“I made a promise to my daughter to make her little life count for something.”
A mum’s heartbreaking loss has led her to create an invaluable guide for other parents who find themselves in her harrowing situation.
Sandrine Piedras’ pregnancy was “awesome”, until she reached 29 weeks. But she suddenly began losing fluid and rushed to hospital, where her daughter Lucia Maria was born the next day.
She gave birth by Caesarian section, then her tiny baby was taken to the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), which would be their home for the next 51 days.
Sadly little Lucia eventually lost her battle after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage. Determined to make her daughter’s life count, a week later Sandrine began writing down her experiences, asking other mums to help.
“It was hard to write it at first, but I wanted her life to matter. I wanted to help other moms new to the NICU world so badly. So it kept me going. It was part of my own personal therapy. Helping others. It had helped me through the NICU experience, and it helped me after NICU.
“NICU, when you hear this word you do not realise what it means unless you or somebody close to you has lived it. They were telling me she was fine, so I didn’t panic much, she had cried, she was alive and she was with her dad.
“I was more worried about the fact that I could not see her our touch her yet. That I had not seen her yet. It seemed a little unreal.”
She adds: “Because there was no support group nor documentation at the NICU, I created a Whatsapp group and would talk to every new mom entering the NICU. And we discussed the need to have a welcome guide, some document explaining to new moms what to expect, what to do, what kind of machines they would find around they baby etc.”
During the 51 days of her stay, Sandrine held her daughter just 10 “magical” times. Her mum arrived from France for support, as her husband Thierry had to go back to work while their insurance company quibbled over a AED 500,000 bill.
Hungry for support and information, Sandrine began befriending other mums on the unit and learning from their experiences.
She said: “I made it my mission to go see other moms, explain to them when to panic or not too, where to buy nursing tea, where to find the nearest restroom, where to pump etc. I truly found friends for life in this NICU.”
Tragically, Lucia died on November 10th, 2015, at about 7pm. It’s too painful for Sandrine to talk about that date, but she adds: “We knew she was going to die for 20 days before it happened. And it was the most inhumane feeling of all. Because you know she is going to die while she is still there looking at you, growing every day in front of you. Pure hell.”
“Coming back at home, with the baby room prepared and ready, felt awful. You feel empty. We had lost our baby. Won one battle with the insurance and lost the war. The scar reminding you every morning of the lost of your child.
“For a few days I stayed in my PJs and watched series on the TV. But writing the guide got me up again. My only advice to mums living the same tragedy is to find something to do to stop thinking about your loss. Find a project, find a new purpose. Pain is coming back from time to time, and it is hard at times to go back to the malls, see all those pregnant moms, moms with their strollers, or baby clothes shops, but I am getting there.
Now she hopes her guide covers everything a new mum entering the unit needs to know, including support groups, common rules in NICU, leaving hospital without your baby, breastfeeding tips, a glossary of medical terms and more.
It has also formed part of Sandrine’s healing process and has been distributed to NICU moms, through Facebook groups, mum blogs, magazines and newspapers, to “overwhelming support”.
“This welcome guide was made from pain, tears, love and joy. Joy of getting to know amazing women that went through hell with me. That helped me grow as a woman, as a wife and as a mother,” she adds.