I wrote here about how we met our baby boy. I’d had my heart set on having him at home, surrounded by my family, but sometimes things just don’t go to plan, and I was whisked off to hospital in what felt like a drag-racing car with ambulance written on the side of it.
I was still doped up on pethidine when TJ was born so I felt a little shell shocked as he shot out (quite literally) and then was placed in my arms. The relief was massive though. After a grueling pregnancy and tough birth my baby boy was finally here. Safe and healthy. Or so we thought.
After daddy had a cuddle with him, one of the midwives took TJ over to be cleaned up and another midwife started to clean me up (code for stitched up). After a few minutes The midwife who was looking after TJ brought him over to the other midwife and indicated to something on his tiny body. As I sucked on the gas and air they talked in hushed tones.
Discolouration… Oxygen levels…Get someone else in quickly…
A third midwife came in and took TJ to the corner of the room with the first midwife. I was still being stitched up and as I craned my neck to see what was going on, my midwife encouraged me to focus on the gas and air.
What were they doing to my baby? More hushed tones.
Go and get a Consulant…Now.
Moments later someone else was in the room and looking over TJ, who quickly explained to me that my baby needed help breathing and they needed to take him away to do that.
I was so drugged up I fought to keep my eyes open. He asked me if I understood what was happening. I said I did, but I didn’t.
Why wasn’t my son breathing properly? What was wrong with him? Had I done this? Was he going to be ok?
The questions rushed around my head but the words couldn’t reach my mouth. I just had to keep my eyes open. Come on H, just keep your eyes open.
And then it was quiet. Just Mr C and I in the room that minutes earlier had been filled with elation and relief. I should have had my son in my arms. I should have been giving him his first feed. But he wasn’t with me. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t even know if he was ok.
The lovely midwives that had delivered TJ came back in and tried to reassure me. I tried so hard to make sense of the words they were speaking.
Respitory distress… Support with breathing… C-PAP machine… Special Care…
They explained that they had sent for a specialist from another hospital that has a bigger Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He’d be here shortly.
Mr C was able to go their own little special care unit to see our son. I wanted it to be me. I wanted to see my baby with my own eyes. But it brought me a little comfort to know that one of us could be with him at least. When Mr C came back he showed me pictures he had taken of our baby boy.
Sometimes your heart can heal, but other times there are fractures that just don’t heal. They endure indefinitely. Seeing those first pictures of my baby boy all hooked up to tubes in the incubator, and knowing I couldn’t fix him, broke my heart in a way that will never fully heal. It still aches now.
A little while later they brought a wheelchair in and took me to him. He looked so fragile. I wanted to rip out all the tubes that separated us and hold my baby close to me.
Apparently TJ had been feeling the same way and had been sedated to stop him pulling at his tubes.
He’s a strong little fella, the nurse smiled at me.
I met the NICU consultant that had come from the larger NICU to assess my baby. He had a kind and gentle way about him and he explained that TJ was breathing on his own but that the C-PAP machine was giving him a helping hand to do that, taking pressure off his lungs. He was hopeful that they could keep him off a ventilator if the C-PAP continued to do its’ job. But they needed to find out why his lungs couldn’t do it on their own and so they wanted to transfer TJ over to their NICU half an hour’s drive away.
I tried to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat and asked when that would happen. He said they were already getting him ready to be moved now.
Everything was happening so fast. I had only just given birth after a 27 hour labour. I was knackered. I was sore. I hadn’t even walked around yet. In the rush to get me to hospital I had some stuff with me but no clothes. Just the PJs I had in my ’emergency bag’.
I wasn’t prepared for this.
They needed to move TJ onto different monitors, ready for transfer, so I tore my eyes away from him and allowed Mr C to wheel me away. My heart broke all over again.
I began to panic about being away from my baby. So bloody far away. I ached to hold him, to be near him. It wasn’t just an emotional thing – it was a physical pull. A maternal pull. Just hours before, he’d been safely tucked up inside my tummy. Now he was being taken miles away, kept alive by plastic tubes and machines. As grateful as I am to those tubes now – at the time I despised them for being so necessary.
The midwives that had been looking after us were amazing. They answered all of our questions and arranged an in-hospital flat right outside the Special Care Ward, for both Mr C and I to stay in once I had been discharged and we got over to the other hospital. I was anxious to leave as soon as possible but they gently reminded me that my baby was in safe hands and that they needed to assess him once he got to the NICU anyway. The deal was that I had a shower and a little sleep while they sorted discharge papers and then they’d get me out of there as soon as they could.
And that’s what happened. A couple of hours later, a fresher and slightly more rested version of myself was in the car with her husband as they drove even further away from their home to be with their son. She was still wearing her PJs.
The staff at in the NICU were so welcoming and talked about TJ as if he was part of their own family. It mattered to us that they cared. They explained to us that TJ had become distressed on arrival and kept fighting with the C-PAP machine and so they had to ventilate him. It was not what we wanted to hear but I was so relieved to just be near him again, it seemed easier to accept.
They reassured us that our baby was a good weight and a little fighter. We said goodbye to our baby boy for the second time that day as we left the NICU to have a short rest in the flat. We’d be back on the ward within a couple of hours so I could get acquainted with the electric breastpumps…!
The next morning we got to do TJ’s ‘cares’, cleaning him and changing his nappy through little holes in the incubator. To be able to physically touch my baby boy was incredible and made me feel like I was doing what his momma should be doing.
Throughout the day we came and went, moving between NICU, our little flat and the breast-pumping room. In the afternoon TJ was taken off the ventilator but was still hooked up to a little bit of oxygen, IV antibiotics and monitors. We were assured that he was doing really well and the nurses were over the moon with how quickly we was turning things around.
When we walked into Special Care at 10pm that night a nurse caught us before we walked into the NICU.
Are you TJ’s parents? Can you just follow me? And he led us towards another door. Away from NICU.
No. this can’t be happening. My worst nightmare filled my head as nausea rose up inside my chest.
He stopped in a doorway. And smiled.
He’s doing well your little lad. He’s been promoted out of Intensive Care. Come and see him!
I wanted to both hug and punch that nurse but the pull to see my son had me do neither, and we followed the him into the High Dependency Unit.
Theo had been too poorly to be breastfed and so required nasogastric intubation (fed through a tube going up into the nose), but we were quickly taught how to check the PH levels in his tummy and do those feeds ourself. I was too scared to get it wrong and so this became Mr C’s job and he’d head off to the Special Care ward, even in the night, to feed his baby.
To think that this now exclusively breastfed baby was first fed by his daddy. It’s a funny old world.
Each day saw TJ grow from strength to strength. He was starting to breastfeed well and even shout for feeds and so they made the decision to remove his nasogastric tube. Before long they were confident he didn’t need to be on constant monitoring and I sat and watched, with equal measures of delight and fear, as my baby boy became tube-free.
The next morning we sat by TJ’s little cot and waited for the consultants to do their hand-over walk around. We knew that the ward Sister was going to recommend discharge to go home but it had to be approved by the consultant . TJ’s saturation levels were great, he wasn’t hooked up to any monitors and he was now exclusively breastfed. There was no medical reason for him to stay. I held my breath as the doctors walked into the room with the Sister and she gave me a confident smile. She gave her reasoning for why TJ should be good to be discharged and looked at the consultant, waiting for a response. He looked at the notes and hesitated. It was the same doctor who had been on duty the night TJ had been brought in and was put on the ventilator. He agreed that TJ was doing really well, but he reminded us that we need to keep in mind that TJ was born very poorly for a term-baby. Coupled with our distance from hospital, the doctor was not quite confident enough to discharge our baby boy just yet, as babies like TJ can deteriorate after signs of improvement. He wanted to observe him over the next 24 hours. All being well he’d be happy to discharge TJ the following morning and suggested we take him with us to the flat that night so we can look after him as if we were at home.
If I’m honest I was relieved they were being so cautious and not taking any risks with my baby. And the end was in sight. My baby was doing well and there was a real hope of going home within 24 hours.
But there was yet to be one last hurdle to cross before that would happen. We just didn’t know it yet.
To be continued (again -but for the last time!)…
Mrs C x
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