I was not prepared for a sick child. I had a very easy pregnancy, well except the anxiety of becoming a mother. But a few hours after delivery, there I was in the hospital bed crying after the pediatrician told me that my daughter is a ‘bit lazy’ and has to be monitored in the nursery as they run a couple of tests. Little did we know that was just the beginning of the continuous problems that kept us in the hospital for the next two weeks. After 6 days of agony, it was discovered that she had an infection which brought more complications. It is an understatement to say they were the most difficult days of my life.
The picture of your helpless child connected to multiple tubes and beeping machines has the power to undo you. You leave your child in the hands of others, as you go home and spend a night of torture not knowing what awaits you in the morning. So, as I said goodbye to my daughter every night before going home, I kept on asking myself, ‘How did other mothers maintain their sanity in such experience?’. Unfortunately, many mothers end up with their newborns in the hospital for weeks, months or years in some instances. Here is how I kept my sanity in those two weeks.
The number of machines your child is connected to especially if your child is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be frightening. Being well informed about the situation such as learning about how things work in there, details of your child’s medical condition from the doctors and nurses, time of medication and daily updates helps in settling your mind. The nurses, because they care for your child every day, are the best people to ask any questions you might have. Since that experience, I regard nurses very highly.
The first night I spent at home after being discharged from the hospital was pure hell. I broke down looking at my reflection in the mirror just because the breast pump was not working properly then I sobered up and lifted myself up to keep on trying. My daughter depended on me so I had to be strong and breast milk was one of the most important things she needed to get well. An emotional breakdown is expected in such a situation but you have to find your strength and soldier on to help your child. It is okay to cry but don’t let the situation take over you.
There are hopeful days where you see your child getting well and then there are gloomy moments where you lose hope. It is good to have a strong partner or family member around you to keep you uplifted through the trying moments. You can also create your own mesh of ‘mothers in crisis group’ in the hospital who have the power to make you laugh as they are going through the same journey.
I also learned to ignore unsolicited advices. You understand people mean well when they offer an advice but how is ‘If only you had enough breast milk.’ going to help your already stressed mind? So, ignore politely and move on. Yes, there are bills piling up and the doctors might not have positive news but try to focus on giving your best to your child.
In the end, we all have different experiences but we can agree that children are fighters. Ten months later, I write with my beautiful baby girl in my arms, happy and healthy. I always remember what one doctor said to me, that children are born to fight but we have to fight with them. My daughter fought and came out victorious. I don’t take that for granted.
This first appeared on The Standard on 12 March 2017