In my first year of nursing school I completed the common foundation year, which is the programme all UK nursing students take regardless as to whether they will eventually qualify as adult, paediatric or mental health nurses. As part of this programme I had a four week placement at the local maternity hospital, including a few days on neonatal unit. The idea was that we’d experience all aspects of maternity nursing, looking after both mums and babies.
It wasn’t actually this placement or the two days that I spent on the neonatal unit that inspired and motivated me to become a neonatal nurse; I found intensive care scary and it wasn’t until I did a longer placement on adult ITU that I realised that this was the direction I wanted my career to progress.
I looked back on my NICU placement with more fondness than I’d actually felt while I was there; it seemed like the ideal solution to wanting to work in an intensive care environment but not actually wanting to work with adults once I qualified.
I applied to all the neonatal units in the area that were recruiting, was offered a job at my first interview and I’ve never looked back.
There was one particular day on this placement I found upsetting as I spent a shift in the NICU nursery looking after a little girl who was only two days old and had been abandoned by her mum.
Mum had walked into the maternity unit without having attended any antenatal appointments or having any maternity notes. She’d given a fake name and details, had stayed until she’d recovered from the delivery and then simply walked off the ward without the baby.
Leaving this little girl with no clothes or blankets, no nappies or wipes.
Babies are given up for adoption every day for all sorts of reasons; the parents either feeling that they can’t look after them or that they would have a better life with another family.
I don’t judge any women who choose this option; adoption something they’ve usually thought about properly and a decision that they’ve come to with no small amount of upset and heart ache. They make sure that the proper arrangements have been made, that their baby is being properly cared for and that they’ve signed all the relevant paperwork.
After the baby is born they spend little, if any time with their baby because they know that they are letting them go and they don’t want to get attached or cause themselves any more pain.
But this mum just left.
She’d turned and waved at the security camera, grinning as she left.
The baby came to the neonatal nursery because the maternity unit didn’t have enough staff to care for a baby without mum or to liaise with social services and the adoption agency.
Although it wasn’t confirmed the staff suspected that the baby was withdrawing from some sort of illicit substance mum had taken during pregnancy as the little one was fractious and irritable, difficult to settle and frequently sneezing and hiccupping.
Of course she could simply have been missing her mum.
Although there was nothing medically wrong with the baby she took up a lot of the nurses’ time as they tried to comfort and settle her so I was asked if I’d mind.
They’d found her some spare blankets and hospital sleep suits to wear and a snow suit and hat for when she left the hospital but she had nothing of her own.
She’d fought her way out of the hospital blanket she was swaddled in, red and cross with her fluffy hair sticking up on end.
I remembered I’d seen her a few days earlier on the maternity ward; she’d been crying and her mum was nowhere to be seen so I’d picked her up and cuddled her. When mum eventually came back I told her that she’d been crying, which was why I was holding her but mum looked completely uninterested and just put her back into the cot.
Although this was several years before I had Squidge and so had no idea what it was like to have a baby I remember being rather upset that the mum seemed completely unconcerned that her daughter had been crying on her own.
Of course babies cry, sometimes for no discernible reason but this mum didn’t even ask if I knew why she was crying or give her little girl a quick cuddle.
She’d just put her back into the cot and gone back to sleep.
I took the baby and went and sat in a quiet corner of the nursery with her. I snuggled her close to me and she looked up at me with a frown furrowing her eyebrows and scrunching up her nose. She looked thoroughly put out and not a little annoyed by the whole situation, shouting every so often to convey her downright disapproval at life in general.
I wondered if she was shouting for her mum.
I talked to her and sang to her, I gave her a bottle and tried to settle her to sleep but she wasn’t having any of it. She continued to look at me with that same disgruntled expression although she was mostly quiet. Although I was used to babies and did my best to comfort her I was clearly no substitute for her mum.
The person she instinctively looked to for food and comfort, for love and affection.
It bought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.
It hurt my heart to think that even though she would be adopted by a lovely family who would love and care for her, who were desperate for a baby of their own, here and now no one in the world loved this little girl.
She didn’t even have a name.
So I gave her one.
I kept it just between me and this little girl.
She had no understanding of what was going on, she didn’t know that she didn’t have a name but I needed to give her one.
I called her Chloe.
I thought it suited her.
I asked her if she liked it and when she didn’t cry I decided that meant she approved of my choice.
When I was pregnant, before we knew Squidge was a boy me and the Northern One were talking about baby names.
He suggested Chloe for a girl but I already knew a little girl I’d named Chloe, even though it would be an amazing coincidence if that was actually her name.
She’d be almost seven now.
I think of her sometimes; hoping she has a family who love her, who think she’s wonderful and tell her every day that she’s beautiful and special and that they love her.
What does she look like now?
Does she know she’s adopted?
How long did it take before she found her forever family?
Does she have any siblings?
Has her biological mum has had any more children and has she kept any of them?
Does she ever think of the daughter she left behind?
Does anyone else remember that spiky haired, frowny faced little girl?