The struggle to bond with my baby - Millie's story

Millie 2

Millie talks about the struggle to bond with her baby on the neonatal unit and how this affected her.

My pregnancy was a huge, but happy surprise. It was a pretty normal pregnancy to start with, the only complication I had was Group B Streptococcus (GBS) but was told this wasn’t a major issue. So I just got on with it. I enjoyed my pregnancy - besides the typical morning sickness and back pain.

At 33 weeks pregnant I went to the doctors with what I thought was a UTI. The doctor found protein in my urine and my blood pressure was 140/98 which is borderline high. I was sent to triage but slowly my blood pressure lowered and I was sent home.

I really didn't want to go home and became very anxious about what was happening and what could happen to me and my baby. At 34+3 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure had reached 193/133 and I was rushed to delivery where a team of midwives, consultants and anaesthetists worked to save both of our lives.

I half remember seeing my boyfriend and parents standing over me telling me everything would be okay. I don’t remember much else because I blacked out again.

After two and half hours I was stable enough for an emergency c-section. I was terrified. So many thoughts darted around my head - it was too early, was the baby ok? Was I ok?

Moments later my baby was born. It felt like minutes before we heard him cry, then he suddenly stopped. Seconds later, he gave out another small cry and then there was nothing. I was in and out of consciousness because I was so poorly myself but I will always remember the worry on my partner’s face.

Our baby boy had to be resuscitated due to his lungs being so tiny. My partner burst into tears as he was given the thumbs up that our baby was breathing and stable. He was taken down to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he stayed for three weeks while learning to breathe on his own and how to feed from the bottle.

I was hooked up to medicine for 48 hours after my baby was born and then I was allowed to see him. My partner had already seen our baby a few times and he was familiar with the NICU. I was so nervous I felt sick as he wheeled me down to meet our baby.

I can't describe the smell of the neonatal unit. It was hot and noisy with all the machines beeping and in all honesty the first few times I was taken there it felt daunting. Those were the longest three weeks of my life, but luckily I got speaking to other parents in the unit and we bonded over our babies and their stories.

I struggled to bond with my baby as I felt I’d been cheated out of a normal birth and all the firsts that come with having a new born. I would come down to the neonatal unit and sit for an hour staring at this tiny baby in a plastic box. I didn't feel like he was mine. I didn't feel connected to him. When I was allowed to hold him for an hour I didn't feel like I was holding my baby, but someone else's.

The nurses and staff encouraged me to speak to him, at first I felt ridiculous but slowly I gained the confidence to talk to my baby, Freddie, and help do his cares. With the help of the nurses and staff I learnt how to bath my baby, which was a wonderful experience. They taught me how to comfort him when he was unsettled, which was a massive help when we brought him home. It wasn't until he was about two months old that I finally felt like we'd bonded. I’ll be forever grateful to the neonatal staff for helping me hold it together for my little 4lbs 13oz baby. I also don't know what I would've done without being able to read the information given to me from Bliss. It really calmed my anxieties about being a first time mum to a preemie baby.

When the time came to go home it didn't feel real. I thought I was going to be told: "Actually no, you can't go home". The big day arrived and I was excited, but I was also absolutely petrified. There would be no one to reassure me I was doing the right thing and no machines to tell me if Freddie was breathing fine. Despite my anxieties, we survived and learnt how to be a family at home together – away from the hospital.

I now have a very happy and healthy 22lbs seven-month-old baby boy called Freddie. He's a delightful baby whose developments have just about caught up to his peers and his weight certainly has. We still have the odd issue with his health because his immune system is immature. A simple viral infection will often land us in hospital with him. Being so comfortable with hospitals and the routine of things means that's ok - as long as my boy is ok too.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, view our online support pages.