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Staying up all night in the NICU Club...

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Having a baby in NICU can be a terribly intense, scary time it’s almost like being in a exclusive club that no one actually wanted to join but while you are there you have no choice but to adapt and grab moments of happiness when you can. Everyone’s experience whilst being in the ‘NICU club’ is unique as well as relatable at the same time. We all experience trauma and stress differently sometimes talking about it is helpful and other times we decide that we are better keeping it to ourselves and releasing it in other ways. It’s always important to realise that we are not alone and there is no rule book for healing. Motherhood is a beautiful gift, although in the early hours of the morning listening to the machines beeping, and staring at the wires connected to our precious babies that we aren’t able to touch as much as we should in their NICU incubators it can feel hopeless and frustratingly lonely. A feeling I know all to well, a feeling that digs its way into your brain and makes a home becoming more than a memory, these feelings are now ours to carry around and navigate life with. Often to be expected to carry them as if they were just a fleeting moment or bad dream… but this blog post isn’t about me. Wow I’m not going to just talk about myself and ALL my feelings *reader gasps with disbelief*.

As part of my blog series the shape of us I’ve collaborated on this entry with Laurie Higgins. Laurie is a mother of two beautiful boys Jack and Jacob. She has agreed to open up about her time in NICU with her youngest son Jacob who was born at 30 week's and 5 days gestation. *Trigger warning* Her story is inspiring, honest, emotionally powerful and opens a door that allows the reader to view through a crack to get a mere glimpse of how vulnerable, anxious yet determined we feel while our babies are being warriors in NICU, and the journey that the experience takes families on. It feels amazing to be able to help Laurie tell her story and spread awareness to her cause. Laurie has decided to use her experience to help others.

Jacobs story, these are all Laurie’s words prompted by my questions...

Honestly my pregnancy was completely opposite to Jack's, Jack was easy. Jacobs was tough, morning sickness, the full on tiredness, exhaustion, I couldn't continue to run like I did with Jack. I put it down to being older and possibly having a girl, as they say different pregnancy means different gender. Maybe deep down my body knew something was wrong.

Then at 26 weeks pregnant I ended up in PCH (Prince Charles Hospital) with reduced movements but everything came back fine...

On the 22.2.22 at 30 weeks and 1 day of my pregnancy, I went to work just like any other day, full shift, 9 til 6.30, Rob picked me up so we could take Jack to Karate, we walked our dog Alfie while we were there. Nothing seemed off, just normal exhausted. When we got home baby wasn't moving as much as normal so we all sat on the sofa and played 'Simon says' as Jack suggested it, funnily enough baby started moving. So we carried on, had our tea, went upstairs, got changed to finally relax on the sofa... However at around 8pm that evening I went to sit on the sofa, I jumped back up with a massive pop sensation, promising Rob I wasn't weeing myself in complete panic! Then it was midwife, ambulance, off to PCH we went.

I needed steroid injections after my waters had broken on Tuesday, and, oh my, it was the worst thing I’ve felt! I was sent home on the Thursday. They were very relaxed, I was told “just rest” etc. I guess hoping he'd stay put. By early hours of Saturday morning I was feeling niggles, they woke me up at about 1.30am, so we rang PCH thinking it wasn't much but as I was still only 30 weeks pregnant they wanted to see me. We dropped jack off at mums at 2.15am, arrived at PCH by 2.50am, Jacob was born naturally by 4.34am! He wasn't staying in! I remember so many people in the room before he was born, rob told me after it was 11! 11 people telling me things, pumping me full of drugs for Jacob, but all of a sudden they were all gone, myself and Rob were left alone....

That feeling of your baby being taken away without you holding them is indescribable, from having 11 people in the room, to just complete silence, to just me and Rob, it's something you can't understand unless you've experienced it. I’ll always think and feel like I missed that special moment with Jacob that il never get back.

It was 7am before we could go and see him, over 2 hours not knowing what was happening! He was so tiny! It's so hard to explain to anyone how tiny he actually was. I finally got to hold my baby at 8.30am, it was the best feeling! I never wanted to let go!

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur I will be honest, I remember them making us eat, they always make sure you've eaten fair play to them. Later on in the day when Rob was looking at going home to Jack we went to find out where all my belongings had gone, I'd been placed in a room, which honestly looked like a storage room with 4 beds in it, all on my own. Like my emotions weren't bad enough anyway, I felt like I'd been stuffed in a room out of the way because I didn't have my baby, well I couldn't hold it together at that point.

Then came the expressing, oh the joys. I hadn't planned to express or breast feed this time due to problems with Jack. But situations were different, and I'd do anything to help my baby. I remember firstly trying it in with Jacob, think maybe managing 1ml. Then after little to no sleep, hospitals are too warm to sleep anyway, I attempted to express again at about 3/4am. A lovely midwife offered to pop it in syringes for me, we got 11ml! Who knew we could be so proud over 11ml! At that point Jacob was taking just 0.3ml every 2 hours, such a tiny amount.

The NICU was 24/7 visiting for parents so at 4.30am I went over to see Jacob with my liquid gold. He was under phototherapy as he was so jaundice, he spent a lot of time under the lights those first few days.

Those first 24 hours were tough but also amazing all at the same time. Our premmie was here safely. The NICU journey is hard, plain and simple, no one prepares or warns you for it. The wires, the tubes, the beeps, it's overwhelming. But it does get easier, you learn what everything is for, you get involved. We got to do Jacobs cares, his temperature, his blood pressure, change his SATs probe, change his nappy, clean his face, suddenly it doesn't feel so scary.

One of the hardest things was spiliting your self into two, being at home for Jack, being at the hospital for Jacob, the guilt was unreal, no matter which you were doing it felt wrong. Also the guilt you felt as your other child couldn't meet their younger sibling is heart wrenching

There are some amazing days in the NICU, there are some awful days, but either way you get through it for your baby, you have to. You dread every ward round, what's going to be said today. We dreaded Fridays, we got two lots of bad news on Fridays. Silly I know.

We hit milestones, so many milestones, so many things to be grateful and proud of. From coming off oxygen, off phototherapy, no longer needing his nappy weighed, the incubator temperature being lowered, moving from incubator to a cot, finally being able to wear clothes, coming off one drug, coming off another drug, first bath, trying his first bottle, finishing his first bottle. Such simple things for a full term baby mean the absolute world for a premmie baby.

Coming home was the best feeling, even if I must say scariest too, I think it's the most nerve racking journey we've ever had. Jack just adores his little brother! Yes we still have lots of appointments going on, he's finally been discharged from his ROP (Retinopathy in Prematurity), we are awaiting his appointment with the Kidney Specialist from Cardiff.

He's now 4 months old and we are finally into 0-3 months clothes! We are just enjoying every moment with our little fighter! I'd love to help PCH be able to offer things such as the Beads of Bravery or NICU Journals so parents can document everything their little one has been through.

So i’ve decided with my running building and races starting to enter my calendar again I'm going to try and raise some money for this amazing unit. Unfortunately they don't have the funding like these big units to help the families dealing with this awful situation.. Every penny will help them help the families that have to enter the NICU- Laurie To donate click here

These are image of Jacob in the NICU taken by his family, we decided that we would show these amazing images to show firstly how small Jacob was but second these beautiful photos are the raw hard truth of what it can be like in NICU wires and all.

Our shoot!

It was amazing to meet up with Laurie and her partner Rob to hear their inspirational journey and to capture some photos of their family! I’ve been following their story on social media, and after seeing the amazing determination, bravery and charitable kindness the family had taken upon themselves to give back and raise some money for an amazing cause I knew we would work well together! Jacob is truly a happy little warrior! We decided to do the shoot outside because I wanted to capture some natural family photos as a way of showing the positive outcome of this story so far… *reader gasps for the second time* a blog where the images are light, natural and positive without a self portrait in sight. Yes! That’s right! I’m versatile…

Although the family are still on their journey and every journey has bumps in the road they are clearly strong and have the tools to overcome any struggles! The shoot itself was a lot of fun! I really haven’t worked much this year for obvious reasons, so it was nice to do a shoot to partner with this blog entry. We picked a local park with some nice trees in and we were done in 20 minutes nice and easy as we both had children to get fed, bathed and off to bed! It was an honour to capture these photos and to help share this amazing story, just LOOK at Jacob and Jack! How unbelievably adorable and strong, no wonder their parents look so proud! We also decided to meet up after the shoot so I could take some photos of Jacobs hospital goodies and have a cuppa, although our stories are different we shared some similarities and its important to talk and check in with our feelings with people who get it...

The shape of us...

Now I’m going to talk about myself and my work *reader rolls eyes*. I really like blogging, It feels very 'me' and it's great to do something we love right!? I've wanted to do this style of work for years but I really wasn't ready to open up about my art work as I am now.

I'm really finding my voice and this has given me a deeper reason for creating! However having my own voice doesn't feel like enough. We all have stories and struggles that are all different. Art for me is about connection, awareness and story telling, and I believe that together there is so much awareness to be spread.

Sound like something you may be interested in? Great! Let’s tell some stories together!

Click this link to read more- The shape of us

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Here's an image of me, yeahhhhhh I just couldn't help myself... this is my latest self portrait 'intrusive thoughts' I'm working on some new personal work as always! Thanks for reading sorry about the typos!

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