“Being in the NICU is emotionally challenging” - Simone’s story


Simone shares her experience of giving birth to her baby girl Phoenix at 29 weeks and offers her advice to parents currently going through a neonatal experience.

My pregnancy was a difficult one. I was showing signs of preeclampsia and I had to be hospitalised until I gave birth. I had also developed chickenpox while in hospital, and as soon as I had recovered, my baby girl Phoenix was born at 29 weeks via caesarean section.

Whilst in the theatre room it took three trials for me to receive the epidural. After confirming that I was numb and all seemed well, the c section began and I did not feel the first cut, just some tugging. However, as the procedure continued I began to feel an intense pain.

The pain became so extreme that I couldn’t even respond to the medical team when they were asking me if they should continue or not.

I couldn't even verbalise a yes or no, so my husband had to make the decision to put me under general anaesthetic because I wasn't speaking.

Phoenix was born with intrauterine growth restriction and weighed just one pound and something.

I had been looking forward to meeting my baby as we had kept the gender as a surprise – when I woke up I still didn’t know if we had a girl or boy. My baby had been whisked away to NICU and my husband went with them and stayed there.

When I woke up, I wasn’t able to have those first special moments with my baby girl, Phoenix. It was four or five hours before I got to meet her for the first time, as I had to make sure I could walk.

I was still recovering from the procedure while trying to produce milk, without much success. Eventually my milk just stopped and I wasn't able to breastfeed her either.


Phoenix had great doctors, nurses and midwives looking after her and overall, we had a good stay on the unit and I felt well supported. She was in hospital for two months, and eventually moved from the NICU to high dependency and then the special care unit.

Thankfully Phoenix is doing well now. She has a bit of reflux and we noticed just recently that she has this swelling, so we’re taking her to the hospital to get that checked out. She’s now 13 weeks old, so we’ve only had her home for five weeks or so.

I really love having her at home. Although it can be challenging, she needs to be fed in small amounts every two hours because of her reflux, so I rarely get any sleep.

To other parents going through a neonatal experience, make sure that you take time for yourself. When Phoenix was in hospital, I remember that I always wanted to be there at every moment of the day but there would be times when I would literally feel sick because I wasn’t taking time to eat or drink.

The staff on the unit would bring snacks for me, but I needed to take proper meals. I just didn’t want to leave her side; I would feel guilty when I wasn’t there to take care of my baby.

Being in NICU is emotionally challenging, too. You're going to feel guilty but it’s so important to take some time for yourself. Remember that there are nurses there to step in and take care of your baby and that they are in safe hands.

I was really lucky to see the clinical psychologist on the unit so she was able to give me advice. She was the one who told me to take time for myself – she acknowledged that I would feel guilty as a maternal instinct, but to trust the staff on the ward.

Looking after your mental health is so important so you can look after your baby.