After I had spent some time with munchkin on NICU I was allocated a ward room and a midwife came and had a quick chat with me about hand expressing and that was it. Thankfully I had been hand expressing colostrum for a few weeks prior as a breast reduction meant it likely that breastfeeding would be tricky (If only I had known how tricky!) (you can read my breastfeeding story here so I had a stash and know how to do it. It almost makes you look like a heroin addict- hunch over a spoon expressing this golden brown liquid and then sucking it up in a syringe! My proudest achievement in life is that I was able to predominantly breastfeed her- we had a horrific old time of it for many reasons and most breastfeeding counsellors were in complete awe of me for continuing. But now I know the only reason I stuck it out despite the hell was it was my way of making it up to her for failing her in the birth. I guess it was positive that I stuck with it but my rationale for doing so probably needed work!
The next day we spent a lot of time with munchkin- she slept a lot- we tried to get her to latch on it wasn’t working. She was tube fed my colostrum and sugar water. That evening we were told she her infection markers were up and she needed a lumbar puncture- we gave consent. We were told we would get the results that evening- we hung around anxiously- it might have been meningitis or something. The results never came in and my husband was thrown out of the hospital and not allowed to wait with me- we were both exhausted stressed and tired. That night in my twin bedded room they allocate another lady who has just given birth to my room- she is with her baby. I couldn’t bear it – it was not fair- I spoke to my wonderful community midwife who comes haring down to me and kicks off at the ward sister until I get my own room. I don’t want to sound precious but it was horrible not being with my newborn baby and to have such a painful reminder in close proximity really wasn’t helping. I was also on a mixed antenatal and post natal ward. This means I still got to hear women screaming in agony and reminding me of what had happened to me. The next couple of days are a blur of spending time in NICU, trying to express, get skin to skin, establish breastfeeding, get my food and painkillers.
On about day 3 one of the lovely male NICU nurses came and told me “we have good news, she is being moved from High dependency intensive care to low dependency intensive care!” (This was in reaction to me going into her room and not being able to identify her- she was a massive baby surrounded by tiny preemies so it was usually fairly easy but I did nearly plump for the biggest baby in the room I could find! ooops!). Its funny but what he said actually shocked me- I had an idea she was on Special care until that time- I didn’t know the different levels of care (SCBU- special care baby unit being much lower than NICU – neonatal intensive care), and finding that out shocked me. So probably good I didn’t have that realisation until a few days in as I was getting used to it! She had been taken off C-PAP (pressured oxygen I think) but was still on heart monitors, nasogastric tube, canula for her meds so it was still all pretty horrid. We asked for the obsetrician who delivered munchkin to talk to us about her delivery- but at the time I was still to traumatised to talk about it so H had a long chat with her about it. When he fed back to me- that really helped.
Later on NICU were told the main issue with munchkin was the oxygen starvation- they thought she had grade 1 hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Grade1’s are usually okay. Grade 2’s= cerebral palsy or epilepsy etc. Grade 3’s catatonic or dead. So it could have been a lot worse. I was surprised by this announcement as until then I thought the main worry was the pneumonia. But we carried on in a kind of autopilot “it will all be fine” daze. She was scheduled for an MRI at 8days old.
I got so cross with the lack of link up between post natal ward and NICU- I kept missing my food or pain relief because I was with munchkin or I’d miss munchkin being awake because no-one rang me to get me to come down to try and breastfeed her when I had gone back to ward for a sleep or food or something. It was an extremely frustrating experience and I ended up crying at PALS about it one day and then crying on the awesomely named Sister Comfort who lived up to her name allright.
During this time I also had to pull a massive tantrum about the breast pump I was promised but never materialised- finally they sorted me out one and I was able to start pumping and trying to get munchkin to latch which was a mission in itself. Thankfully we had the most amazing speech and language therapist- Kate help us with our breastfeeding. (I thought this was odd given that babies don’t speak but no-matter she was ace). She spent hours with us trying to help us to get munchkin to latch on and at one point she even helped me squeeze my nipple to express a bit of milk so Munchkin might smell it and be interested (I am completely mortified now that I asked her to do that but at the time I had absolutely no hands free and it was impossible for me to do- and bless her she did blush a bit but got a pair of gloves on and did it- haha your shame really does go completely out of the window when you have a baby!- she was a true professional!
I think the hospital also sent a psychiatrist to evaluate us- this woman kept coming to talk to us when we were with munchkin in NICU she was very annoying and kept talking to me and H about our childhoods and how we met. I really felt uncomfortable with this and in the end I asked for her not to come and see us again- but i suppose it is nice they do put in psych suport for parents with babies in NICU.
Two post natal experiences warranted their own blog posts: Ex best friend which happened whilst munchkin was still in NICU and then Evil midwife from hell which happened on day seven when munchkin had only been roomed in with me for 2 days.
When NICU told me munchkin could be roomed in with me til her MRI on the monday I was estatic and so excited. I finally moved off the mixed antenatal/postnatal ward (no more hearing women scream) and got my very own room with a view in another ward. Being roomed in with munchkin was odd- I didn’t have a clue what I was doing because despite her being 5 days old I had never had to care for her independently. We were told by a NICU nurse that they would send munchkin up with a sleep apnoea monitor (she still had her nasogastric tube and antiobiotic canula at this point but all other tubes etc were gone). But when I asked on the ward about this they said that she didn’t need it- but I didn’t believe them (as by this point we had been messed around a lot by the hospital) and in the end a Paeds reg. had to come and reassure me that the NICU nurse had made a mistake. I didn’t sleep barely at all during my time in hospital- but i do have vaguely happy memories of listening to Munchkins rockabye baby CD (queen tunes set to lullabyes) with special bird lights (from our wedding) on that made the lighting really soothing and just rocking and singing to her. This was the first time we properly got to bond. Some of the midwives and care assistants were phenomenal during this time- especially Pauline who advocated co-sleeping, Lorna who turned a blind eye to H staying the night after the evil bitch midwife from hell incident (I felt i needed him to protect me) and the lovely care assistant whose name I never got but who endlessly supported me with breastfeeding and swaddling and whatnot.
Munchkin was in NICU for 5 days and we were in hospital for 8days in total. Her MRI on day 8 was horrible. She was sedated with suppositries but she kept pooing them out so they kept having to give her more. She was bundled up and wheeled down to the MRI room- only two people were allowed in with her (and her NICU reg. wanted to go in to make sure they did it properly) so I sent H in- they said they could probably persuade them to let me in too but I couldn’t face it so went off to sort my stuff out in the hope we could go home later. She came round in special care and they watched us breastfeed for a while- it was traumatic because while she had been under sedation I had also needed to pump, we didn’t want her to be fed anymore through the tube so we tried to breastfeed as much as possible but obviously my boobs were empty following the pumping. But we gave her a top up in a cup later and finally they said we could leave hospital,(although they were worried about her weightloss).
It was a very cold February. The heating was broken and we had electric heaters in our rooms which I kept on full blast. Going to the loo or showers was so cold I would be uncontrollably shivering for ages afterwards. When we finally left the hospital on the 8th day after munchkins MRI it was dark and so cold- despite H having racked the heating up in the flat full blast I don’t think munchkin or I stopped shivering all that night. It took us so long to adjust to being home.
By the Friday of being home munchkin had lost 14% of her bodyweight. They sent us to hospital for a dehydration check. They promised us we would only be in an hour. 7hours later we finally left after a lot of arguments. Our midwife thought she was fine and that actually it was a false birth weight but the paediatricians wanted to make sure. Her dehydration levels were fine but they put us on a crazy top up regime but she didn’t reach her birthweight til 6weeks old.
But hey 18months later all is good with me and the munchkin- who has just woken up from her nap so time to stop writing this epic blogpost- was cathartic though!