So how was I going to “earn” my baby? I was going to protect her. From any threat or potential threat I could see. And by that stage we had both been put at risk so many times by the hospital that the doctors and nurses were seen as the biggest potential threat to my baby’s safety. But how could I protect my precious newborn baby…I couldn’t even protect myself!
I don’t remember very much of the first day. My partner rang my parents to let them know bub had arrived. I think he rang a few other people as well. I can’t remember if I got up that day. I don’t think I did. Bub stayed in my room. They had some concerns about her temperature and wanted to start her on antibiotics “just in case”. I told them that they could confirm whether or not she needed them before I’d consent. During the night a midwife helped me to roll onto my side to breastfeed bub and have skin to skin. I was keeping up with my pain meds but that was the most excrutiating pain ever. I was crying in pain and asked why on earth women voluntarily go through this?! It was worse than labour pain by far. I felt as though all my insides were ripping and going to fall out. I came so close to just telling the midwife to take the baby away and give her a bottle. That the pain was too great for me to get into a position to hold her or feed her. To just leave me to suffer – I couldn’t protect my baby so surely I deserved to suffer.
But I didn’t. I made it onto my side. Bub was fed.
Our time in hospital is all a bit blurry and I can’t find my file to confirm details. So, while all these things happened I’m not 100% sure of the order or timing.
Bub was confirmed to have an infection. They advised that she needed a cannula put in and would need IV antibiotics for 5 days. I let them take my baby up to special care but asked them not to start the procedure until I was there. Some kind nurse found me a wheelchair and we went up. To find that my baby was screaming horribly as they tried to do the cannula. Of course no-one had honoured my wishes…that would cause the whole fabric of society to collapse. They took three goes in one hand and two in the other before the cannula was in. I’m fairly certain bub was given plenty of sugar water – to help with the pain.
We were told that bub had mild jaundice. Not severe enough to need to go under the lights but enough that we needed to keep an eye on it. Feed regularly.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Bub was found to have some sort of funny heartrate. They wanted to keep her in the special care nursery for the night. This was either the second or third night…I can’t remember. I refused to let them take her and insisted that I be wheeled up there with her. I guess it must have been the second night if I was still being wheeled places. I sat there, with her on my lap hooked up to all the cords for most of the night. The nursery received a call from the maternity ward asking if I was coming back for my pain relief. I told them that I wasn’t leaving my baby alone. At one stage I started to fall asleep. A nurse came over and said that we could go back to the ward. That whatever they saw in her heartrate was probably normal. So at about 4 am we headed back.
Bub was found to have lost almost 10% of her weight. Which is quite normal, but she was small to start with (oh…that bub that my partner thought was going to be “too big” to homebirth was 2.76kgs or 6pounds 1ounce). So we were pressured to supplement with formula. We started using an SNS – supplemental nursing system. That’s where the tube comes down to your nipple so bub is suckling at the breast while getting the supplemental feed. It’s a bit fiddly but brilliant for helping to stimulate supply while also supplementing bub.
After about the first 2 goes the nurse in the special care nursery decided it was too fiddly. She advised that she wasn’t going to help us with it and that we “needed” to have a nasal gastric tube put in. We argued a bit but we did it.
So the rest of our stay in hospital – which was a total of 6 days post birth – we had a great routine. Feed bub every 3 hours. But she was only allowed to be fed in the special care nursery. So I would get out of bed, put bub in her trolley, walk down the corridor to the lift, wait for 20mins for the lift to arrive and go up to the nursery. Where I would then be chastised for being late. I would feed bub for 5 – 10 minutes each side. Bub would be given her supplement. Then I would pump – also 10 mins each side. The nurse would harass me about being on time next time. I’d go back up to the ward. And cry.
Courtesy of Amey Bencke
Sometimes in between these sessions I would get to eat or shower. Take bub for some other test. Occasionally a nap. I complained to one nurse about how I wasn’t getting a chance to eat and was told that eating wasn’t necessary – I just needed to make sure I was drinking enough water. Everywhere I turned someone was telling me that I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t make decisions for bub. My body had failed to have a healthy pregnancy, failed to go into labour, failed to birth and I was now failing to feed my baby.
My milk still hadn’t come in. I was given pamphlets on what to do for my “low milk supply”. I was seen by the lactation consultant. Finally bubs weight started to come up. On day 5 I was told that I was being discharged. To another room in the hospital. Some sort of room for those whose babies still needed to be in hospital but the mothers didn’t. I was told to set my alarm for every three hours so that I could get up and feed bub.
Then finally it was time to go and give bub the last round of antibiotics and then go home. So we went and waited and waited and waited. While waiting I noticed bub’s chart sitting in front of me and picked it up to read. Only to have it very quickly snatched out of my hand. Apparently I’m not authorised to read my own child’s chart. Well…maybe you shouldn’t leave my kid’s chart sitting around where anyone could pick it up?!
We finally walked out of the hospital. With our baby. Finally we were a family.
The worst was behind us, but there was still more to come. More to learn. More to grow from. I spent the next few months slowly but surely going crazy. Wondering how I could feel like this when no-one else did? Why me? Why my baby? Why was I such a crappy mum?
I am feeling so sad that you had to go through that experience, and so angry on behalf of you and other women who get treated like that. It is almost impossible, as a labouring and breastfeeding woman not to become a victim in the medical system. I guess that's why so many women embrace the victim mentality: often their behaviour is seen as brave and noble and that makes their experience seem less dreadful. Good on you for sharing your story.