Moments of joy soon turned sour after this mother found herself mourning over her son at the intensive care unit.
I felt like an absolute failure. I had my son five weeks prior and now he was on a ventilator fighting for his life. What was this Respiratory Syncytial Virus [RSV]? I had never heard of it before, but when my son suddenly became sick it became the soundtrack of my life.
Doctors and nurses began to utter it as I entered the clinic. They stated that it was RSV season and it was common for people to catch it. But a baby? He wasn’t even two months old but he was now lethargic and exhibiting a barking cough. It was worrisome and left me in a constant panic. This was exacerbated when his oxygen suddenly began to decline and he soon needed to receive support to breathe.
Soon after, I found myself in the emergency room with doctors and nurses around him trying to resuscitate him. Multiple times, I wanted to pass out from fear but held it together for him. Moments later, oxygen was being manually pumped by a doctor as we made our way to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [NICU] because his lungs had collapsed.
I mourned him while he was in a medically induced coma. I grieved the coos and his sweet smile. He was a newborn and I was supposed to be enjoying his entrance into this world. Instead, I sat on a chair next to him for seven days straight. I ate the same three types of pasta, and watched the salad go bad because I did not have a desire for pretty much anything.
‘I still failed’
As a new mum, I had done everything correctly. We stayed at home, and if I went out for a walk, he was in his stroller. I was careful not to hand him over to anyone and tried to do things correctly – but I still failed.
I projected my guilt over and over again as I stared at the white walls in front of me. The comfort of nurses and presence of doctors in the morning helped me feel a bit better. It was tough but there were other babies in the same boat. Together, the mums and I supported one another through the devastating peaks. It was tough but we had to be strong for our babies.
There were many things that I learned about the NICU stay. I learned that it’s okay to cry when you need to, asking questions offers you some sort of comfort, everyone is struggling somehow, and at times, it does get worse but it also can get better.
“Sometimes, things happen that are out of your hands”
The NICU is a tough place to be both mentally and emotionally. However, the paediatric NICU doctors at Hamad are kind, caring, and dedicated to their patients. The nurses are phenomenal and become like friends that are hard to leave once it’s time to go home.
Sometimes, things happen that are out of your hands. You cannot always predict what will happen next, but if there’s anything that I learned that was super helpful, it’s that I cannot define myself by my circumstances.
I was not a failure, I was a good mum that tried her best.
There are situations that you can’t control and as a result, these trials can become some of the most difficult memories that you struggle to look back on later. It helped me empathise with other mums whose children have to enter the NICU for long periods of time, or even for short stays that are sometimes unpredictable.
Although my newborn catching RSV was a very challenging experience, it taught me that perseverance can be defined in different ways.
It doesn’t have to look like a warrior beaming over her victory on the battlefield. Maybe perseverance looks like a worn out new mum carrying her baby in the car seat and out of the NICU with the little energy she has left.
Her most prized moment can be when she finally smiles and releases that breath of relief she has been longing for since the moment she entered the hospital.
This article was written by an anonymous contributor.