I remember the first time I set foot in my home after Jessica was born. We’d been in hospital for a month. How strange my house felt, how I looked around as if I was seeing it for the first time. What was once familiar suddenly felt very unfamiliar. I was glad to be home and yet I felt unsettled and uneasy too. For a short time, I felt like a stranger in my own home. The transition from hospital to home was something I hadn’t expected.
We’ve had a few hospital stays lasting several weeks since then. Each time we return home, there’s that weird feeling again. A period of readjusting to normality, a brief time where home feels unfamiliar and strange. I should feel overjoyed at being home again. And yes, of course I’m glad to be home but being home is unsettling too. I find myself missing the hospital, the routine that I’ve grown used to. Having someone there to ask questions whenever you have a concern. Missing being able to talk to other parents; being surrounded by others who have similar concerns, similar experiences. Home feels quiet; almost too quiet. As crazy as it seems, there is a part of me that wishes I was back on the ward again, back in the safety net that hospital life had become.
Transitions can be a little scary. Moving from intensive care to high care, from high care to the ward, from the ward to home. The gradual decrease in external support – going from one-to-one care and continual monitoring, to shared care and intermittent monitoring and then all of a sudden, we’re on our own. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping our child well that has now been handed firmly back to us. Adjusting to new routines, new medicines. Now it’s our job to remember what to give, how much to give and when to give it. The routines that we were familiar with before our stay in hospital have disappeared and we have to adjust to new ones.
All those emotions that we held in check during our hospital stay now come out. Not just for us, but for Sophie too. Two weeks apart were harder on her than perhaps we realised. She stayed strong during that time too. But now, she is unsettled and fearful. She clings to me and wakes up crying in the night. I know she is scared that I’ll leave her again. Even though she enjoyed being with Nanny and her cousins, even though she seemed to cope well, those two weeks have left her unsettled. My attempts to reassure are only partly successful at the moment. It will take time for her to adjust.
Thankfully, so far Jessica is the one who seems least unsettled by the transition from hospital to home. Maybe there will be emotions that need to come out a little further down the line. Maybe she really has just taken this in her stride. Time will tell.
We all need that time to adjust. Our home will feel safe, comforting and familiar once again. The new routines will become the norm. It will be all right. We’ve done this before and we can do it again.