Jackie's Story

A Mum’s story - Jackie, North Sydney

When my son was born prematurely, we were thrown into a spin.  Although he was only 4 weeks early we were told it was a crucial stage for his lung development and within hours of his birth he was rushed to intensive care by ambulance, where he spent nine long days on life support.  He had respiratory distress syndrome and I honestly didn’t know if he’d make it.

It was a very distressing time for me and my husband, even though luckily I had my mum to help look after our 2 year old daughter.  My husband had just started a new job and it was our sole income source, so he couldn’t take much time off. I remember a whirlwind period of setting my alarm several times during the night to express milk, taking it to the hospital each morning, spending the day holding a baby covered in tubes and fending off a stream of well-wishing relatives.

When James was finally allowed to come home of course I was rapt but secretly wondered if I was really equipped to look after him. He’d been that close to dying and was all of a sudden home, in my absolute care.  I needed reassurance I could look after him properly. Our daughter had been healthy and, despite a few sleepless nights, her arrival had been a contemplative, beautiful time for our little family.

This was chaos. Now I checked our new baby every 45 minutes during the night, constantly scared he would stop breathing (even sleeping on the floor next to his cot during the night) and, in hindsight, this impacted the overall health and adjustment of our family. I wouldn’t let him cry for even a minute, despite knowing he’d fed well, had had a relaxing bath and some playtime with his sibling and dad. All his medical check ups showed he was doing really well.

Eventually my GP suggested we go to a Tresillian Day Stay clinic and learn some settling techniques. This was helpful but I wasn’t able to continue those practices for long on my own once back home.

So we went to the Tresillian Willoughby Residential Centre for five days and this was an eye opener!  I thought, if I devoted every minute to looking after this little person who had survived so much, why didn’t I ever get more than 3 hours sleep a night? How could I possibly cope with looking after him, my toddler, and my neglected husband…let alone myself?

I was so sleep deprived when I arrived at Tresillian I couldn’t make the most basic decision. I remember having trouble filling out the admission forms! Having had mastitis twice I’d stopped breastfeeding and was trying to get him used to formula. I was cranky with everyone and felt no hope.

By about day 3 I started feeling that there might actually be light at the end of the tunnel. Other mums I chatted to there had had similar experiences, or different but equally distressing issues. Sleeping, feeding…coping. I realised I wasn’t alone and gradually took on the practical solutions the nurses suggested for settling and feeding James. It started to work. I can’t tell you the relief I felt.

And they weren’t judgemental – I think I expected everyone would be. I had already had one baby and coped, why couldn’t I now? They were compassionate and understanding and they gradually convinced me I could very adequately look after my baby.

And from there it started to come together. It took a little while once I got home – I had to constantly remind myself about routines and methods that the nurses had shown me actually worked – but I was able to deal with my baby’s needs and feel secure that he was getting the best care ever from his mum!