How can you split yourself in two and be there for both of your children? This was the question which tore my husband and me apart every day whilst we were on the neonatal unit at Princess Anne Hospital. At the time our eldest daughter Sayuri had just turned two years old and our new baby Sienna was very eager to come into the world at 32 weeks. She spent a month in hospital and soon we were facing a predicament which we never thought we would be in. How can we spend quality time with each child in two different places? The obvious choice is to spend time with the baby who needs the most care. Physically it was Sienna, but emotionally it was Sayuri.
We made a decision to leave Sayuri at our trusted neighbours as we did not want her to be alarmed at seeing me in such a state. This rocked her sense of stability as I had never left her alone before, not even with a babysitter. Our neighbours later told us that she refused to take her jacket off, staring at the window constantly asking where Mama and Papa went. This was the first time we’d ever had to make such a heart breaking decision, but we were confident it was the right one.
Once Sienna was born, my husband went back to work and we had settled into the routine of hospital life. However, we were now faced with the issue of time management. During the day I spent my time with Sayuri, trying to resolve any feelings of abandonment she had. I would wait for my husband to return from work and then we would go straight to the hospital to spend time with Sienna. We took this in turns as Sayuri was quite disruptive within the ward. Issues started to arise as I didn’t have much time for kangaroo care or to establish breastfeeding. I would look over at the women who had spent all day with their children, nursing them, bathing them and holding them close to their chest. I was so jealous. We didn’t have any friends or family near so our hands were tied with the amount of time we spent with Sienna. From 5-8pm my husband and I would take hourly shifts but this also included expressing time so during the week I only spent a little over an hour with Sienna. My husband took to our situation with a direct approach and we stuck to our timetable. We couldn’t stretch time and we couldn’t ignore Sayuri either. It made us both upset but no matter how badly we were feeling inside, we had our silent, unwavering faith that everything will be ok. It had to be.
Leaving Sienna at the hospital every night was like someone kicking me in the stomach every day, but we needed to be home to create stability and a sense of routine for Sayuri. But I looked forward to the weekends as we could really spend time with Sienna. My husband took the lead of her first bath, tube feed and daily care as I was still in shock from what had happened. I think to some extent every mum of a premature baby blames themselves for how early their child is born. You feel an innate failure because you were not able to carry your child to full term. It already feels like you’ve let them down before they have reached your arms. My first blubbering words to Sienna were “I’m so sorry.” My heart sank looking at her in her incubator with all the wires and tubes attached, foam seeping out of her mouth whilst she struggled to breath. This was not how you start motherhood.
Simultaneously, I felt I had failed Sayuri by damaging her sense of safety as she would literally scream down the hospital hallways when I left to spend time with Sienna. So eventually, I just started to take Sayuri with me, but any parent knows keeping a two year-old quiet and their hands to themselves is impossible. We kept positive for Sayuri and tried to develop her relationship with Sienna by encouraging her to hold her sister’s hand and to talk to her. I’ll never forget the day we all laughed when Sayuri very loudly greeted Sienna with “Hello gorgeous!”
Having to decide where and how you spend your time with two young children isn’t something I was prepared for. The hospital staff were absolutely amazing and patient with Sayuri which was a blessing for us. Nothing can prepare you for effectively choosing between your children’s needs, but looking back I wish I would have been more vocal about asking for help.
Today, Sayuri and Sienna are doing incredibly well. They have an amazing sisterly bond. Sayuri is back on track and so confident and independent both at nursery and at home. During the week Sienna stays with me as I work from home, but we are looking to get her into the same nursery as her sister next year. So as one chapter of our lives closes, another one opens and we can’t wait to see where it leads us next.
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You can read more stories like Nisha’s in the latest edition of Little Bliss, which will be available from 7 November.
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