“My baby was full term, surely I had no right to complain?” - Lily’s story #FullTermFeelings

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A few hours after Lily's baby girl was born at full term, she was whisked away to NICU. For Full Term Awareness, Lily shares what it was like to be a full term parent with a baby in neonatal care.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I never thought it would happen to me. My partner and I decided not to find out our baby’s gender, and I remember saying to people, “As long as the baby is born healthy!” We had no signs that our child would be born any other way.

I had a very normal pregnancy, and every scan and midwife appointment reassured us further that everything was going well. I started having irregular contractions on my due date, and two days later when the warm baths, paracetamol and hot water bottles weren’t helping, we drove to the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.

When I arrived and underwent the initial checks, the student midwife was unsure as to whether the Doppler was malfunctioning as my baby’s heart rate was too fast to detect. It sounded like a galloping horse and measured approximately 240bpm. Four internal heart rate monitors and machines later, my little girl was born.

All seemed fine with her newborn checks, and besides her slightly flushed red appearance, we thought we’d be taking our new baby home the next day.

Three hours later, our little girl went floppy and unresponsive. Her heart rate was racing once again, and she was whisked off to the NICU. We were terrified. After being relocated to another room, we were informed around six hours later that our little girl was stable for now in the NICU and they were still trying to diagnose what was causing her elevated heart rate.

They eventually concluded that she had supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). Seeing our little girl in her incubator in the NICU broke me in ways that I never thought possible. We were unable to hold her because of her breathing tube, feeding tube, and cannulas. But then I also felt like a fraud. We were surrounded by pre-term babies, many of whom had either had a long stay already or were only at the beginning of their NICU journey.

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I remember being inconsolable in the tea room as I had yet to hold or feed my own child. We had only been there a day. Another mum started talking to me about how her child had been in the NICU for six weeks.

I instantly felt awful - overdramatic - how could I complain when this woman was going through so much worse? My baby was full term, surely I had no right to complain? I was an imposter. I still can’t shake that feeling now when I reflect on our NICU journey.

The NICU nurses were incredible. Even with Covid-19 protocols whereby my partner and I had to pre-book two hours slots to visit our little girl together, the staff made sure we made the most of our time with her and sent updates through their online portal with photos and messages.

Unfortunately, after leaving the NICU, we had further issues which led to a stay within the neighbouring hospital’s PICU, and Paediatric Cardiology Unit. However, I cannot thank the teams we dealt with enough. Without their kindness and support, this tough beginning would have been even tougher.

I repeat - hindsight is a wonderful thing. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. I count my blessings every day that our NICU journey was short, but it absolutely left a lasting impression on me. I am so thankful that we were one of the lucky ones and our little girl is now a healthy, thriving two-year-old.

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