Taking Time To Heal

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There are many things I don’t wish to talk about on my blog but one thing I have never shied away from here and that is the birth of my son. He was born bang on 33 weeks, he was 33 weeks by a matter of hours.

We had moved into our new home a week earlier and my nesting instinct had been in over drive – I really should have known. I spent the week unpacking, tidying and sorting with an over whelming urge to buy a steam cleaner. All this with  my 11 month old in tow. Our house was still very much unfinished after this week – we still had a duvet on the living room floor instead of a rug to try to protect our wobbly on her feet baby from the hard flooring, boxes remained unpacked, furniture unbuilt.

Duvet on our living room floor

When I went into Labour with Toby I didn’t panic and I wasn’t particularly scared despite his gestation. Perhaps I was in shock. My last labour was a grand total of two hours and we made it to the hospital with minutes, literally, to spare so I think my key concern was just getting there. If he was there he would be OK. Fortunately we did, the ambulance got us there, again with minutes to spare. His father had to stay home with our daughter until his sister could arrive (it was 3 in the morning after all).

He needed a lot of medical attention after birth and he was quickly taken away from me. I was sat having just given birth, alone, waiting for news on my son and waiting for my partner. What I didn’t know at this time was that they did not make it to special care unit as Toby was unable to breathe and he needed to be intubated in a room just outside the assessment unit where I had given birth. This was the sight that met his father on arrival.

Once stable they took Toby to the Neo Natal unit where he was given the medicine and care he needed. I didn’t really know what had taken place at this point and to my mind everything was OK. Well it wasn’t great – I was alone and without my baby next to me in a plastic cot but he was here and safe and that was all that mattered.

Toby in hospital

I didn’t absorb just quite how serious this situation was for months after. I didn’t want to.

There was a moment when we sat waiting for news and my partner looked at me and said ‘he’s going to be alright isn’t he?’ 

‘Yes of course he is’ I replied immediately shaking my head as though he had just said something preposterous.

However Mr Tammy had a look in his eyes that I have rarely seen, it will stay with me forever. He genuinely wasn’t sure his son was going to be ok. He had seen the doctors battling to get raise Toby’s oxygen levels and the urgency in which they worked. For the most fleeting of moments his look sent  went me somewhere dark.

Our journey over the following months was hard. Spending weeks visiting your baby in hospital for a few hours a day, not being able to take them home yet watching people take their baby’s home everyday. Splitting your time between your baby in the hospital and the baby you have at home was unimaginably hard.

Having a premature baby was so different to anything I ever thought it would be. My first child was born at 36 weeks but she needed nothing more than a few days in hospital to establish feeding and wait for the jaundice to subside. Whilst she was technically premature, she did not have the same needs that Toby did.

A premature baby shouldn’t be here, not yet, they cannot do many things on their own or that a term baby does. Toby needed help breathing. His lungs didn’t work. Then he couldn’t suck/swallow. When he did start to suck/swallow he would often forget to breath and would send the machine, and me, into melt down. Sometimes he would just stop breathing for no known reason at all, this was the case for some 6 weeks after his birth and he often required oxygen during this time. My nerves were shot to shit by this point. I have already written a post detailing when this happened the day after we brought him home and he had to go back into hospital for a week. He simply stopped breathing –  I was alone and I have never been more scared than when I was waiting for the ambulance.

Toby and his dad

Feeding was slow and laborious, he had horrendous reflux which would see 40 minutes of feeding plastered over the walls. I would often wake up to see he had been sick in the night and his moses basket was wet. Thank god he was my second child for I would never have slept out of paranoia he would choke had I not already had a baby. His reflux saw us back in the hospital on occasions. We were advised to try lactose free milk over breast milk then high energy milk to aid his growth as he was ‘failing to thrive’.

One of the hardest things about his journey however was that he was effectively a newborn for months. You know that crazy first few weeks with a newborn when you are feeding every two hours and it is all eat, sleep, feed repeat. This was our life for months and months.

Mentally it was exhausting too. I was convinced there would be something ‘wrong’ with Toby. My brother was diagnosed with newborn asphyxia and has been severely brain-damaged since. Toby wasn’t intubated until 12 minutes of life. I worried when he didn’t smile for months, when he wouldn’t interact, sit, or do anything. I was repeatedly told I need to correct his age to allow for his prematurity but I struggled with this concept – my baby is six months, what do you mean he is really only 4? Whilst I never wanted to wish his life away it felt like a really long and hard experience trying to get his weight up, get him stronger, improve his health and get him on a par with babies his age.

Most of my worries have now subsided, I am generally not worried about his development or his health. Occasionally there is a slight niggle at the back of my head but I think that is just called being mum.

Toby at 15 months
However the other day I read a post by Life Motherhood and Everything. The post described an experience where her daughter was ill, needed to be taken to the hospital and she was on her own and scared. I found myself crying at this post. I could feel all the emotions Angela was describing. I had been there and knew them well. I wondered if perhaps I haven’t yet fully healed from the trauma that came with Toby’s birth and the first very difficult six months.

I know there are babies born a lot earlier and a lot sicker than Toby and I know there are people who have had it a lot harder than us, but what we did have, was hard for us. It was emotionally and physically draining on our whole family. People ask me if I want another child and I am frightening quick to respond with a firm ‘NO!’ So much so people often look a bit shocked. What they don’t know is why. I don’t think I could go through it again. I know I might not, but I might. I have had two babies and both have been premature. 15 months after Toby’s birth I am finally starting to heal and I make no apology for the time it has taken or the way in which I have dealt with it. So I guess my point is this, it doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is to others, what is important is how it affects you. Allow yourself the time that you need to heal, not the time people expect of you.

Dear Bear and Beany

 

This Mum's Life
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37 Comments

  1. October 25, 2016 / 3:36 pm

    It must have been such a difficult time for you especially with an 11 month old at home and having just moved house too! I think it is perfectly natural to take time to heal from this trauma and to have felt the trauma in the first place. Your quote sums it up perfectly and I believe that trauma is uniquely felt by the person experiencing it.

  2. October 25, 2016 / 10:36 pm

    Oh darling, what a truly difficult time it must have been… I actually can’t really imagine. Of course healing takes time and it is natural that it’s something traumatic for you to think of and look back on. How amazing that he’s such a wonderful little guy, doing so well now though.

  3. October 26, 2016 / 5:49 am

    I really can’t imagine going through this while you have another child to take care of a well. It must have been so stressful, so it makes total sense that it would take a while to heal. Your little man is clearly a fighter, though – you must be so proud when you see how far he’s come. #FamilyFun

  4. October 26, 2016 / 6:34 am

    When I see pictures of Toby I forget he was early. I suppose I didn’t know you 15 months ago though. Such a tough time but look at you made it. I can’t quite believe how hard it must been x

  5. October 26, 2016 / 6:48 am

    This is something every Parent is scared of. Healing takes time which cannot be shortened by advises and sympathies. Glad he came out as a brave soldier. Wishes to him.#FamilyFun

  6. October 26, 2016 / 7:07 am

    Oh I don’t think I took a breath through this post. I want to say you poor loves but that’s not right as you’ve come so far and so has Toby. I’m not sure you’ll ever heal from the trauma – it will always stay with you because it was so pronounced. I’m just thrilled that Toby is so well. We had some scares with our son and I can still feel total panic when I let my mind go back to those times so I think the imagination will always win over the reasoning of healing xx #FamilyFun

  7. October 26, 2016 / 8:53 am

    Wow, that must have been such a difficult and challenging time. You are right we need to give ourselves the time to heal. #FamilyFun

  8. October 26, 2016 / 9:42 am

    When your baby is seriously ill it does take time to heal. It’s been just over a year since my now 2year old was seriously ill and hubbie and I are still both in shock at what happened. So thankful your little one is well now and you can all count your blessings and be grateful #familyfun

  9. October 26, 2016 / 11:46 am

    I can’t imagine how hard this must have been. So lovely to see Toby now he is bigger thriving and happy. Great you are taking the time to heal too. #familyfun

  10. October 26, 2016 / 1:50 pm

    It is amazing how emotions we’ve shut away can suddenly come out like that. What a traumatic experience to go through for you all and I’m so glad he is OK. My oldest was full term but induced as I had pre-eclampsia and then he contracted an infection and in was in hospital for 8 days first in intensive and then medium care. It was awful, I remember asking the nurse is he going to die and being given the answer we hope not but he is very poorly. It was the hardest couple of days if my life and I’d had emergency surgery too. 6 months after I caved completely because I hadn’t allowed myself to heal at all! #FamilyFun

  11. October 26, 2016 / 1:53 pm

    I knew that your son was quite premature, but I’d never read the difficult experiences you had in those early days. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard they must have been. That one experience I had recently was so tough and scary but was nothing by comparison to what you’ve had to deal with. You’re an incredibly strong person for getting through it all and caring for your daughter at the same time. Having read this, it’s even more wonderful to see the photos of your little boy thriving. I’m not surprised you’re still dealing with what has happened. Over time you’ll accept it more and more. You’re right to give yourself time though! #FamilyFun

  12. October 26, 2016 / 2:08 pm

    Life in the NICU is like no other…you are one strong mama!

    He is perfect :)

  13. October 26, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    I really feel for you. It sounds incredibly traumatic. My first was not premature but was sick and spent time in special care, and I did that whole thing where you visit your baby in hospital for hours each day but never get to take him home. He was in a room with premature babies and I saw how much harder it was for their parents, who had to do that for months on end. It must have been very hard when you had another child at home too. I’m glad you feel like your son is okay now. You are right that there is no point worrying who has it better or worse or measuring our grief or trauma against what others have faced. We shouldn’t feel guilty for needing to heal after things we’ve experienced. #familyfun

  14. October 26, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    Awww… good job mama, it must have been a scary time. My twin boys were born at 36wks which at the time I thought wouldn’t be much different to full term. Although we managed to avoid the NICU, they too struggled to feed with awful reflux and mucus, which resulted in a lot of choking. I couldn’t sleep because I was terrified they would choke while I wasn’t watching them, it was so scary. And you’re right, it takes time to process the emotional stuff, there is no set formula. #FamilyFun

  15. October 26, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must have been for you all. We are all different and heal in different ways and at different rates. That last couple of sentences brought tears to my eyes. I have my own issues relating to multiple miscarriages that I never really allowed myself the time to heal from. Even now, years later, those feelings I tried to bury and ‘get over’ come back completely without warning and floor me. I am only just now realising that it’s ok and I should allow those feelings to come in order to heal.
    #FamilyFun

  16. October 26, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    Goodness – how incredibly traumatic for you all. I can only imagine what you went through and having a really little one at home too – you must have been torn. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and it has left such scars but I get a sense from the post that writing about it was cathartic. A friend of mine had her twins at prematurely and when it came to their first Birthday she was diagnosed with PTSD due to it. One would never have known you were hurting so much from this when you read some of your other extremely up-beat posts – thanks so much for sharing this story. xx #familyfun

  17. October 26, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    This is such a brave post, what happened to you all is horrible and I can only imagine how hard it’s been to come to terms with; however it is refreshing to read the last paragraph.
    Ben was born at 39 weeks and after a 96.5 hour labour he was rushed to NICU. For 24 hours he was on oxygen and although he was not as sick as others he was still sick enough to be in there.
    I completely understand how you felt laying in a hospital bed next to an empty crib and others having their babies crying next to them.
    I always say that I’m not really a NICU mum as he was only in there for a week but like you did, it has affected me, I’ve not fully dealt with it and right now not sure if I ever fully will.
    Thank you for sharing your story
    #familyfun

  18. October 26, 2016 / 9:47 pm

    I can’t imagine how terrifying this must have been. It’s so wonderful that everything turned out okay xx

    #FamilyFun

  19. October 26, 2016 / 10:05 pm

    I can relate to this, both my son & I were ill after his birth, I was whisked one way our baby another my husband not knowing what was happening. Luckily we were fine eventually but my husband (a counsellor) thinks I had PTSD after the birth.

  20. October 27, 2016 / 7:18 am

    You are so brave to share this story on here. Thank you for sharing.
    I cannot even imagine how scared and exhausted you were… Dealing with a newborn is hard enough… You and your family had to fight it.. to support your baby for so long. Your son is adorable and I am so glad to hear he is well now. :) You are such a strong mother. This post reminded me that no one should think having a baby is easy. Every pregnancy and every birth is different and hard. I went through 4 years of infertility before conceiving my twins and although the birth was smooth-ish, I cannot guarantee what it will be like for the next one. (if we decide to have more) It is interesting that so many people tell us to have more. It takes more than that. Someone’s life is dependent on you when you are a parent. Thank you so much for such a great post. Hope this trauma heals for you… xo
    #Sharingthebloglove

  21. October 27, 2016 / 12:14 pm

    I can’t imagine going through that. You sound very brave. I hope that you heal slowly over time but don’t let other people make you feel like you have to. #FamilyFun

  22. October 27, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    Hugs, Hugs, and more Hugs. You hung in there amidst the stress and chaos, the tears and the anxiety. You must be so proud of having lived this time with the strength and fortitude it deserved. I always believe that one is never aware of just how strong she or he is unless a situation demands that from us. For everything that you and your family went through, I know there must have been positive things that came along. You are stronger every day because of that, mamma. #familyfun

  23. October 27, 2016 / 2:30 pm

    A very moving post. You really get a sense of the fear and love you felt. I thought your last lines were beautiful. The way you described your husband’s reaction reminded me of my one – ours did a poo and had to get out quickly. I wasn’t aware of the resuscitation team behind the curtain but he was and he protected me from that. We were lucky. So glad your boy is thriving now #SharingTheBlogLove

  24. October 27, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    My SIL had my niece 2 months early and it was a really tough time on her and my brother along with the rest of the family. My SIL is the same and won’t have anymore children. Some of it medical reasons and some of it because she can’t go through it again. Thank you for sharing such a brave post with us over at #SharingtheBlogLove x

  25. October 27, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    Awww I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been for you. My brother was really premature and struggled for years with his health. He will always have trouble with his lungs and he had a feeding tube in his stomach until he was around 11 years old. He is 19 now though and very much thriving. The doctors didn’t give him any chance of survival but he showed them! Thank you for sharing. X
    #familyfun

  26. October 28, 2016 / 9:41 am

    I understand exactly what you mean here. My fourth son wasn’t premature but he was very sick when he was born and throughout the first year of his life and required corrective surgery age 5 months old. It’s still very hard to think back and actually realise how sick he was and how lucky that we are to still have him. It can still reduce me to tears. You need to heal, but it can only happen in your own time. It cannot be forced by anyone else. I used to think about it all the time, but as i did eventually start to heal, even though as you described i still have those trigger moments when i read something that brings me back to that awful time. I think about it less and less and he is now a happy healthy four year old. Glad your little boy is doing well now, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger rings true in situations like these. #FamilyFun

  27. October 28, 2016 / 10:06 am

    Wow I can’t imagine how awful that must have been for you! At least now you’re getting to a good place :) #FamilyFun

  28. October 28, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    I can imagine what an incredibly frightening time this must have been for all of you and no wonder posts like the one you read last week still affect you. It takes time to heal from this kind of experience and I think in many ways it never really leaves you – there will always be the odd moment here and there that will bring it back clearly. That last paragraph really does sum it all up though – you can only deal with your own experiences and heal from them in your own time. It doesn’t matter what other people’s experiences are – they are not yours. I am glad that Toby seems to be doing well now and hope that writing this down has been cathartic for you x #familyfun

  29. October 28, 2016 / 7:12 pm

    Wow you’ve been through a lot. You are one strong woman. I think I’d refuse to leave my baby on their own even if I knew they were in good hospital staff hands. #FamilyFun.

  30. October 29, 2016 / 10:27 am

    I know how you feel, there are elements of my births stories that make me really emotional and think that i wont have another baby. To some people it might not seem that bad. But we only know our own experiences and how it made US feel. It does take a long time to heal. Thanks so much for sharing. #familyfun

  31. October 29, 2016 / 4:48 pm

    This must have been such a hard time for you all to go through, and I think it’s perfectly understandable that it would still affect you now – I’d imagine it’s something that stays with you forever. It’s lovely to hear that he’s doing so well now – I’m sure every mother has those little concerns about whether their child is ‘on track’ – I know I do! Thank you so much for sharing this with us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  32. October 29, 2016 / 6:40 pm

    I just read another comment which said ‘I don’t think I took a breath through this post’, and that’s exactly what I was going to say too! It’s like we were there with you, which is a sign of your brilliant writing but also the trauma you went through. I have a Toby too, and he was a little early, but traumatically so as I was in heart failure so he had to be delivered by c-section which is bad for an early baby’s breathing. So maybe your story affected me more, but thank you for sharing and thank goodness Toby is doing so well now. Visiting from #FamilyFun and #SharingtheBlogLove

  33. October 30, 2016 / 9:39 pm

    What an incredibly difficult and traumatic experience to go through. In all honesty, im not surprised you are so quick to say no when people ask you about another. I cant liken it to your experience, but the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced was our first daughters birth which was awful and took me a year to two years before I could even think or talk about it again. I think sometimes we dont realise how deeply some things affect us.. Emily #FamilyFun

  34. October 31, 2016 / 9:27 am

    I can’t even begin to imagine what this is like. It must be totally and utterly horrendous. Well done for writing about it, I hope it helped you. I’m so pleased he’s now doing so well. #bigpinklink

  35. November 1, 2016 / 5:52 am

    Sarah this is such a heart wrenching story. I am so glad that Toby is well and that you have reached a more peaceful place with your experience. I have shared my sister’s agony when her twin girls were born at 31 weeks. Her anxiety about their development is omnipresent and each new milestone is greeted with delight and relief. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. #bigpinklink

  36. November 1, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Oh gosh lovely I had a little cry reading this. What a traumatic time it was for you all I cant even begin to imagine. I am now 33 weeks pregnant and starting to get a little apprehensive about the birth. ‘#sharingthebloglove

  37. November 2, 2016 / 5:43 pm

    What a amazingly powerful piece, and I think you’ve summed it up perfectly at the end, by saying that it doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is, you need time to heal. Because there isn’t a scale, and as easy as it is to think problems are bigger or smaller than somebody else’s, and let that invalidate your feelings, the only scale of how you are affected, should be your own. What you went through was harrowing, and potentially life changing, I really can’t even imagine. It’s amazing to hear that Toby is now doing so well! I hadn’t even considered that it might be like having a new born for months on end-how totally exhausting. I hope you feel you’re making the peace with this that you need xx
    #bigpinklink