How my newborn baby had to fight for his life

PUBLISHED: 12:53 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:17 28 September 2018

Vicki Cockerill, with her baby Elijah. Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.

Vicki Cockerill, with her baby Elijah. Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.


It’s a terrifying experience that few parents can even imagine.

Vicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki CockerillVicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki Cockerill

In her latest column, Dereham mum VICKI COCKERILL writes about the moments her newborn baby had to fight for his life.

She is raising awareness of Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month.


In September 2014, I went into hospital to have my first baby after a healthy pregnancy spent getting the nursery ready, buying baby products we would certainly never use, and day dreaming about how our lives would be as new parents.

We had a rough idea of what to expect when we went into hospital after my waters broke, and contractions were frequent. Arriving at hospital at 8cm dilated it was only a few more hours until I delivered a baby boy.

The next following hours were a whirlwind, and after some complications, it looked as though me and the baby would be staying in hospital.

It was those complications that likely saved my baby’s life.

Cyanotic Episodes

He began to turn purple for 10 to 20 seconds and then regained his colour. He was taken to the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit for assessment. There were minor concerns at this stage from the staff as it was quite common for new-born babies to adjust to their new environment.

They moved me into a side room, but it wasn’t until a doctor came to visit me in the early hours of the morning to tell me they were admitting him to NICU that I began to sense something was wrong.

So wrong he would be fighting for his life in less than 24 hours from being born.


No one ever told me that this could happen, that you would have to be segregated from the other mums with their babies on the ward, that you would have to approach the double doors and enter a world that isn’t really spoken about. It wasn’t in my ante natal classes, in the glossy parenting books and it most certainly didn’t factor into what I envisioned my start to being a mother would be.

Whilst most new mums are enjoying sleepy, milky cuddles with their new born I wasn’t allowed to pick mine up for three days. As most mums established feeding I had to watch my child have a tube inserted in his nose that administered him fluids, no milk. Whilst most mums loaded their precious cargo up in their new car seats to go home, I took my washbag home in mine. Without my baby.


In less than 48 hours we were given a diagnosis that changed our lives forever. Our son had a undiagnosed heart defect, that would require surgery. Whilst we began to digest this, we were dealt another blow and he suffered a neo natal stroke, a bleed on the brain. The consultants pulled us into a side room where we were told that he may never walk or talk.

The world of NICU is one that one in eight families know about. Out of every eight babies that are born in the UK, one of them will be admitted into the world behind the double doors of NICU. Into a world of machines, tubes, alarms, bright lights, ward rounds and hand sanitiser. You will be surrounded by equally as afraid and ambushed parents like yourself that have a look of gut wrenching fear on their face. Ones that ache to hear the word, ‘You’re going home’, some never do.


When we came home nearly two weeks later, I couldn’t forget the sounds of the alarms or the smell of disinfectant. I re-lived each and every day, every test over and over again. I went on to be like nearly three quarters of NICU parents diagnosed with a mental health illness, in my case Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Last week we celebrated Elijah’s fourth birthday, and it instantly brought me back standing in front of those double doors waiting to be buzzed in and hoping that I might get to hold him, to feed him, to be his mother and to bring him home.


Not only is September Elijah’s birthday but it is also #nicuawarenessmonth. Where we honour the NICU babies and their families, as well as the amazing job the staff do. It is about raising awareness, it is about talking about our experiences, starting a conversation so we normalise NICU.

It is about not pushing someone to move on just because they are home, it is about how we can help NICU parents whilst they are on the ward, it is about providing better mental health support. Most of all it is about supporting and comforting those new parents who are currently sitting in a side room terrified and alone. It is about telling the new mum who has to leave the hospital without her baby that it is okay to be angry with the world, that yes you will resent others who go in and bring their babies home on the same day.

Big Family NICU Photo Event

One of the ways to do this is to speak to other NICU parents and there is an amazing local event taking place on October 6 at Caistor Hall called the Big Family NICU Photoshoot which is bringing past and present NICU families and staff together for the biggest official photo of NICU families, and much more, find out more on Facebook by searching ‘The Big Family NICU Photo Event’.

I choose to share my story, and will continue to do so to raise awareness of the issues NICU parents face so that other NICU parents don’t have to. That we can better support and comfort them and make them feel as they matter too.

Vicki Cockerill is a freelance content writer and NICU/CHD mum to two boys, she authors The Honest Confessions Of A NICU Mum Blog and co-founded the @KnackeredandNorwich Social Club and campaigns for NICU and MMH issues.

You can contact her via her blog or social media; Facebook Instagram Twitter LinkedIn Blog

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