Leaving him that first night was horrible. Leaving him at all was horrendous. I knew that he needed me to be there, but I wanted to run with him into the night and never let anybody else near him. I wanted to hold my arms around his tiny body and hiss at people that came near our nest. I had to watch as a nurse would rock his cot, say sweet words to him or pat his blanket nest to calm him down. I seethed inside that somebody else had to show me how to calm my baby because I couldn’t simply hold him and rock him. To move him at all was an involved endeavour. First, we had to make sure it was a good time, that no doctor was coming or that he wasn’t due some sort of check. Then we had to make sure that all of his lines were in place and he was ready to be moved. One person would scoop him up and the other would lift his accessories with him. I was lucky I got to hold him at all. But it ached my heart to see him like this. To watch Emmanuel’s happy face as he held him when all I felt was wretched because this was not how it was meant to be. We were meant to be at home with visitors milling in and out. People bringing food and gifts. Not being sent pictures over WhatsApp along with medical updates. This hurt. I had no comparison to an elder child as he is my first, but I knew this was painful even though I didn’t know how blissful it could be. I hated some aspects more than others. The biggest for me was letting other people have control over him. I had to ask to hold my own child. I had to be told what was happening. I wanted to scream at them that they should ask me what was happening to him not the other way around. Yet I knew he needed to be there and I knew he was actually being cared for so well.
I was constantly being pulled back to my own ward. I needed pain meds, I had to eat. I had to have my blood pressure checked. I needed it but I wanted all of them to bugger off as well. Except for the pain meds. They could stay.
The second day in NICU; Zach’s only full day in there. On Tuesday the 18th February 2020 he was born at 1.18pm and went straight to NICU. Wednesday the 19th he was there all day. We had a visitor that day. Emmanuel’s sister came to see us. It was so nice to have somebody visit. Along with my parents. The rest of Emmanuel’s family had been ill so they were keeping away for good measure. NICU babies and Zach were very vulnerable babies. It was a hard decision to make, but we knew they would all see him very soon. Zach’s Aunty Uzo came and gazed upon him as I held him in my arms. But soon, too soon we were all ushered out and away from him. They had to put in a “Long line” as his cannulas were failing, i.e. no drugs or fluid were flowing through them. I didn’t know what a long line was then but I do now. A long line is similar to a cannular but longer. It is a thin ‘line’ that can administer drugs. It is placed in the arm using a needle and a thin wire to go all the up the vein in the arm, across the shoulder and to rest just outside of the heart. I have no idea if when putting in this long line they gave him any painkillers. I just remember green sheets being put up around his cot to make it a mini sterile theatre environment as we were being asked to leave. Me, Emmanuel, Aunty Uzo and my parents all sat in the reception area making conversation as my poor baby boy was having a wire shoved through his arm. Celia bought us chocolate that had ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ written on the wrapper. I cried of course. I cried at everything in those first few days, but it was the first time I had seen the word mummy and it was meant for me. I was a mummy. I struggled to focus on the conversation that was happening. I think we spoke about my parents aiming for a theatre visit and their pending museum trips. Well, when in London.
We went back in after what felt like forever. Zach was not happy. I could tell. He just seemed upset. His arm was covered in blood, all trapped under a sticky plaster that held down the external part of the ‘line.’ It was coiled around and stuck down in the crease of his elbow. The line was now successfully giving him his prostaglandin drug, which was keeping him alive. But your brain can’t comprehend that. All I could see was my baby with blood on him. I had to leave him alone and just stroke his little head. I wanted to hold him so badly, but he was sleeping after the procedure and he was best left to rest.
We went back over to my ward and I forced down some food. They moved us to a private room. My Dad and Uzo helped move our stuff and chatted away as they did so. I was being wheeled as walking was still excruciating. I had a new room, with a shower and toilet en-suite. This was a luxury compared to last night’s situation on the ward. But all I wanted to do was be with Zach. Everything seemed foggy in comparison. My parents left to go and find somewhere to have dinner. We said our goodbyes. Uzo stayed and chatted with us for a while before she too headed home. Alone we sat in our new room the weight of what was happening sat between us. We started to talk about Zach’s little features. The way he moves, the pout of his lips. We forgot for just a few moments the danger he was in and focused only on him. It didn’t last long but it was just what we needed, for us and for each other.
At around 10pm I wanted to see him again and say goodnight. So Emmanuel pulled on his trainers and diligently wheeled me back across the ward. It was becoming a familiar route. He parked me by his cot and immediately I started crying.
“He’s sad,” I told Emmanuel before I knew the words were out of my mouth. “I can just tell. He is sad.”
“He’s sleeping baby.” He kindly said back.
I cried and cried as I stroked his hand and talked to him. I felt like he thought we had abandoned him. I did not want to leave but it was getting late and I needed to go. NICU is 24 hours for parents but at night the babies need their sleep. There were four other beds in the room also and we needed to let them all get some rest. Before I left, I had told Zach I loved him and that we would be back soon about a million times. I felt like he had lifted slightly. That he knew we were there somehow. So I fought the urge to sleep on the floor next to him and allowed Emmanuel to wheel me back across. He had to help me get into bed. We sat and watched something on the tablet for a bit before falling asleep. I think it was the last episode of Love Island. I had been watching it all and we had missed the last few by coming into hospital. I gazed at the screen but I wasn’t really taking it in.