Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that – and what did you do about it?
It’s fairly rare that I feel completely helpless. I have a remarkably contented life with very few unexpected events.
That’s just the way In like it as it was a different story about 20 months ago. I was seven and a half months pregnant when I was told that there may be a problem with my pregnancy as the baby wasn’t growing enough and I should give up work earlier than planned and put my feet up and rest. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty incapable of putting my feet up for any length of time. But I gave in and cleared my classroom and went home to write my reports.
Two days later, while the Eurovision Song Contest was causing my ears to bleed, I started feeling a bit ‘funny’. Not to worry I thought, but my husband decided we should go to the maternity unit – just in case. Just as well we did, as 6 hours later I was feeling the most helpless I ever had as the baby I had just given birth to and had too short a cuddle with to welcome him into the world was whisked away to the Special Baby Care Unit.
The next two hours were the longest of my life as we waited to be taken to the unit to see him. I remember looking into the incubator at this tiny little thing in a mint green hand knitted hat and the tiniest nappy I’d ever seen and thinking ‘how on earth will I be able to care for him, how can I do all the mummy things I thought I’d be doing?’
The nurses on the unit were amazing, they taught us how to do all the things that we’d been taught on our NCT course but in miniature. Life became a routine of ‘cares’; changing, cleaning and feeding. Every day he got a bit stronger and every few days we moved along through the different stages of the ward towards our escape home. Although I felt helpless, I never felt hopeless as they encouraged me to do as much as I could and start to take over the jobs that they had to do in the beginning and I could see that he was making progress.
Our families kept us sane, fortunately the unit had a policy that parents and grandparents could visit at any time of the day or night and this really helped us all to bond with the newest addition to the family.
The two weeks where we were residents in ‘Baby Prison’ (as I affectionately began to refer to it) seemed like two years. Sometimes I look back at the pictures and can’t believe that he was ever so tiny and helpless. He’s now a perfectly normal toddler; running around like a little whirlwind, beginning to chatter and interested in everything. Apart from the fact he’s still a bit smaller than toddlers of the same age, you’d never know that his arrival into the world had been slightly earlier than planned.