"It is devastating to see your little one covered in wires" - Beth's story

After a difficult pregnancy, Beth's son Kai was born full term, during lockdown. Sadly, Kai needed care in NICU. His stay in NICU was made even more difficult because of difficult access restrictions, due to COVID-19. Here is Beth's story.

I had a tough pregnancy having hyperemesis, anxiety, back pain, hip pain and anemia, so having my son in the middle of the first lockdown was definitely not what I had hoped. Kai was born three days after his due date, after I went into labour on his due date.

Initially my labour progressed well and I made it to 7cm with no pain relief, then to 10cm with gas and air. I was pushing for over 2 hours, but not much was happening and my contractions had slowed. Kai’s head was tilted the wrong way, so he was stuck. I was taken to theatre, given a spinal and after an episiotomy and assistance from a ventouse, Kai was born.

He was absolutely fine when he was born, however a few hours after the birth, he was admitted to the NICU as he was very stiff, not really feeding, vomiting, jittery and had diarrhoea. I was extremely upset, worried and couldn't stop crying. I was desperate to breastfeed him, but he was unable to latch due to the severe stiffness he had. He had numerous blood tests done and a lumbar puncture, which showed he had an infection. The main issue however was severe withdrawals from my antidepressant medication.

Kai was born full term and was one of the only full term babies on NICU. The nurses in NICU were incredible, reassuring me that it wasn't my fault and helping to comfort me when I was crying daily and struggling. They helped me to do skin to skin with him and showed me how to do things like changing his nappy and feed him my expressed milk. It was very overwhelming in there initially as it is devastating to see your little one covered in wires, with cannulas and tubes, and to hear all the machines too. But the staff were so lovely to me, especially as I was on my own due to not being allowed my husband or any other visitors, because of the COVID-19 rules.

The nurses set me up with a breast pump next to my son, so I could express milk for him there as well as back on the postnatal ward. The doctors were brilliant, they explained everything to me and made sure I was informed all of the time and involved in decisions. I wish I could have had someone to hug me or hold my hand, but the staff on the NICU made me feel so much better despite not being able to do that.

Kai was doing well after a few days and he was moved out of his incubator into a crib. It was so tough knowing I couldn't see my husband and that he couldn't really visit Kai. In the unit, the rule was one parent per day and I was still a patient myself, trying to keep attempting breastfeeding, it made sense for me to be with Kai daily. My husband did spend one day with him in NICU when I was unwell, after having IV antibiotics and an iron transfusion. It was upsetting as I wasn't allowed in that day to see either Kai or my husband but, I could still drop my expressed milk to the unit.

I had to wear a mask at all times in NICU, which was frustrating as I couldn't kiss Kai and it made me hot and anxious, but I understood why. I hadn't planned to be in hospital with him for so long so I didn't have enough baby grows so the unit very kindly gave us some for him.

In two weeks, Kai will be a year old and is a cheeky, happy, loving little boy. He was admitted to the children's ward a few weeks after being discharged from NICU, as the withdrawal symptoms were still there. He had another lumbar puncture and an MRI scan, which luckily showed no brain damage. He now has no issues from the withdrawals, although symptoms did persist until he was nearly 6 months old, but he was cared for by the hospital until then.

I'm so grateful to all of the staff on the NICU for looking after Kai so well and also- for looking after me too. Every person there was so understanding, compassionate and caring. It was such a tough time for us, made a lot tougher by the COVID-19 restrictions.