As told by Dad, Sam
I woke up to your Mumma restless and complaining, we both brushed it off as a funny tummy not realising what was to come. She spent the rest of the night on the couch watching TV and I assumed that nothing was wrong. I woke up to my alarm as usual and walked into the lounge, I could tell by just looking at her that something wasn’t right. She made phone calls to her midwife while I got your brother Brook ready to go to Nannies. We had to go to the hospital to get you and Mumma checked.
As I was driving to drop Brookie off I could feel a massive wave of uncertainty and worry boiling up inside my body and I’m sure he could tell something wasn’t right. I said goodbye to Brookie not knowing that that was the last time he would see his Mumma and Daddy for quite a few days.
We got to the hospital with an overnight bag that the midwife told us to pack just in case. Mumma got hooked up to machines and we watched and waited for the doctors and nurses to figure out what was going on. They did tests, they did an internal, they did everything to make sure they were right before they said “you are going to be having your baby very soon”.
So many thoughts crossed our minds… Mumma is only 27 weeks pregnant, we have just finished painting your room, we have to save more money, we have to buy a bassinet, Mumma’s not even finished work yet…….this is not part of our plan. We had everything planned out to make sure we didn’t go through what happened with Brookie. But none of that mattered now. We had to get you and Mumma to work together and be strong for each other.
I don’t remember a lot of what went on after we got told what was happening. I don’t know how much your Mumma and I talked together or if we even cried, but one thing I clearly remember was bursting into tears ringing Nannie to tell her what was going on. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so uncertain and worried in my life not only for you but for Mumma, for Brookie and for me.
The doctors got us prepared for your birth. They tried to slow you down, but it wasn’t working. I held Mumma’s hand the whole time reminding her of how she was strong enough to do this even though it was not part of our plan. Your Mumma is such a strong woman and the doctors were surprised how she was able to hold herself together all while going through contractions, being fully dilated and dealing with the fact that you were coming just over 12 weeks early. She pushed, cried and screamed till you arrived.
I got a quick look at your tiny, bruised but beautiful body before they whisked you away. I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I didn’t know what or how to feel. I watched the doctors do what they needed to do and I still have an image in my head, even today, of one of the doctor’s nod and smile at me as if to say, ‘she’s ok’.
Mumma couldn’t watch. I don’t think she knew what to do apart from protect herself from seeing you, so she didn’t break down even more. I was so proud of her for what she did for you. She was so brave and strong to do something that she never wanted to do and something that she feared doing again. Yet she overcame all of this and did it all for you, to keep you safe.
Mumma got wheeled into SCBU on her bed while I walked (I can’t even remember if I held her hand). The first time we both saw you, you were in an incubator with all sorts of tubes, cords, tape and breathing devices attached to your tiny body. Your face was bruised from when you popped out into this new world. It was heart breaking knowing we couldn’t hold you, couldn’t help you, couldn’t feel your cuddles. All we could do was hold and touch your tiny hand. I felt helpless and hopeless.
Mumma looked worse than me and I felt so sorry and sad for her, not being able to hold you to keep you safe. What was even harder was that she had to stay behind in hospital while you and I flew to Wellington. This was the absolute worst for me. I didn’t know what to do or who to look after.
We all said our goodbyes though many tears, much fear and a lot of sadness. Mumma held your hand so tight, she told you she loved you and cried while you were wheeled away from her by the air ambulance staff just hours after meeting you for the first time. No one will ever know the pain that she had to go through at that moment. She is the only one that will ever carry that and be able to process it and I really felt for her.
I don’t fly well at the best of times but being on that small plane was somewhat calming. I couldn’t hear anything as it was so noisy and was wearing earmuffs. I couldn’t do anything but sit in my seat. I could however, see the flight team behind me, and I could see your monitor. The hour-long flight was the first time I was able to be in my own head since my alarm went off that morning, the first time I got to process what was going on. I was so close to breaking down but knowing that the flight team were calm and not doing too much with you made the flight easier.
We landed in Wellington and was told you’d had an amazing flight. I was so pleased and relieved that you were doing well and were being strong. We got to Wellington Hospital and the Doctors and Nurses got you settled into NICU, your new home for however many weeks it needed to be. The nurses reassured me that you were doing well, that you were safe and were a strong and an amazing little girl, then they told me I should go and have a sleep. I woke in the morning after a restless couple of hours with the harsh reality hitting, this was our reality and we had no idea how long we were going to be on this journey.
The next morning, we finally managed to get Mumma on a plane down to Wellington. We had a room booked in at Ronald McDonald house across the road from the hospital and had family back in Napier packing bags, looking after our house and taking care of Brookie. Now the only thing we didn’t have was certainty about you.
Once Mumma got to see you in NICU the doctors explained what was going on and how well you were doing. They made sure that we were ok and understood everything that was happening. They kept reassuring us that you were ok, you were a good weight for your gestation and that they would do everything they could to keep you healthy and safe. This gave us hope.
It took a while for us to settle into a routine and into Ronald McDonald house. I remember breaking down in our room one afternoon after leaving you in hospital. I burst into tears without any warning. I couldn’t stop, all that was going through my head was ‘why us? Why again?”. Why did your Mumma and I have to go through hell again? Why did we have to deal with another hardship? Why did we have to go to Wellington? Why did any of this have to happen?” At this point I had no idea how we were going to get through this process, or what was going to happen to us, I just knew we had to ride the wave and do what we could to look after our precious family.
Over the next couple of weeks, we learnt so much. We learnt there was no reason you decided to come early, you just needed to be here. We learnt all about how to look after you and how to do your cares. We learnt a whole lot of medical terms; IV fluids, CPAP, DSATS, blood transfusions and medical procedures you had to have. None of this we would have ever known about without this experience.
Kennedy, the day we were both ultimately waiting for was the day we could finally get you up for a cuddle. I watched Mumma get her first cuddle, a day I’ll never forget. I was expecting there to be lots of tears but there were only massive smiles and so much happiness. You were calm and comfortable. I was so happy that you were finally able to share a cuddle with Mumma, something that the both of you had been longing for since you arrived. My heart melted with love seeing you both together. There is nothing that can prepare you for what this moment feels like. It’s so hard to explain how holding a 1260g baby with tubes and wires coming off their tiny body feels. It’s a surreal feeling knowing that this cuddle must come to end in an hour so that you can go back into your plastic box. It just wasn’t fair.
Kennedy, as you grew bigger and stronger the doctors and nurses explained that Mumma would need to give you breast milk. Now Mumma was never going to do any expressing, let alone breastfeed you. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she couldn’t do it after what she endured with Brookie. However, your Mumma is one strong minded woman. She decided that the best thing for you was for her to express which took a lot of courage for her to do. After a while, once she got used to this, she decided she wanted to try breastfeeding you, she said that this might help heal the pain she went through with her breastfeeding experience with Brook. When she told me this I cried, I was so proud of her for doing this for you and for her. Even though you weren’t ready for oral feeds just yet Mumma knew she was ready to try when you were.
Kennedy, after 3.5 weeks in Wellington I had to leave you. I had to go home. I had to take Brookie with me. He needed some sort of normality and I had to go back to work. When we left, I had no idea how long you were going to have to stay or how long until I would see Mumma again.
Luckily for everyone it was only two days and you were both flown back to Hastings hospital. I thought to myself “you are closer to home, Mumma’s home, everything will be easier”. Oh, how we were wrong! Even though you were in Hasting SCBU it somehow made life so much harder. We couldn’t just pop over and see you whenever we wanted, we had to drive 20 minutes to see you.
It was easier for Mumma to spend the whole day with you which was both good and bad. I could only come and see you after work or after Brookie had gone to sleep. I felt a huge amount of pressure trying to divide my time between you, Mumma and Brookie. I barely had time to look after myself. Towards the end of your stay in SCBU Mumma was getting tired, she needed a break to be healthy for you when you came home and we decided that I would have the day with you on Fridays.
October 9th, 2019, was the best day of the year, it was the day we finally got to bring you home. The day we were finally a complete family. Even though we had to bring you home on oxygen, we were so so happy for you to be with us. Nerves and anxiety were high between both me and Mumma. It felt so good taking you home but still very hard leaving the ‘cocoon’ that we had in SCBU. We had met so many amazing nurses and parents.
We had been told when taking you home that we couldn’t take you out and about to public places. No going to town, no going to super busy cafes and definitely no supermarkets. That we must be mindful of who comes around to see you, always thinking and asking if they or their family have been sick. That you can’t go to kindy with Mumma when she drops Brookie off. It was our job to look after you and keep you healthy.
No one will understand after all the tears we had cried, the hugs we shared, the physical, emotional and mental investment we put into what we have been through with you and Brookie, how hard it is to take a step back and accept help, or then put you in situations that could be detrimental to your health, how to be apart from you for long periods of time. Some may see it as being ‘over protective’ or ‘helicopter parenting’ and will share their opinions about what we should do but they have no idea about what’s going through our minds or how anxious life now makes us feel.
Kennedy, over the many weeks you spent in Wellington NICU and Hastings SCBU we all grew. You, a tiny baby growing and putting on weight, your brother, Brookie, learnt how to be resilient, and that he now has a baby sister to help look after. His life had totally been thrown upside down. One minute he was saying goodbye to me expecting to be picked up in the afternoon, the next, he was traveling back and forth from Nanny and Grandads house to Wellington to stay in his ‘holiday house” which he called his Ronald McDonald house or stay at Poppa and Gramm’s house. He even had his 3rd birthday while we were staying at Ronald McDonald house. He and I actually had a lot of fun while we were there. Now he helps look after you, he runs to get your dummy if you cry and he wants to change your nappy.
The person that grew the most and who I am most proud of is your Mumma. For all that she had gone through with Brookie, her plans that she made for your birth to have them completely turned upside down and come out of it the way she has, is simply amazing. She learnt so much about you and herself. She will share an extra special unbreakable bond with you forever. I can’t express in words exactly how proud I am or how much my love has grown for her.
I love how our little family is so strong and in sync. I now realise I know the answer to the question “Why us? Why again?” It’s because we can! It’s because we’ve got this, and we are coming out the other side better people and a stronger family……
*** Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sam ***
Sam’s wife, Kelsie also bravely shared her open letter to their daughter Kennedy which you can read here
We get a lot of positive feedback from families in a neonatal unit who read these stories and feel strength, hope and positivity knowing that they are not alone going through these experiences and feeling certain emotions. If you would like to discuss sharing the story of your neonatal journey, we’d love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Information is power. We’ve provided a number of resources to help parents through their neonatal journey. Our ‘Tips for Dads’ resource provides a number of tips written by fathers who have been through a neonatal journey. You can read it here: Tips for Dads
Interested in how The Neonatal Trust supports families going through the stress and anxiety of a neonatal journey?
Here’s a gallery of support examples.