The Neonatal Intensive Care Uni(t)verse – the ugly


It is September 2011 and as I pick up the pack of teeny, tiny premature baby diapers to use as props for a friend’s baby shower, I wonder if it is not perhaps tempting fate, or asking for trouble to buy them. I brush the feeling off and buy them anyway! Not even 15 months later, I wonder about that day again as I have to go out and buy more of those teeny tiny diapers, but only this time it is for a real baby- my baby who is born 5 weeks early at a  very low birth weight because of preeclampsia. It doesn’t matter that you’re told it’s not your fault and there was nothing you could have done, you still need to find some reason for this thing happening to you and your child.

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The face of preeclampsia

I am almost double my usual weight, my legs look like tree stumps, I can hardly see for my swollen eyes and I snore. Not a little either; so much that I’m constantly jerking awake from my own snoring! I feel like a bloated whale carcass and waddle around on my tree stumps like a duck with a wooden leg. But at least my pregnancy will be shortened by 5 weeks and I will have a new, albeit premature, baby for Christmas! Not exactly what had been on my wish-list…

P1050632All the  websites and the books warn you that your new-born might not resemble the fat little cherub you were expecting her to be. But  no-one warns me that my prem baby would take a month before she would look more like a baby rather than a semblance of Gollum with her wrinkles, skinny little limbs and big eyes! The biggest shock to my system is the first time I have to change her diaper. Due to the fact that she has absolutely no fat on her body, she has no bum! It’s just skin with bone sticking out and I have to actively stop myself from bursting into tears. The normal new born-sized diapers fasten  just under her armpits…

She has to grow, she has to gain weight as fast as possible in order for us to get her out of here! “Breast is best” and this is even truer when it comes to tiny preterm babies. I am determined to establish breastfeeding as early as possible and barely three hours after delivery, I am wheeled into the NICU to try and feed her. She latches and sucks like a champ!

On day two I drag my tired, sore body out of bed to feed her every three hours. I am rather proud of myself, but my confidence is soon shattered. I walk in and greet the nurses, telling them that I am here to feed my baby. At the counter stands another nurse, whom I’ve not officially met, but I have listened to her spew bile on my previous two visits to the NICU ward. She doesn’t address me directly, but speaks loud enough so I can hear her: “This is the third time today this woman is here to breastfeed! She will tire the baby!”  “My” nurse hesitates and tells me my baby is sleeping and I should rather not wake her up as she needs the sleep and rest and that breastfeeding can be really tiring for these little ones. I don’t even get to see her and instead walk back to my room wondering what the hell just happened. There was no need to be so rude, I can understand reason?

20121220_104734Everything goes downhill from there. My confidence is shattered, the baby stops drinking, her blood sugar plummets and to top it all off, she gets neonatal jaundice and is placed under the lights for two days. Now I am not only concerned with only her weight, but also her sugar and billirubin levels. Before every feed my heart tightens in my chest when yet again, a needle is stuck into that tiny little heel that is already impossibly bruised in order to test her blood sugar levels.

I get angry and frustrated. All around me other mothers are being told they can “sleep in” and every day, someone else gets to take her baby home and it just never seems to be me!

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2 Responses to The Neonatal Intensive Care Uni(t)verse – the ugly

  1. Pingback: The Neonatal Intensive Care Uni(t)verse- the good | Me, my life and I

  2. Pingback: How quickly we forget | Me, my life and I

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