Written by Lisa Norman

Everyone’s day will be slightly different but this was my experience of a day in the NICU while I was still in hospital and then once I was discharged. The days changed based on how fit and well I was. It will also depend on personal circumstances such as other children being at home and how far from the hospital you live.

Whilst I was in hospital I was pretty exhausted. I had an emergency c-section and on the first night was put in a room with three other mums, two had their babies with them and the other like me had her baby in the NICU. I was checked on every few hours through the night. I was completely bed bound and relied on the staff for updates, which they provided each time they checked me over.

The next day I was able to go to the NICU if I was assisted by someone who could push a wheelchair. I made a few assisted visits but by the end of the day I was making the trip unassisted. In the evening my parents came to visit by which point I was allocated my own room. As soon as they left I closed my eyes. The next thing I knew it was morning and I was tightly tucked into my bed (the work of one of the nurses checking on me through her night shift). I woke up knowing I had just had a really deep sleep.

Surgery in a hospital operating theatre. Photography credit: Jonathan Borba
Surgery in a hospital operating theatre. Photography credit: Jonathan Borba

A regular routine

My routine got a lot more regular from then on. I would get up and get ready, the breakfast point was right outside my door so I’d grab a yoghurt and banana. I would eat breakfast and express. Then straight up to the NICU. The nurses would ask that I was back for observations and lunch, I know how hard the nurses work so I would try not to make their jobs any harder. Straight after expressing, picking at some lunch and have my observations done I was straight back up to the NICU. In the evening it was visiting time, visitors had to be accompanied to the NICU so me and my husband took it in turns to take visitors up.

The longer I spent in the NICU the more my confidence grew. Nurses taught me to do cares and encouraged me to talk to my little boy. They also taught me what the figures on the machines meant and what was normal or where we were aiming to be and what the numbers meant for my little boy.

Mum holding hands with her premature baby
Mum holding hands with her premature baby

After 5 days I was discharged but because of the c-section I wasn’t able to drive! I was suddenly really reliant on other people from taking me to the hospital. I never truly realised how much having my own car gave me so much independence. My parents were still wanting daily visits so I was going with them to either the afternoon or evening visiting slots. Then I would go with my husband after the shift change, my husband preferred to go at night when it was quiet.

All change

Then it all changed my little boy needed to be transferred to a more specialist hospital. This hospital was about an hour away (if the traffic was good). The drive was really uncomfortable even though I was the passenger. My husband recognised this and decided evening visits would still be best when the traffic was lighter. The routine changed so we went to see him every day leaving our house about 6.30pm and getting home around 10.30/11pm.

We got the amazing news that our son was to be transferred back to the local hospital a few days before Christmas. I decided to test if I could do an emergency stop and checked with my insurance they any set time limit they had included in my insurance policy. I could finally drive again, I had my freedom back!

From here on I decided to do what I did in a working day. My working day used to start at 7am and finish at 4pm. So I would be up at 6am and set off at 6.45am armed with a water bottle, snacks, things my little boy needed, breast pump and my phone. I would arrive at 7am, which also meant I was able to get decent parking, and leave at 4pm. I would go home to eat with my husband then we would go back to tuck our son into bed and settle him for the night.

Clocks on a wall. Photography credit: Karim Manjra
Clocks on a wall. Photography credit: Karim Manjra

A day in the NICU – new routine

This then remained my routine until my baby boy was ready for discharge. I did have a few afternoons where a few nurses insisted that I take a break. On those afternoons I was able to sort out my son’s nursery furniture and catch up with a few jobs. I wasn’t keen on taking the breaks at the time but I’m really glad I did as I didn’t realise how just a few hours off made a huge difference to my mental state.

The routine changed quite a lot depending on circumstances and my c-section recovery. Some weeks a day in the NICU was the same every day, others weeks every day was different. I also reliant on who was available to take me to and from the hospital when I wasn’t able to drive. You find your own routine though and it’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong amount of time to spend in the NICU.

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