After spending 10 weeks in the Royal Bolton Neonatal Unit, we were told that my son would finally be able to come home. There aren’t enough words to describe the overwhelming feelings that are experienced when you hear this as a parent. It’s a mixture of shock, pure joy, anxiety and unbelievable relief.
Following this burst of emotion, my mind went into over-drive. We had everything prepared for his arrival but was it perfect? Was it safe? Could we do this? Bruce had lived for 10 weeks surrounded by a huge team of doctors and nurses. Every time his monitors had beeped, they were there. Now that responsibility lay with us. I was scared. What if something happened? What if his oxygen levels dropped suddenly? All this time I had been hoping, praying for him to come home and now it was here, I felt frightened.
Looking back, I know that feeling of fear came from the immense love I felt for my little boy. I needed to know that if he were to become ill suddenly, that not only would we know exactly what to do, we had the ability to do it.
My fears were soon laid to rest. The neonatal team couldn’t have supported us more. After staying overnight at the hospital with Bruce and completing our first aid training for children, we had a number of meetings with his medical team. Our final meeting was our ‘discharge meeting’, the day before he came home. This was quite intense. It was a detailed discussion about Bruce’s journey, his medical condition and the support he would receive from then on. It was at this meeting that I glanced down at his discharge notes and something took my breath away. Bruce had been resuscitated within minutes of being born. I didn’t know that. He really was a warrior.
We were told that a nurse named Cheryl would visit us everyday at home to support in monitoring Bruce’s progress. Cheryl later became like another member of our family. She was fantastic with Bruce and helped us with every stage of his early life. From improving his sleep patterns to talking us through how we would take Bruce out in the car with his oxygen.
The fire service also came round to our house in the days leading up to Bruce’s arrival at home. They completed a full check of the safety of the house, installing multiple fire alarms and completing a full audit. They walked us through the do’s and the don’ts of keeping oxygen tanks in the house and moving around the house with Bruce and his portable oxygen. Candles were all removed, oxygen tanks were placed in well ventilated, secure but clear areas, and emergency procedures were planned out.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a process so thorough. To me, Bruce had the best team of specialists surrounding him. Not only had they cared for my baby boy, they’d saved him, and had given me the confidence to know that I could do the same. I knew exactly what to do if his monitors went off in the night. I knew how to change his oxygen tubes. Our house had been fully checked and was safe and secure. I was ready.
On the final drive up to the hospital that morning, I smiled the whole way. We wouldn’t be leaving the hospital this time as a two, we would leave as a three. A family of three. Together, finally. There was no delay when we arrived. The medical team was all ready for us. Bruce was dressed and ready to go.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before but in the neonatal unit, unfortunately, the babies can’t really have toys. The infection risk is so high in the children that strict rules need to be in place. Toys can easily spread germs and unfortunately can’t be cleaned regularly enough to protect them. Up until 10 weeks old, Bruce had never seen a toy. Today, he did. There were 3 little teddies attached to the top of his car seat. Seeing his face watch them swing as he sat wriggling and waiting for us, was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I picked up the car seat ready to go. I wanted to thank the team. I wanted to tell them how much they meant to us but I couldn’t speak. I just cried, and I couldn’t stop. I didn’t expect it to happen. I thought I would get one of those lovely happy pictures of mum and dad leaving the hospital with their little baby, but it just didn’t happen. I’m ok with that. I couldn’t control the emotions. After 10 weeks, I could finally let go of all the anxiety. The fear, the guilt of not being there, the sadness of being apart. It was all gone. The tears were overwhelming happiness and they stopped when we sat in the car. This was it. He did it. We did it.
Bruce came home on 20th October 2012, 2 days before my birthday.