 30th January 2015, at 31 weeks and 4 days, i finally became a mummy. I remember seeing Arnie in the delivery room as they held him up. Keith confirmed we had a boy and I remember seeing little froggy legs dangling in the air as they held him like a trophy, weighing in at 3lb10oz.He was screaming, such a welcome sound after such a worrying morning.
While they were delivering Ronnie my eyes were completely fixed on Keith. I lay there on the table completely numb. Unable to even wipe my happy tears from my face, shaking so much from the spinal block running through my body. But through them I watched as Keith followed the nurses into the side room with Arnie, he was wiping away tears and smiling with pride, the same smile he does now when he looks at them.
When Ronnie appeared 2 minutes later at 10:05, I remember Keith saying we had another boy! I was so shocked as I had such a strong feeling i’d got girl in there somewhere! He was struggling with his breathing so he was whisked away before I could really take a look. He weighed in at 3lb15oz. We had the pictures on Keith’s phone, but he couldn’t even tell me who was who!
In the recovery area, we decided names. Ronnie, because a girl would have been called Bonnie, and Arnie because it was closest to my mums name for a boy, Ann/Annie and wanted to incorporate her somehow after losing her in 2012. Funnily enough we’d struck that off of the list when a friend said it sounded like something you’d name a dog!! But the anaesthetist had suggested the name when we were throwing names around just after delivery and I took It as a sign!
Keith wheeled me down to see them in the wheelchair about 6/7 hours after they were born. I was dosed up to the eyeballs on morphine and felt really sick but I just needed to see them. Walking into neonatal was daunting. We were guided through a door marked ‘High dependency’ where Ronnie would spend his time in neo due to him needing help with his breathing. There was a row of incubators, I didn’t know who was who, even which of them belonged to us so they pointed to a side room where Arnie was and Ronnie was up in the corner by the window being ventilated.
I never really felt like their mummy right away. I felt more like a carer having to inform someone of every nappy change, feeding them my milk through a tiny tube and giving them a wash etc. I couldn’t just pick them up, cuddle them, kiss them like most new mums. I had to be helped with wires left right and centre and manoeuvre them through the little gap in the glass. (Something I later failed to manage when we got back to our local hospital , smacking poor Ronnie’s head on it minutes after we arrived in Coventry). The staff went above and beyond to make us feel at ease, I can’t thank them enough for that. But no amount of comforting words could stop our hearts breaking, looking at our boys in their little glass boxes with tubes and wires everywhere.
Friends were having babies around the same time as us and got to go home the same day. I remember thinking wow! how lucky they were. I don’t think anyone really understands what it’s like to go through a stay in neo unless they’ve gone through it. Just something so simple would bring out an inner rage in me, nappy changes I’d always have to tell someone. I couldn’t wait for the day I’d change a nappy and not have to log it in a bloody book! Keith wasn’t taking paternity leave until both were home (6weeks later) as it just made sense, so while we were in Crewe he drove to see us almost daily and sometimes even stayed over, taking me out for meals at night on the neo nurses orders.
We were transferred back to Coventry 17 days later and after a short stay for Arnie, he came home at just 3 weeks old. This was the hardest part of the entire journey, as I had to somehow adapt to being a mother whilst juggling home life with daily hospital visits. I was overrun with guilt every time I cuddled Arnie , thinking of little Ronnie laying there on his own.
Ronnie needed a little longer as he kept holding his breath and turning blue. One minute he’d be doing so well, the next he was back in high dependancy. He was there until he reached 6 weeks old, when we finally got to bring him home to join his little, big brother 2 days before my first Mother’s Day.
Up until then, me and Arnie would have to venture out every day for visits and cuddles, and back in the evening when daddy finished work for bath time. Another first that we had to experience in the neonatal environment.
When we finally got them home it was a rest! We’d spent almost a month in and out of hospital due to preterm labour, over two weeks miles from home, weeks visiting both babies in hospital, 3 more weeks juggling one baby at home and visiting one still in neo, not to mention what we went through to even get pregnant!
We just wanted to stay in a bubble all together and just catch up on 6 weeks of lost cuddles and kisses. I didn’t want to let anyone in on that part, it was so important to spend that time as a family I even put a sign up on the door asking for no visitors. I think that being in the environment of washing hands so much we ‘d bleed and the constant eyes on us made us so desperate to just be ‘us’. The danger of germs and what it would mean if we had to take them back to hospital, etched into our heads so much that we cocooned ourselves. Not everyone understood that, but having gone through what we had, risks weren’t worth taking. I still find we worry more than most. Some would call it over protective maybe, but that’s just how we are and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.
All those years of wanting, craving and obsessing, the tears, the hospital trips, the needles … It all boiled down to this. Our finished product…our beautiful baby boys who’d fought along the way just as hard as we had to be here. We are so lucky. At one point I honestly thought this wouldn’t happen for us. But we didn’t give up and eventually IVF gave us our ticket to parenthood.
For those still on your journey, stay strong, keep obsessing, keep craving and you keep fighting! It’s no easy road. But one well worth the trip! Talk about it, better yet shout about it and be proud of it. It makes us all stronger. I for one am proud of us all for going through it. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried , we’ve yelled at each other but we’ve laughed again. Reach out, be open and stay positive. I’ve been on this earth 29 years and I’ve only been truly alive the last year.
Life has a real backwards way of dealing cards. Not everything is as you’d imagined it to be, I’ve learnt that since losing mum. But we can’t change it, we can be thankful of what we do have / what we’ve had, and take comfort from the fact someone’s up there mapping the rest out for you.
Ronnie and Arnie are turning one in a matter of days. I can’t even believe these thriving boys were once so fragile and petite! We burst with pride everyday for them. As much as I feel emotional about their first birthday, I’m so proud of how far they’ve come in such a small space of time.