‘They already knew what I was thinking and feeling; they were me’ – Melanie’s story | Bliss

Meet my Wonder Woman daughter

You may not know that my eldest daughter gave birth to her daughter when she was 25 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

One minute she’s preparing for childbirth classes and the next she’s in hospital having her first baby.

Dottie weighed a mere 845 grams, less than a bag of sugar, and has been through so much already in her short 10 months on earth.

And so have her parents.

As have the rest of the family, but from afar – in our case it’s from the other side of the world.

Melanie and Dottie
Melanie and Dottie

Bliss and Life’s Little Treasures

Melanie made contact with Bliss, a UK charity for babies born premature or sick, while she was in NICU in Bristol. I remember seeing volunteers coming around and talking to the parents as they huddled over the cribs of their babies, looking shellshocked at what had happened to them.

In Australia I made contact with a similar charity Life’s Little Treasures and went on to raise money for them in the annual Walk for Prems last year with my husband, another daughter, her husband and their baby daughters – we were Team Dottie!

Melanie was asked to write a post about friendship within NICU and I am so proud of her honest and moving article, which you can read in full here. But here are a few short excerpts from her post.

When few people outside neonatal units can easily understand your experience, Melanie describes how uniquely strong friendships can develop between the parents inside them.

I met a few mums and dads in our fourteen weeks on the unit, but became really close to four.

The five of us got to see the incredibly tender moments of those first few weeks and months of having a child. We saw each other at our lowest and most scared. Often you don’t let your family see that side of you, let alone people who you have just met. But these women were there for me day and night when the visitors had left, when I was sitting there digesting the updates from the doctor’s rounds or when I was dancing with my baby to the radio in the middle of the night. They didn’t have to ask me anything – they already knew what I was thinking and feeling. They were me.

My family and friends were an amazing support but I’d always need to explain to them the new medical terms I had learned and I wasn’t really able to articulate just how I felt or what was going on in my head.

I’ve not got any photos of these women who mean so much to me. The NICU was hardly a place to grab a quick pic together and yet their faces are etched into my memory. I couldn’t have survived any of it without them. They are the strongest, bravest, funniest, most humble women I have had the pleasure of knowing. I found my long-lasting mum friends: it was just inside the NICU and not at birthing classes like I was expecting.

Melanie’s story for BLISS – you can read the full post here

All three of my daughters are now mothers and it’s not been easy for any of them, for one reason or another.

Melanie lives on the other side of the world to us and we connect through facetime chats, family zoom meetings and messenger. We see Dottie eating her breakfast, watch her playing and talk to her – but all through a screen.

Mummy with baby Dottie having skin to skin cuddles -
Mummy with baby Dottie having skin to skin cuddles – appropriately called kangaroo cuddles.

I’m not sure when I will be able to visit her again – maybe next year, but who knows?

Some of my favourite posts from when Dottie was born

Some posts I wrote about Dottie’s early days

Dottie and the Wombat

Dottie and the Wombat

As I flew across the world to meet my newest and tiniest baby granddaughter, I wrote this story for her. She was born at 25 weeks and was called Wombat before she became Dottie. Enjoy!

At the moment, due to COVID-19, Dottie has to be shielded for a while longer, which will take her almost up to her first birthday but she is a happy, bright little soul. Melanie is a lovely mother.

I remember telling her I was proud of her when Dottie was just home from hospital and commenting on how well she was coping with it all. She said, I don’t have a choice, I don’t know any different, I just have to keep going.

That sums her up right there.

Her youngest sister commented to me that she thinks Melanie is a Wonder Woman, for how she’s doing, and I happen to agree with her!

I’d encourage you to read Melanie’s full post on the Bliss site, it is sad, poignant and beautifully written, even if I may be a bit biased!

Let me know what you think.

Deb x

Note: In the beginning, before she was born, Dottie was called Wombat, a nod to Melanie’s Australian home, and we all enjoyed finding wombat themed clothing and baby goods and sending it to England. I wrote a story called Dottie and the Wombat and the header photo is one of the drawings I commissioned for my book.


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36 Replies to “‘They already knew what I was thinking and feeling; they were me’ – Melanie’s story | Bliss”

  1. What a touching story of love–mothers for daughters…grandmothers for grandchildren…and mothers for other mothers. Sending more love to all of you. XOXO #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to hear she’s doing well! Your daughter and granddaughter are beautiful! My daughter was a NICU nurse for years. Tough cases but so many amazing stories like this one. I hope you get to see them soon!! I struggled terribly being separated from my daughter and grandson by Covid 19. I can’t imagine thinking it might be another year. Thank goodness for technology that allows you to stay connected and see Dottie grow. You can look forward to your own kangaroo cuddles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Deb, it’s technology all the way at the moment! I take my hat off to your daughter for all the good work she has done as a NICU nurse, they are amazing people.

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  3. I think Melanie certainly takes after her Mum in the Wonder Woman stakes and sounds like Dottie does too . How wonderful that she felt a bonding with other Mums in the NCU because i can’t imagine how difficult it is to see your child struggling with life. I chose Life’s Little Miracles as my charity for Fly into July because of Dottie. She is definitely a little miracle and such a joy for you all. Thank you Deb for sharing Melanie’s story at #MLSTL it is so poignant and beautiful you must be so proud. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s so sweet of you to say Sue, thank you for all your support! I am so appreciative. I was given the WonderWoman tag a few years ago but feel Melanie is a true embodiment of it. I was so happy to see you chose Life’s Little Treasures as your charity for Fly into July, and am humbled that our family’s story impacted on you. I’m joining in as you know, and hoping my knee holds up 🙂

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    1. Yes, so much love Toni. I’m so happy you think they look like me 🙂 My daughter has always been similar, so maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Thanks for your lovely comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so glad for the update on little Dottie. She and her mother are both lovely and look so happy! I’m sure you are missing being able to see her often since she is so far away. I would concur that Melanie is a wonder woman, she has been through a lot, but it sounds like she has a remarkable attitude!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michele, I agree Melanie’s attitude is so important to get through all that’s going on in her life. I know she has her down days too as we all do but generally she is happy that Dottie is going so well!

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  5. The NICU is a very special place. Forty years ago my daughter (my first born) was unexpectedly born seven weeks early. We were 12 hours from family and I felt like a deer in the headlights. The nurses were absolute angels and the doctors were patient and kind. Luckily there were only about four babies in the NICU so we did not make connections with other parents. Things were kept very private by the staff. SO very glad to read your daughter and Dottie and doing well. I recall reading your post when you were off to meet her for the first time. Cheers for a happy first birthday celebration and a sooner than later hug to hug visit for you and your sweet girls. Now I am off to read Melanie’s post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad mom and baby are doing well. I had two preemies, a 26 weeker and a 31 weeker. They are 14 and 12 years old now. Those NICU days were rough and very much shaped who I have become and how I parent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes things are going OK now but it was hard early on – for everyone, but particularly for my daughter and her partner. I’m always glad to read of grown up premmie babies so thanks for sharing your story too. All the best to you all.

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  7. Oh Deb, this made me want to cry! They must have spent so many anxious hours in that ICU ward and the bond they formed with other parents in the same situation will be immensely strong.
    It seems hard to believe that a first birthday is not far away – oh the things that have happened in these last 12 months!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The photos warm my heart, Deb. All of the cuddles with Melanie and Dottie. And I love the smiles from both of them. (Especially the toothless smile). My daughter’s babies were in NICU for about a month (it is all a blur now and entirely different circumstances). We were all told to give the other families a lot of privacy. Not sure what some of the circumstances were. Melanie and Dottie have been there for fourteen weeks. A very long time. Melanie writes about that time, beautifully. Blurry eyes here.

    Wow, a poignant post on all levels. I love the mini updates and I cannot imagine the heartaches and the concerns along the way. Wonder Woman and I don’t have a choice says a great deal. One day at a time. Always. Hugs, Deb. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I know exactly what you mean Erica. Thank you for your lovely comment and for your understanding of the situation. Yes I remember being chastised by my daughter for looking too long at one of the other babies, it’s a very private world in NICU. Lots of blurry eyes let me tell you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Deb, what an excellent article from Melanie. We have spent a small amount of time in a children’s ICU with my brother and family; it is tough to see such vulnerable babies and the heartache etched on the families faces. I am sure the article will help many going through the same process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I believe her words will help others and that’s one reason why I’m so proud of her. It’s not been an easy time for her but she’s getting there!

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  10. Hi Deb – Dottie’s birth and NICU journey was certainly a rollercoaster ride and so heartrending for your whole family. Long distance adds another layer to it. It’s so lovely that there was a happy ending and we get to see the photos of Dottie’s smile every so often on your blog or FB.
    Melanie’s story was beautifully written from the heart and those friendships will be such an anchor for her over the years ahead. And I love your wombat pic!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Leanne, Melanie writes of her experiences with empathy and honesty. Dottie really is very special and they are all so strong having gone through what many of us can only imagine.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this touching story. On my way to read the full story but wanted to comment here. Congratulations and blessings. Hoping things will continue to progress well and that you will be able to see this beautiful child in person! Michele

    Liked by 2 people

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