Today I had a little moment. It is more complex the second time round but each baby brings with it some version of challenge. For Matisse it was the birth then feeding and sleeping. Seeming incredibly significant at the time to my sleep deprived brain my focus was that she was healthy and happy.
We had a whirlwind four weeks with Willow. I got the perfect birth a relief after Matisse’s traumatic one. We sat there in amazement at how incredible the experience was.
Everything appeared to be falling in to place. She was alert and feeding constantly. We had mum and dad staying with us helping out with Matisse. Lots of wonderful visitors, life was peachy. Then her weight went in to free fall.
She was from a good paddock starting out just over 4kg so I didn’t fret at the usual loss. She was within 10% which Matisse wasn’t so I thought we were golden. Home and hosed no fuss needed this time.
Natural birth, healthy baby we were home for afternoon tea. I was over the moon for Matisse to be unfazed by it all. We went in the middle of the night, she came to visit in the morning with Nanna and Pa. off to childcare and home to her new baby. Life was not too different. Plus Willow came in to the world with an Elsa costume for Matisse so she totally rocked.
After all of the wonderfulness I couldn’t foresee any feeding problems. Each weigh was a loss. Each weigh got more frequent. Each weigh the midwife got more and more worried and I became stressed. Why wasn’t my baby putting on weight?
She didn’t have any outward signs of being ‘sick’ she appeared to feed well and for lengthy periods. She wasn’t crying for more. It was a bit worrying.
On this particular weigh in I’d already started the milk supply drug Motilium and had been giving her top ups. Still not much of an improvement. My midwife at the hospital wanted a paediatrician to look over Willow to give her the all clear. Let the fun begin.
In to emergency we go. Three paeds saw her, sleep deprived mother feeding three hourly round the clock and distressed from witnessing her babies first ever traumatic experience. Three viles of blood dripped from her foot. I couldn’t comfort her enough and felt incredibly numb. She was being admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and I couldn’t contain the tears at the thought of leaving my newborn in hospital two weeks after taking her home.
Dan whizzed to the hospital half a day in to his first day back from paternity leave. We were escorted up to NICU and it felt like they took my baby from my arms, without word, placing her in the humidicrib, stripping her off and placing a heart monitor on her. Nothing appeared reasonable at this stage. I asked the nurse if I was going to be able to hold her again while she was in the crib. The answer was yes but only for feeding. My newborn bubble was being burst.
I felt incredibly silly feeling so ‘on edge’ when there were beautiful babies surrounding us that were noticeably struggling. Their parents eyes drawn at having been doing this down pat routine for weeks. It was heartbreaking, I kept thinking they were subtlely telling me that my baby was actual sick. Dan and I were scared.
Dan left to pick up our bigger baby from childcare and organise all that we’d need for our stay. Silver lining, they had a room for me I wasn’t going to be too far from Willow after all. Good news was the blood test came back clear, no infection detected. Bad news, it was to be repeated the next day and we still had no indicator as to why we were admitted.
The Paediatrition came by and said she needed a urine specimen, good luck getting that from a baby. She convinced me that she needed to place a needle directly in to Willows bladder to get the urine. I was told to leave as it was more distressing for the parent. I wanted to comfort her but felt like I would break if I stayed. How I couldn’t be stronger was beyond me, I was failing and not coping well at all. The nurse came to get me and alas the procedure had failed, Willow had a wee as the Paed placed the needle in to my little babies bladder. I wish I’d said no. Days later we were discharged without urine specimen the importance placed on this was a farce but at the time I needed to help then uncover any problems.
We were moved within the unit after a few hours and with every move you are deemed lower risk. ‘Keep moving us’I said. I was put on a strict feeding routine. Feed, give expressed milk. Express, clean the parts to the machine. It would take 1.5hrs and feeding 3hrly I was able to get plenty of cuddles but very little sleep. I was struggling to eat, shower get the very important coffee and go to the toilet. I didn’t want my baby to feel like I’d left her. I was failing. My body was failing.
She appeared to be well, they couldn’t tell me anything otherwise But they wouldn’t let realease us without a diagnosis or weight gain.
Being a full term baby we got a daily weigh, yay us! But they wouldn’t do it until 2 in the morning so I added that to my current calendar of events. On the second night I suggested we do a before feed and after weigh to determine how much milk she was getting. 5ml after a 45mins or so I was devastated yet relieved at the same time. I needed to up the Motilium and focus more on me to get my supply up. Her nappy was drier and drier each change it was time for formula top ups and at this two am weigh in I was so exhausted there was not much more to give.
Now we were on to breast feeding, expressed milk top up, formula top up then expressing again. The in house lactation consultant was available when needed and helped me to get a very tired Willow feeding properly.
All we needed was a weight gain and the bloods to be clear. I’m sure the nurses wanted me out, with each day my conversations got more and more delirious.
On the third night we had a gain, I was ecstatic we had done it and hopefully with a clear blood test in the morning we would be on our way.
What made our discharge an even happier one was seeing our mate across the way going home too. He had been in for the long stay. Over 100 days and his parents were overjoyed to finally be taking their baby boy home.
We had no idea what they were looking for. When I had a nurse home visit she told me that it is fairly common in the special care nursery to have babies whose bodies reject the nutrition of the milk. I was then informed.
Never do I want to repeat that experience again. Willow had a slow gain for a while as we got home but now she is finally over her birth weight and getting chubbier every day.
Almost six weeks in and I’m still attached to a breast pump after each feed. She will eventually get the feeding business as she gets older but now I’m just happy she is healthy and giving us the cutest smiles. Hospital didn’t ruin our happy baby after all.
This is an extremely long blog post but in saying that it has been cathartic to share my story.