Neonates. What an all-encompassing, all-consuming, emotionally exhausting experience. I’m finding it hard to find the words to say to describe the 19 days Awena spent in the neonatal unit. I think I have to start by thanking the amazing staff who made the whole experience so much more manageable. Without their reassurance, confidence and general chats I am convinced it would have been a lot tougher. So to all those on the University Hospital of Wales Neonatal team; thank you.
After our initial visit, due to COVID-19, Dafydd and I were not allowed to visit Awena together. Only one parent was allowed per day and absolutely no children. I was discharged from the hospital on the evening of the 23rd, only 41 hours after Awena was born. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. People talk about the strength of the maternal bond and having to leave this tiny person in the hospital whilst I went home was almost unbearable. I got into the car with Daf having held it together as the midwives went through the discharge paperwork and broke down. My baby was not coming home with me. This tiny, helpless life was staying in her incubator with a tube in her nose whilst I left and went home for dinner. The rollercoaster looped the loop. Talk about mum guilt.
It’s really hard to capture the emotional journey that these 19 days brought with it. Some days I felt better, other days I just couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I remember one evening singing (or trying to sing) All is Found to Poppi from Frozen 2. In the film, the mother strokes down Anna’s forehead and nose whilst singing this song. When Awena was unsettled I did the same thing. The rollercoaster zigged and zagged. Singing the song to Poppi that evening and knowing Awena wasn’t with us was too much to bear.
The evenings were definitely the hardest. If either Daf or I was in the hospital with her I felt better. But putting her back in her little cot at 5 o’clock to come home and be with Poppi for dinner didn’t get any easier. One morning, I was up early and decided to go out for a walk. Physically, I was doing well and it felt good to get out, get some fresh air and have some space to think and reflect. I spent most of the walk in floods of tears but also found a peace in knowing that Awena was in the right place. I felt prompted by my heavenly Father that sometimes we may face situations and feel alone, but we are in the right place to grow stronger. This doesn’t mean God loves us any less. Although I knew it all along I felt a new sense of conviction that Awena was in the right place to grow stronger. If I was to whip her away from the hospital I would be putting her life at risk. However, leaving her didn’t mean I loved her any less. In fact, It showed just how much I loved her because I wanted her to be safe. A dear friend of mine encouraged me to imagine that as I left the chair beside Awena’s bed, Jesus was taking the night shift and would stay with her whilst I couldn’t be there. The rollercoaster moved gently forwards.
The days were long and exhausting and this tiny life had so much to learn. We had to go at her pace and I had to be patient. On the whole, she was doing remarkably well. Awena hadn’t needed oxygen and she was soon able to be moved into a cot from the incubator. She maintained her temperature and we didn’t have any trouble with keeping feeds down. Awena certainly enjoys her food! The doctors and consultants would do a daily round and for day after day, it was the same thing…establishing feeds. Until this little monkey could feed independently we were stuck. This meant I needed to be in the hospital daily so she could practice. Naturally, this exhausted her and led to some demoralising days where she barely managed anything. The rollercoaster plummeted.
At the end of a week of going in every day, Daf went to take a turn. Awena took the bottle all day. When I returned on Tuesday morning the tube had gone from her nose. She had taken the bottle all night. I was soon met with the news that if she continued to feed independently for the next 24 hours we could go home! And if it all came together that might be as soon as the next day! What?!?! The rollercoaster soared. And she did. Daf and I were invited to spend the night in the hospital so Awena could feed from me overnight. The rollercoaster turned. Was I ready for this?! It was a long night but we got there. The rollercoaster climbed and continued to climb as we waited to find out if we would be taking our little bundle home with us. And we did. The rollercoaster paused.