This post is a Guest Post by my husband, giving his perspective on having a child in special care.
For me I was always more worried about my wife than anything else. The doctors sat her on the table, and the previously friendly anesthesiologist began to have a bit of a tiff with the surgeon in charge about where the site the spinal. Glances across the room to the wonderful midwife and theater staff revealed more than a little panic on their faces, I can only imagine how mine looked. I held a sick bowl for Kat and tried to calm her as best I could. Despite repeated attempts to tell them she could still feel they pressed on and cut into her, causing her much pain. Later, by her bed side while she slept off an interminable amount of morphine, the anesthesiologist would put it to me in a round about sort of a way that he thought that she was making up the pain. When they decided to put her under I was rushed out of the room quickly without a chance to tell her how much I love her, and then left into a hallway holding a sick bowl with no idea what I should be doing, if anything. A brief, ugly skirmish with the non-english speaking gentleman that shoved me out of the theater ensued when all I asked was where to put the sick bowl, and where I had to wait. The exchange left me in tears lying on the floor of the recovery bay, still holding the bowl, which he had deposited my glasses into. This is a man that works in surgery. I was terrified.
Later, I was told that my daughter had been born, congratulations! But you can’t see her. We can’t tell you what she weighs. We can’t tell you when Kat is getting out of theater or how she is doing. Sit there and try not to weep onto the furniture.
Eventually, after a long wait I get to go to special care and visit my daughter, Eve. I was not phased by all the tubes, wires and lights – I had been prepared for it by a fantastic doctor – but the sheer number of people working on her scared me. It scared me more when they wouldn’t let me into the room. I was eventually guided to a clear, hexangonal box that looks more like a high tech coffin than a life support device, and peered in through scratched panels at a tiny… elephant. Big white trunk for breathing, gauss for ears and cables and wires from every paw. A staff member babbled at me about what I could and couldn’t do without their say so, which is everything. I just stared at my little girl. I felt nothing except uncomfortable in SCBU. And I left as soon as I could, because it was so over-whelming.
Its hard to connect with your child when they live in a box, behind two locked doors and a metric ton of NHS administrative rules. The first time they tell you you cannot, under any circumstances, pick up your child, is maddening. Worse still when its not for a good reason.
You want to love them. You really do. But it doesn’t come as readily as a non-special care baby. Its more trickle-down than the outpouring of emotions I had experienced with my first child, my son. 3 weeks and a bit in, and I’m starting to love her. I’m finding her cute, and beginning to see snippets of her personality. But the majority of it came after they let her out of the incubator and into a normal crib for the first time. I no longer have to ask permission to love her. More obstructions are thrown at you there every day though. From your child being put in someone elses clothes, to a nurse not being bothered to bottle feed her and opting for the quick, down the tube method instead.
They have final say, at the end of the day. I was told initially that “you are the most important thing in your childs life, barr none. Not us. You work with us every step of the way”. That’s just not the case. You cannot possibly bond with a child that is 3 weeks and counting raised by 30 other people. Other people that see her as just another last name on a list. Until she is home, she will not be ours. She will be theirs. And we’re just renting her for a couple of hours a day. Welcome to SCBU – where parents are the afterthought.