I don't always enjoy sharing this story because it still brings tears to my eyes having to recall the pain and loneliness mwb must have felt in the neonatal intensive care unit. Barely a day old, I saw my little girl with needles, tubes and wires everywhere. Even if at the end of the day, what mwb had wasn't anything too severe, at that moment in time, to not know what was happening made the possibility of losing my baby, even before I met her, feel very real.
If you're going through something similar, know that I felt everything that you do (maybe more, maybe less) and you're not alone. Right now, you might feel a certain emptiness not being able to nurse or have contact with the baby whom you spent the last 9 months bonded to, but during this separation, know that your baby is getting the best care and fighting his best fight.
By the time she was ready for this world, mwb was a ripe 3.6kg at 39 weeks and 5 days old. I was experiencing contractions for nearly 24hrs and still not dilating quick enough. After being induced and another 4 and a half hours later, I heard the cries of mwb as the nurses laid her on my chest. Covered in blood and all sorts of gooey stuff, I placed one finger on her little arm, too grossed out by the stuff to touch her.
This, I quickly came to regret.
A minute later, her cord had been cut and she was whisked away by the nurses while my gynae sorted me out. I read about and watched so many deliveries before this day so I knew mwb was due back in my arms after a quick check and wipe down.
So I waited.
And I waited some more.
Something didn't feel right. A couple more nurses came in and held an oxygen mask over mwb. My husband hovering around them. It was quiet, except for the sound of machines.
The nurse came over to ask if I had selected a paediatrician. I told her I hadn't.
She said "that's okay," and left.
45 minutes had past and mwb was still in the warmer with the oxygen mask held over her face. A paediatrician arrived and explained to us that she wasn't breathing well on her own and had to be taken to the NICU. He told us that she wouldn't be able to spend the night with us and I burst into tears.
Up to this point, I've only touched my baby with a finger because I was too grossed out. I felt so angry with myself and so worried about mwb. I felt like I was going to lose her before I even met her. A little dramatic in hindsight, but at this point, we did not know how what exactly was going on with our baby.
The nurse who was by my side during my delivery must've noticed how I was feeling and she brought mwb to me. She said I could have a quick cuddle and a photo but would have to give her back right after.
Being wheeled up into my room, I was received by 3 nurses, all of whom asked where the baby was when they saw us alone. That night and the next morning went by in a daze. We barely slept and were impatient for the morning to come around so we could go check in on mwb. I didn't/couldn't even care about what was going on with me and my lady parts. I couldn't even process that first 'scary' pee post-delivery, since I was told I couldn't go visit my baby until it was over.
When we saw her, her little body was in the incubator, tubes everywhere, earplugs in, blindfold on. We were told not to touch her or interact in any way because crying might cause her little lungs, which were really stiff, to rupture.
We stayed for a little while to stare at her and were told there wasn't much we could do except to rest up and start pumping. Every three hours, my husband would collect whatever drop(s) of milk I produced into a tiny little syringe for us to bring to our next visit. I would be so embarrassed to present my syringe to the nurses each time.
For the rest of our 2 day stay, we went through the motions, with only our little girl on our minds.
During this time, my husband kept the hospital-bill-worries and his exhaustion to himself. Never once allowing me to stress over anything other than my own & mwb's recovery. I would catch him in the middle of the night on his phone, quietly researching on mwb's condition, emailing our insurers and worrying on his own.
Then came the morning of my discharge. We would leave the hospital, my belly still round, with neither a baby inside nor in my arms. I couldn't explain the feeling that came over me. I felt somewhat loss, coming home to a crib that didn't have a baby in it.
The house had been ready for weeks, months even. It was so quiet following our excitement from the days before, when we left to have our baby. I felt a sense of 'failure' as a mother being unable to protect my baby from whatever it was she was facing.
During mwb's stay in the hospital, we would anxiously wait at home for a call each morning, for an update from the doctor and to be informed on what time we could start our visits for the day.
Day 4 of her stay, we received the call that mwb had most of her tubes and monitors removed and I was allowed to carry her for the first time. We rushed to the hospital that morning. I was so excited to finally hold my baby. There were a couple of tubes still attached and we had to be careful as we took turns holding mwb.
That afternoon, the nurse told me I could attempt to breastfeed. It was almost as if she knew I was her mommy, because she latched on immediately. It hurt so much more than I expected, but that, is another story for another post. My body reacted almost instantly to that first contact and my milk came in that very night.
At the end of her week's stay we we eager to bring her home, so it broke my heart when we were told that she had to stay for another night of observation just to be sure. It felt like the longest day ever. I didn't dare get my hopes up and was prepared to not bring baby home the next day.
Lucky for us, we got a call the next morning.
"She's ready to be discharged mommy. You can come and pick her up at noon".