I had just witnessed my daughters emergency arrival, spent some time alone with her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Uni (NICU), took my wife there a few times in a wheelchair to see her daughter, and carried a few rounds of milk down to the ward. It was now time for me to go home after a long and hectic day. I was going home, alone. To know one. Just me, and my thoughts…
Today I would like to discuss the feeling of going Home Alone, and what it can do to you, and how it can play on your mind.
My wife Jess was still in hospital for 4 days post-delivery for monitoring, which meant that I was at home alone for the next 4 nights, on top of the 4 Jess had already been in hospital for pre-birth.
The worst part about going home alone, was that my mind would not stop thinking. Thinking of all of the bad things that you would normally never think about.
What if my wife had died? What if Lara (my daughter) wasn’t born alive? What if Lara dies now? What the hell would I do?
These, and a few other thoughts, were some really dark thoughts that I had never had before. I felt so scared, so I just sat on the balcony, crying, thinking… and drinking. I don’t normally drink that much at all, but I started drinking so much over the week that was, just to help me try and relax, and to stop thinking. But the drinking didn’t help.
I lay there at night staring at the ceiling, thinking about stuff that I should not be thinking about. I knew it was only making me feel worse, but I couldn’t help myself. The thoughts just kept coming. It felt like a big dark cloud had formed over me.
Fortunately, my parents came up from Canberra to be with us, as they understood the gravity of the situation. Being able to see them each night on the way home from the Hospital gave me the spark of motivation I needed to keep pushing. Just being able to talk to them, see a familiar face, and know that I had the support there made a massive difference for me.
Each morning I would go in as early as I could, so that I could be with my wife, assuming she was going through some very similar emotions, as she was stuck in hospital alone.
I put on a brave face every time I saw her, and always pretend to be as happy as I could. We would spend the day together, going down to see our daughter, then heading back up to the ward to relax and recover. This was on repeat for 4 days, but at the end of each day, I still went home alone.
It was such a surreal feeling going home alone, leaving your wife and baby in hospital, both of them still recovering from what had happened, but I felt like I still has somewhat of a normal life.
I got to go home, watch TV, sleep in my own bed, eat our food, not the hospital food! I got to go straight back to my life, and I felt guilty because of this.
When Jess was finally discharged from Hospital 4 days after Lara was born, she was hit with a huge wave of emotions as we drove out of the horrifically overpriced car park. She burst into tears, she was so overwhelmed by emotion – simply because she was now leaving her child at the hospital, and she was now heading back to her normal life.
We got to carry on almost doing the things we would normally be doing, all while our daughter was being cared for by the absolutely outstanding nurses and doctors at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital NICU.
This weighed on her for the first week, which weighed on me. I now had to support her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. I doubted everything that I was saying to her, but I knew I had to reassure her. Or at least try to.
Every day, for the next 98 days we went in to the hospital, and left at the end of the day, without her. These thoughts played on us for a long time, and it never felt normal to leave her there. It was so hard to just walk away from our daughters crib, and go into town to go shopping, or to take time out and go see a movie.
We were able to go back to our normal life, while she was still in there, fighting for hers. And every day, we went home alone.
So, what did I learn? What could help you?
• Whilst you might feel like you want to be alone, that is completely fine, but you don’t need to be alone
• It is completely up to you, but if someone offers to come by and check on you, take them up on it. Being home alone SUCKS!
• Go out for a beer or a quick catch up. Seeing familiar faces will keep your positive mindset. Being able to talk to people about what has just happened will get it off your chest, and out of your head!
• Don’t feel guilty for going back to your normal life, or back to work. The world doesn’t need to stop revolving, but it sometimes feels like that it has.
• Use the time that you have at home to start to prepare for the long journey ahead
o Get tasks done around the house that are still pending, but whatever you do, don’t start a new reno like I did!!
o Try and do some meal prep, because trust me, you will not feel like cooking when you get home from a long and emotional day in hospital
o If people offer help, take it!!
o The best thing friends can do for you, is cook you meals that you can pop in the fridge or freeze. It is a God send!
• Don’t be afraid to accept help – all your friends and family are trying to do is make your life as easy as possible considering the circumstances.
• Jess and I were fortunate to have an absolute champion of a friend that created a facebook group specifically for us as a call to action to create meal prep schedules for each week, ask for donations for ubers and hello fresh vouchers, organise for cleaners to come over and clean up our mess! So a MASSIVE thank you to Emily and every single person in the aptly named “Bilko Village” for what you all did for Jess, Lara and I. We will never forget your generosity and kindness in our time of need!
• Try and get back in to your normal routines as much as possible. If you always go to the gym at 6am on a Monday, keep doing it! If you play sport or have hobbies, whatever they are, keep doing them, as much as you can, and as much as you feel comfortable to do.
• This will help you feel normal again and keep a healthy mindset for you over the next passage. I didn’t do it, I stopped everything, and I felt like crap physically and mentally because of it! So please learn from my mistakes!
• And make sure you encourage your partner to get back in to their routine as much as possible also. There is only so much that you can do when you are at the NICU, so don’t forget to keep living your life when you are at home!