Hi Mum, how are you?
Did you sleep Mum?
They called everyone Mum. Well, all the Mums that is. It took me by surprise to start with. The 'Mum chorus' that would greet me every time I walked into NICU. A few things went through my feeble mind when the staff called me Mum.
First and foremost, I don't feel like a Mum.
I can't care for him. I can't make decisions. I can't pick him up. I can't be here with him all the time. I don't know when he needs feeding. I don't know when he's crying.
Stop calling me Mum, you're just rubbing it in.
On better days I'd think it was nice. I might not feel like a Mum but actually they were helping. In calling me Mum I could gradually become accustomed to the term. To my new life changing role.
And then sometimes I just thought, this makes life easier for them, they never have to put any effort in to learning our names, they just call us all Mum and Dad and don't have to worry about getting it wrong. (Although actually I did over hear one nurse call the Grandfather of a baby 'Dad' when he was visiting with his daughter, all rather embarrassing for those involved but I was amused.)
But what troubled me, and still does to be honest, is when will I feel like a Mum? I remember having to sit outside one particular day during the doctors ward round and hearing a baby cry. But I didn't know which baby. He was at least 3 weeks old and I still didn't know my own baby's cry.
NICU has it's own unwritten set of expectations for parents. They're not put up on a poster anywhere and no one talks you through them. But it became quite clear after a little while that we were expected to do things. Or at least we were allowed to do things if we wanted to. And we should want to. And of course we wanted to. I wanted to do anything that would bring me closer to 'Mum' status, anything that would connect me to my baby, anything that would make me feel like his mum. It was so frustrating to have to sit down all the time, to be in pain and unable to change his nappy or collect the milk from the fridge. My husband could though and I liked watching him do the cares until I was able to stand for long enough to do some myself.
The thing was the boundaries were flexible. The nurses kept shifting the goal posts. To be fair they were always just doing their job I suppose and making sure things were being done properly.
What I found really hard was the way one day I'd just be building my confidence. Just starting to feel like I was getting somewhere, doing something, growing into motherhood. Even if it was under close supervision, checked, charted and observed at least I was doing it. One day I'd be allowed to collect the milk, draw up the syringes for a feed, aspirate, check the ph, set up the feed, add medications, change the probe sight, give him a new blanket and change his nappy. I'd be in a little hourly routine and the nurses were satisfied I was capable.
The next day I'd offer to get some milk out the fridge and I'd be met with a confused expression from a nurse who wasn't decided on my adequacy as a mother and would barely let me raise the incubator level let alone let me loose on a syringe.
I'd be crushed.
I wasn't strong enough for change. No matter how small. I'd burrow into a pit of worry and distress, telling myself that this meant I wasn't good enough and confirmed to me that I wasn't enough of a Mum to my baby.
Despite this I'm glad they called me 'Mum'. Most days I needed it. Even if my mind wasn't convinced, it helped my ears to hear it and my brain required the frequent confirmation of my new title.
Is still need help, it's a good job hubby is calling me mummy, my mind is still confused. Still feeble.