It's been five years since my world turned upside down; five years since the shock and the uncertainty of neonatal intensive care.
The birth of my baby boy at just 30 weeks gestation happened quickly and with little warning. I was numb and the process felt surreal - it happened in a blur, yet I still remember those moments as if they were only yesterday.
My baby was whisked away to neonatal intensive. I had become a first time mum, but I had no baby to hold.
I went home later that evening, lost and empty, my baby left in the care of the neonatal staff.
Like many parents, our journey through NICU was one of ups and downs; one step forward, two steps back. I quickly got into the routine of the unit, visiting each day and attending to cares where I could. I had a baby, but I did not feel like a mum.
Five years on - I am happy to say I feel like a mum!
This didn't happen overnight though; it can take a long time to recover from the trauma of NICU, time to put the fears and worries behind you and precious time needed to bond.
At home I felt so alone in my feelings of grief and loss, anger and jealousy. There was a place on my chest that ached; a place where I longed to have been able to place my baby straight after birth.
I was alone in my feelings of sadness and worry. I couldn't relate to the stories or day-to-day concerns of other new mothers who I met.
And most of all... I dreaded the question - "How old is your baby?"
Five years on, the memories of NICU are still there;
I think that they will always be....
....but over time they have faded and don't seem quite so raw now.
We have made so many more memories together as a family and knowing that my feelings following NICU are shared by others who have experienced the same journey has helped enormously.
I no longer feel alone in the feelings of grief and loss, feelings that I felt so acutely after coming home. I know now that those feelings were entirely normal and am thankful to all the mothers who have gone before me and who have shared stories of their own.
Five years on, yes the worry and uncertainty continues... but those emotions are manageable now, becoming part of our every-day life rather than ruling it. Yes, I worry about coughs and colds, the ones that have landed us back in hospital, but I try to take a pragmatic approach - we have got through it before, we have been through worse, and we'll get through it again.
Five years on I have an amazing little boy who has been making me proud since day one.
His strength and determination has always been an inspiration to me and as I watch him grow and develop the days of NICU seem further and further behind us.
This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver guest edited the site, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email email@example.com to get involved.
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