This was my Squidge at 10 days old; an inpatient on the children’s ward at our local hospital. The sense of failure I felt was unbelievable, I was a neonatal nurse yet here I was sat looking at Squidge in an inubator unable to do anything apart from reassure him that I was there, tell him that I loved him and that I would have done anything to change places with him.
I held him while he cried as blood was taken, I kissed the bruises left by needles and cannulas, I sat for hours hooked up to an electric breast pump to provids him with milk while he was unable to feed. On the rare occasions I slept I startled awake thinking I’d heard him make a noise.
It was the worst experience of my life (labour included) and Squidge wasn’t that unwell. We had two admissions and a total of five nights in hospital.
I cared for one child whose parents didn’t get to take him home until after his first birthday.
At no point was I faced with the realisation that Squidge might die, that I might have to make the decision that everything had possible had been tried and that further interventions wouldn’t save his life, just prolong an existence of pain.
I say to parents that I’ve seen both sides, I show them the photo of Squidge if they ask and tell them that he’s now a beautiful, naughty, non-sleeping 9 month old.
When encouraging Mums to express breast milk to help protect the gut of their tiny infants I tell them that I know we’re asking a lot, that it’s draining to express up to 10 times per day to feed a baby that they sometimes can’t even hold.
Squidge was sick but we knew it would be temporary, that he would be well again soon and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I say I’ve been there to give the parents some reassurance that someone has some understanding of what they’re going through; someone to lean on who isn’t going to need to lean on them when they have nothing left to give.
I give them hope.