"Whether your child is in NICU for a day or 100 days, your feelings are valid" - Brittanny's story


Brittanny gave birth to her son at 36+5 weeks, after a pre-eclampsia diagnosis. Her baby boy spent eight days in NICU, and in her story, Brittanny shares how his neonatal stay had a longer-term impact on her mental health.

When I was 34 weeks pregnant, I was told I had pre-eclampsia. At this point, the condition was being managed with medication so I was kept under observation and had appointments every couple of days. I was given a growth scan at 35 weeks and midwives were a little concerned with how small my son was estimating despite how far along I was.

At 36 weeks pregnant, my condition could no longer be managed with medication and I became very unwell in a matter of hours. I was admitted to hospital and induced as soon as possible, and at 36+5 days, I gave birth to my son.

He was 4lb 5oz and significantly malnourished despite the time he came. I had to be taken for emergency surgery as I started to bleed out after suffering a fourth-degree tear. I was there for most of the day and didn't get to hold him for long.

And then, our boy started having a few issues. He couldn't maintain his temperature which initially I was told was normal due to his size, but then they thought it was an infection and gave him antibiotics. He couldn't pass his bowels and he couldn't keep a feed down.

We were told to begin with that this was all normal for a newborn. However, after a feeding specialist saw my son, she soon realised that it wasn't, or at least to the degree my son was vomiting for. He was taken to the NICU for the doctors to run a few tests on and to try and get to the root of why my son couldn't take a feed.

Whilst staff were trying to draw blood, our boy started to asphyxiate on his own vomit and staff had to resuscitate him which was the scariest moment of my life. As a result, they spilt a vial of the blood they were trying to draw and covered him in blood.

They ran an x-ray on him and noticed a slight blockage in his bowel. They then decided to transfer him to a specialist hospital as they were not equipped to help.

They had an ambulance take him and my husband went with him, I had to remain where I was because I was still under observation due to my condition and surgery. I got to spend a total of 8 hours with him before he was taken away.

Being separated from him was so hard, I find it difficult to explain just how hard it was. Everyone on the ward had their babies and I couldn't hold mine.

It wasn't until 24 hours later that I was then transferred to the maternity ward at the specialist hospital so I could be with my family.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was told that due to the amount of medication I was on because of my condition, my son's heart rate was low as well as his blood pressure and oxygen levels. That was the reason why he couldn't maintain his temperature. He was attached to many different wires and was receiving fluids through a drip.

He had a tube that was inserted into his stomach to drain the fluid and stop him vomiting. It was hard seeing him like that and listening to his cries whenever staff had to redo his cannula. He had tiny pinpricks all over him and all I wanted to do was take him home.

He was also treated for jaundice as his levels were very high and he received treatment for his bowels and had a biopsy done. Luckily all the results were clear. The doctor introduced a feeding plan to our boy and we gradually built up his milk intake. At first, I was terrified he'd vomit and asphyxiate again, but after some reassurance from a wonderful nurse, we managed to get our boy to feed and eventually, get into a proper routine.

We were only in the NICU for a total of eight days, and though we recognise that is quite a short amount of time, it felt like a lifetime for us.

His heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels went to normal range without much intervention luckily. I am thankful for that.

Our boy is one year old now and is very healthy, lively and happy, but I was diagnosed with PTSD following the incident and I still relive the events as if they are happening now.

I struggled so much when we first bought our boy home, I was terrified to reach out for help for fear that they would take him away, I was overprotective and I developed white coat syndrome and wouldn't let doctors come near me. My husband had to take my son to appointments at the start.

Bliss has helped me find resources for my mental health following the events and the support I need, and for that, I really thank them for the work they have done and continue to do.

My best piece of advice to parents going through this is to not be afraid to reach out for help. It can be lonely, even traumatising and if you bottle it all up, it'll eat away at you.

Whether your child is in NICU for a day or 100 days, your feelings are 100% valid and you need to take care of yourself as well.

I am thankful for the hospital staff and the work they have done; they helped our boy and they also helped me as well.