In the throes of my premmie journey
I remember coming round, several hours after my c-section. I was in a lot of pain, took my meds and went back to sleep. It wasn't until the next day I really came around. I'd spent the first day of my baby's llfe, outside, sleeping. I was slightly panicked and worried. I called the nurse to ask if I could see my baby as no-one had really said much about it. I remember her responding like it was a silly question but I really had no idea where my baby was or even where to go.
I was wheeled down to see her, in a chair, and vaguely remember seeing her for the first time, in the Special Care Unit (SCU). I wasn't really prepared and had no knowledge of what to expect. So small. Alone. Breathing tube, monitors for her heart, her breathing rate and her blood oxygen levels. She had a glucose drip in, the supporting board larger than her tiny limb. The ward was quiet but the beeps from the monitors, alarming in more sense than one.
Firsts of many
Meeting my baby for the first time was a flurry of mixed emotions. I was so pleased she'd made it - she gave out a healthy cry when she came out which I was so pleased about. She was too small to breastfeed so had a feeding tube - my milk supply was nearly non-existent so she was to be given formula, something I felt so guilty about. Not the first time I would feel this emotion.
Whilst we were in the SCU , we saw her go under her first of 4 rounds of lights to treat jaundice - common in such young babies. She made steady and progressive weight gain, with the 2kg mark being the goal in order to make it home.
We had many attempts at breastfeeding, but she was too tired, requiring all her energy for growth. I hadn't anticipated this experience and felt a bit like I'd failed. (More Mum Guilt.)
For me, I had never realised that your milk could not be at a adequate level for your baby. It had never been mentioned or talked about. So, when I developed pre-eclampsia AFTER my baby was born, I had another contributing factor to a low supply, in addition to the stress of SCU. The hospital grade pump became my best friend - doing it's best, 10 times a day, to stimulate a supply and get my milk flowing. In the end I used Motilium (Domperidone) to help as the traditional foods weren't having much of an impact. My baby had to have whatever breastmilk I was producing (30mls maximum per pump) with a formula top up every feed.
My 3 bottles of breastmilk, each holding 10 mls...
Many Mums have said it before but once I got over the initial shock of where I was and what was to be expected, routine made the day more manageable and digestible. Being on 3 hourly feeds meant pumping around 1.5hrs after feeding, so in between that I would alternate between kangaroo care and eating a meal, going for a walk, whatever it was to get some sustenance and exercise.
Also, celebrate the firsts - the hurdles overcome, the first things you get to do with your baby that is often taken for granted, like the first hug, bath, breastfeed... these all come far later down the line than if you had your baby naturally with little problem.
Looking back, I do feel that the birth education classes are largely set up for natural birth, regular breastfeeding and a 'standard' journey. I felt immediately guilty when I was unable to have a natural birth and fully breastfeed. Whilst this is a bigger issue, I urge Mums out there to be kind to themselves and seek out others who know what you are going through. It really helps you realise you are not alone.
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