Updated: Jun 25, 2021
*Trigger Warning: Child birth, Poor fetal outcomes*
When someone says their baby needed intensive care, what do you think? I think premature babies, pregnancy complications and unforeseen events during labour.
Yet somehow, I’ve become a 'NICU mum' with none of those things. I received the best of private care throughout my pregnancy, regular checkups and bedside scans. I went into spontaneous labour at 39+2 weeks, I delivered somewhat quickly and naturally without instrumental intervention. My birth was what I had always wanted, I was quite comfortable until I wasn't. By that point, there was literally a head between my legs!
But something happened. Something went wrong. My baby entered this world “flat” and unresponsive. My little dude had taken a poop on the inside, but we knew this. There was meconium present in my waters. It happened with my first born, so I knew the drill. Once born, he would go straight to the resuscitation table and would then be returned to me. There was Paediatrician and special care nurses at the ready. Everything would be fine. Until it wasn’t.
After several minutes, he still wasn’t breathing, he still wasn’t responsive.
If I'm entirely honest, by this point, I’m high as a kite on happy gas, with my new designer vagina being stitched back together. (We will talk more about that later). I laughed at my husband saying he really broke it this time, “you broke it, you bought it.” I offered him some happy gassed. I giggled telling him it was good stuff. But as incoherent as I was, I'm starting to hear the Paed ordering tests, I can see my Obstetrician taking samples from my umbilical cord. I’m starting to ask questions. Trying to spit the gas out, while they are telling me to put it back in because "this part is really going to hurt" (they weren't wrong).
Dr. Brad keeps reassuring me his heart rate is good. His heart rate is strong. But not much else. This didn’t happen last time? What the f*** is happening?
I recall looking to my husbands face, well I’ve seen this look once before. While they were getting our first born breathing, and I can read him like a book. It’s a look I never wanted to see again. I know everything has turned to utter shit.
Our new born son is stabilised and taken to the Special Care Nursery. I tell my husband to go with him, I still have no idea what is happening. Our baby has been intubated, on CPAP and I know nothing else. I assume it's the meconium. My beautiful midwife, Sarah, gets me up, showered, dressed and up to the special care nursery within the hour.
How is this happening? He is perfect. He looks perfect. A beautiful little chunk of squish, 3.39kg. But they are telling me he isn’t well. Test results have come back and he has suffered a lack of oxygen at some point, for some period of time. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) they say. Google if you wish, but with warning. Basically, he has a brain injury and no one can tell me anything. No-one can tell us anything. It’s all unknown. A 'retrieval team' is being organised to transfer him to a tertiary hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I can't go with him.
My low risk pregnancy and dream ‘natural’ birth has literally just turned into a living hell.
I am numb. What did I do wrong? How did I do this to you, my beautiful and perfect son. I’m your mummy and I’m meant to protect you. Yet I’ve caused you harm. So much harm that you have suffered brain damage. I’m meant to keep you safe. Yet somehow, I’ve failed you. Gosh, have I failed you.
The guilt, it is overwhelming. It is all consuming. There is no way you can prepare for this. There is nothing you can do for the wave of emotions that are about to consume you. It doesn’t matter how many people “you are not responsible for this outcome”, the only person you blame, well that person is yourself. You’ve carried this little human for months, you’ve been inseparable. And now, they aren’t inside you anymore. But you can’t hold them. You can’t console them when they cry. You can’t feed them.
To be honest, as I write this, I sit here questioning if I’ve even had a baby - I feel empty, I know he isn’t in my tummy. But he isn't in my arms. I know he is alive, he is earth-side and yet we are so far apart?
So you just sit there. Idol and absolutely helpless.