#IWishIdKnown how much support was available - Anita's story

In a story she wrote for the Sick Children's Trust, Anita shares the support she received from charities and friends when William was born at 23+5.

I wish I'd known it's okay if you don't know the answers, just ask!

Already being a mum of two children and an adult intensive care nurse I had some idea of what was happening but not everything. Especially Dan, my husband who had no medical background. William was our first premature baby born at just 23 weeks and 5 days! I thought babies were not helped less than 24 weeks. So I was preparing to deliver a much loved baby who I thought was going to die! We were lucky as William came out fighting and was given a chance to live. No question is stupid, ask whatever you want. The doctors and nurses were great and answered honestly and to our level of understanding. I was treated as a mum not a nurse. Don’t google it will just scare the hell out of you! There are great groups out there who can help answer your questions and fears. Whether it’s a professional, a charity like Bliss or Tommy’s or other premature parents. I found sharing other NICU parents experiences really helped me cope. Our house manager was great at the Sick Children’s Trust because he showed us other people stories and listened to our fears and worries.

I wish I'd known NICU life is a rollercoaster ride

Prepare to embark on one of your toughest journeys yet. It’s one hell of a ride but you come out stronger. All the things you took for granted will seem unimportant and every little step they take in their journey will be emotional and amazing. Cherish and capture every moment. Whether it’s writing a diary or taking pictures, it will all go by in a flash. Then when your ready sit back and look at what you all have achieved and overcome and be proud! Life is going to be all over the place. One minute they are doing amazing then the next your world comes crashing down! They take a turn for the worst and the fear of losing them never leaves you. You feel helpless and a failure that all you can do is sit and watch. Remember just sitting there and being by their side shows so much strength and courage. You are doing a GREAT job!

I wish I'd known it's okay to cry!

Life in NICU is bloody tough! Some days you just feel numb and helpless. Other days you’re doing cares for your baby like changing their nappy, giving feed via a tube or reading a story and they take your finger with all their might and squeeze it. Life is good! Feels amazing, like you’re floating in the clouds. Cry happy tears, cry sad tears, it doesn’t matter! The weight that is lifted will give you peace and clarity.

I wish I'd known to take a break

If you need to walk away just do it. Remember your baby is safe being cared for by amazing doctors and nurses. Who are also great and looking after us parents too. You need to look after yourself as what good will we be if we are ill and weak. The hardest part of NICU was leaving my baby, but it’s so important to go home and get some sleep and rest. (Well that’s if you can call it rest when you up every 3 hours expressing!) You need to take time out for you and rest and recharge physically and mentally.

I wish I'd known to ask for help with siblings

Sharing parenting responsibilities, asking friends and family to help with other siblings. My problem was I tried to juggle everything when I should have asked for help with my girls. I don’t know how I would have coped without living in the Sick Children’s Trust at Stevenson House. We felt safe and secure as a family and children being children thought it was like a holiday home and the house manager was like another uncle to the girls. Children create positivity and are resilient. It’s them that help us carry on and cope too. Also your baby fighting with all its might in NICU will help you fight your fears too! I had a few friends and my dad visit during my stay and it helped bring some normality into our crazy life. My Dad and dear friend Catherine would cook us a meal which was a godsend as who wants to cook after a long exhausting day in NICU. The companies who came in and cooked lovely meals and treats was such a lovely gesture too. Having the home from home experience at the Sick Children’s Trust gave us that normality. Going to sleep in a comfy bed, cooking dinner, watching TV or just sitting in the lounge watching the girls play in the play room. The biggest thing for us was living with other parents going through the same experience as you. Because they are truly the only ones who will understand and know the true pain you are going through!

I hope reading this helps in your NICU journey.

From one premmie parent to another you got this!