The Raw Reality of The NICU by a Real NICU Mum

When you're in labour, you don't think about where your baby may end up. You think the world is one amazing happy place and your baby is going to be placed in your arms all pink and breathing, knowing that in just under 24 hours you will be taking your baby home with you... but what happens when that dream is crushed and your baby is pale white, not breathing, and sent to the NICU Ward?

This post isn't going to be happy, this post isn't to educate, this post isn't even to worry you at all. My aim is to prepare - to mentally prepare. When I was induced a day after my water's broke, I was told my baby had a very strong heartbeat and was perfectly healthy swimming inside. Perfection. However, my mind changed when my baby's oxygen levels were dropping at every peek of my continuous contraction.

Once I pushed her out, she was pale white, warm, and lifeless. My baby girl worried me sick. As I saw her on the resuscitation table not moving and not breathing, having an oxygen mask hovering over her tiny face, I saw my mother looking at her; her skin like a ghost. Will my baby survive?

It took only eight minutes to push out my baby girl. Eight. It was only a minute or so to get her back to breathing again, but it felt like an eternity. 

Thank god my baby was back breathing and alert. I held her in my arms as tight as I could, her big blue eyes staring up at me. Beautiful. At that moment, I never thought that an incubator would be pushed into the Delivery Suite by an NICU nurse asking permission to take my daughter away for urgent care. 

I had just pushed her out, when was the bonding time going to begin if you take my baby? It took a few attempts by the nurse to take my baby; I didn't want to let her go but I knew she needed care. Off she went... my sweet, tiny, 5lb baby taken in an incubator to a different ward whilst I was still lay on the bed being stitched up. Heartbroken.

By the time I had showered, dressed, and sorted out my bags, Alexander had already visited Rhea to see how she was and where she was being taken care of. It was my turn to go see her. Being pushed down to the NICU Ward, my heart beat so fast.

What I also never expected, was to watch the babies around Rhea-Jane every day for a week. Rhea was in NICU for the grunting when she breathed, she was on an IV drip, she was jaundice, and tube fed. It took her a week to learn how to feed every 4 hours on demand out of a bottle.

Every NICU is scary, but I have to say that the nurses who attended to Rhea-Jane day and night were amazing. They treated every single baby in their room as their own; fed, changed, bathed, and cuddled every single baby every single day.

Every single day I sat with my baby girl, and every single day I watched babies come and go. Babies so sick that you could only feel sympathy and heartbreak for the mother sat by her baby's side crying and rocking her baby whilst whispering for her baby to get stronger; babies so small they were not allowed to be held and constantly in an incubator struggling to hold on; babies with an illness so bad that you couldn't bare the thought of what the family and baby was going through.

There was one baby that was constantly by Rhea-Jane's incubator. He was a 26 week-er. His mother came in every day with her fresh breast milk, marking the time and date of when she expressed so she could feed her tiny human to make him stronger and give him the antibodies he urgently needed. She would put on a brave face, smiling and joking, hiding how she really truly felt.

The days went by and this little guy just got worse; he developed sepsis. It was around 10pm once all the mothers and fathers who didn't stay at the hospital went home, nurses rushed to his side, prepared the surgery equipment, put on their protective aprons and gloves, asked every mother and father in the room to leave, and began to operate on this little guy right there and then.

The next morning when I went to visit my daughter, I saw this little man lay in his incubator sleeping peacefully with a huge plaster across his stomach. How can life be so cruel? It wasn't until his mother came in for her day with her baby that I saw her face drop and her skin crawl as the nurses explain what had happened overnight. I felt sick for her. All anyone could do was comfort her and watch as she tried to carry on as normal.

In the corner of the room were two tiny twin babies, one doing so much better than the other. Towards, I think, the 5th day, one of the twins were allowed to come home but the other had to stay because she wasn't putting on enough weight. Both parents agreed that they won't take one and leave one, and that both babies are to stick together. I completely understood. The Doctors did too.

You would think that a baby would wake up to loud beeps and emergency sirens with blaring lights shining in their eyes 24/7, but you would be mistaken. Newborn babies can sleep through anything, however, even though you leave the room, the beeping doesn't leave your head. Beep after beep. Siren after siren. Baby ill day in day out. It's like a mini torture room.

Luckily the nurse team and doctors all spend their time caring for your baby. I really couldn't appreciate the staff more. I wanted to cuddle and thank every person who cared for my baby girl because if it wasn't for them, who knows what would have happened. The NICU is a very scary place but I knew my baby and every baby in there was in perfectly safe hands.

To this day I still think back at Rhea-Jane's week in NICU. I still feel the raw pain, emotions, and worries. Not in a million years will I ever think this feeling will go away, though, every time I think about it, I look at my daughter giggling, rolling, kicking, and playing, and know that she is here today because of the NICU team.

Ups and downs are normal with every baby; two steps forward, one step back. Staff there are looking out for you and your baby no matter what. Don't be scared thinking that NICU is a death sentence, or that it is a place where babies cry every day all day in pain, because that is not the case. Every baby in that room is in no pain and sleeping peacefully. All of them are taken care of like it's the last thing anyone will do. Top priority.

Real experiences and feelings of fellow NICU Mums

Emily (Blog & Twitter) - I felt redundant, especially when I could hear other mothers with their babies, it was so hard. Finding out a nurse had changed his nappy, at first it felt like they knew my baby better than me. It did get easier but now still 4 months later those days haunt me! xxx

Anonymous - Oh man' I could write a novel on this topic myself. I felt totally helpless, unbearable guilt , intense fear, yet there was always a vast amount of hope. My first daughter was born at 29 weeks and 2 days. It all started at our 20 week anatomy scan. What was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, was riddled with fear and anxiety. They saw 3 abnormalities, choroid plexus cysts on her brain, a SUA (Single umbilical artery), and one kidney was much larger than the other. We had to sit in a tiny room and speak to a genetic counsellor over a laptop screen. We were given options, and told us our baby could have anything from Down syndrome, to Trisomy 18. They gave us the option to terminate asap. We opted for a noninvasive blood test called Materni21. It took 2 and a half weeks, but by that point we had decided to keep our baby no matter what the results were. The test came back negative for everything, but it's not 100% accurate. Around 23 weeks I stared having problems with high blood pressure, the only upside was by that point the cysts were gone. At 28 weeks my blood pressure had been so high that they admitted me to labor and delivery with plans of me being there until I delivered 34 weeks. On October 23rd 2014 at 7:38 am, nurses and doctors rushed in after getting my 24 hour urine and blood work results back. They told me I had severe pre-eclampsia, And that Zoey needed to be delivered ASAP. I only had an hour to get whoever I needed to be there, there. I called my fiancĂ©, and my parents. I was terrified. Somehow I kept it together and continued joking with the nurses as they prepped me for emergency surgery. When Zoey was born, I threw up because my pressure dropped so low that my body couldn't handle it. They had to bring it back up. Her cry was unnatural. She was so so small and red. 2 lbs 7 ozs was what she weighed. We got to see her and tell her that we loved her before they took her away, leaving us scared.. we didn't know if we'd ever see her alive again. Her kidneys we suddenly normal at birth, they called her a feed and grow baby, Zoey was in the NICU for 44 days,  and she came home on an apnea monitor and caffeine. I STILL suffer from PTSD from the NICU. I break down whenever I hear a heart monitor, or alarms that sound like what I was used to hearing. When I see any kind of birth on TV (greys anatomy and private practice are hard to watch), I get triggered too. I became pregnant again, and had to deliver 3 weeks early due to mild preeclampsia. I was terrified during the csection.. but it was planned this time. It was difficult, but it was a much better experience.

Anonymous - My son was born 13 weeks early and was born still in his sack of water he weighed 1lb 14oz and was in s.c.b.u for three months. The staff were lovely and made us very welcome but seeing him Hooked Up to loads of machines and wires was very overwhelming. During his time there he had to be resuscitated 3 times. He had blood on his lungs and a hole in his heart. He had to be transferred to Alder Hey hospital for a line put in his chest.  I was only 16 at the time so it is very hard for me. He was there all over Christmas and I remember all the staff buying him gifts which was really lovely. He was in the high dependency part for a little over a month then he went into the middle part and got put on a CPAP. He was born with no foot so it made it hard for the nurses to do the obs on just the one that he had so he was always being poked and prodded. He had to have several blood transfusions. After three months when we got to take him home he he was on oxygen for 12 hours a night and developed bronchitis after a month of being home and got admitted back to hospital. He is profoundly deaf due to the amount of oxygen he was on and have had to undergo 3 head operations at Manchester hospital to fit cochlear implants. If there is anything you would like to know feel free to message me because I could go on and on about his time at hospital it was a very sad time in our lives but he is my little miracle baby and is lucky to be here now he is now 6 years old.

Anonymous - My lg was in nicu for a month she was born by emergency csection at 32weeks she stopped growing at 29weeks though they left her in me to gain some weight she was 3lb 055oz it was horrible to see her attached to the machines she was tubed for 6hrs then on CPAP for 24hrs and incubator oxygen for 2days it took me three days to hold her they had to give her two blood transfusions she also got conjunctivitis and they didn't clean her eyes I was so upset cause I trusted the doctors to care for her . Her oxygen levels kept dropping and they didn't check her levels properly and it took me ages for them to realise something was up but the nicu docs got her home for me so I can't be that upset but they didn't check her lungs were strong enough and she ended up back in ITU a week later with her body shutting down (she is fine now though she still has sleep apneoa and constant chest infections from the lack of care when she was born)xxx

In the past I had written about my Delivery (click here) and Rhea-Jane's recovery story (click here) just in case you missed it and would like to know more about how I brought my baby girl into the world, and how she recovered in her week stay in hospital.

If you would like to comment your feelings/experiences to get it off your chest then by all means please do! Sometimes talking about it really helps. OR you can email me @ - fully confidential.

Much love,


  1. A really really interesting post. My first born had jaundice and was put under the lights at just a couple of days old. She had been home and had to be rushed back to hospital and I find that hard to remember, I cannot imagine how you were all feeling in the NICU. Thanks for this post, I'm sure it will help out a lot of people who google NICU and end up here xxxxx

  2. This post made me tear up, I can't imagine what you went through. Two of my little cousins were in there as babies due to not growing properly so I know that they can work miracles. I glad oyu and your little one are safe and sound xx


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