Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Making of The Man

Minutes old!
The Man was born in the evening on the last day of autumn in 2007 (May 31st). He arrived by caesarean section just under three weeks early because my waters had broken and whilst we waited for labour to start, we were hoping for a Vaginal Birth After Caesarian, the risks to us both increased beyond what we deemed sensible. We were eager to meet him. Whilst we were waiting to be called in to surgery I read the prayers that the wives at Australian Lutheran College (Sem) had written for the prayer shower that was happening that night in my absence. It was beautiful to know their love and support and prayers whilst we waited anxiously.

Our surgery went fairly normal, except that the room was exceedingly cold, and this, added to the stress of surgery, made me very, very cold.

Daddy wasn't impressed with the scrubs they gave him to
wear, but Our Man was worth it!
Our Man was pulled from the womb and the first words he heard was his Daddy giving him his name, Andreas Christian (Andreas after Andrew in the Bible who was the first to bring others to Jesus, and also after my Father, and Christian after his Daddy). He was brought to me pretty quickly, and the paediatrician spoke to me in ever such a quiet voice, it was really hard to hear him above the hubbub of theatre. I passed The Man over to Christian due to a sudden, severe headache, where I was unable to open my eyes. I was aware of little for the next 15 minutes because the pain was so intense (so much for all the rest of the pain relief I had on board for the surgery!).

It was just as I opened my eyes that our paediatrician told us Our Man was having trouble breathing and needed to be taken away for help. Our rule is that our new baby is never left without a parent with them, so Christian, whilst deeply concerned about me, left to watch over the care of Our Man. Meanwhile I left for recovery ward where they had to put a hot air blanket over me for more than 45 minutes to bring my temperature up. It took me a good 20 minutes to stop shivering!

Clearly Granny and I look pretty worried here at
Ashford Hospital
I remember that first night distinctly. Christian slept on the floor in my room. I too was urged by nurses to sleep, but they had to keep coming in for post surgery observations and all I could think about was my beautiful baby. I was deeply worried, because they had said they would bring him when he was hungry to try to feed, and they didn't. There was no clear report of what was wrong.

First thing Day 2, just on 12 hours after major abdominal surgery, a nurse came in to insist that I get out of bed. This was the best thing for me, as it got me moving earlier than normal, which starts up the healing processes. Next was to visit my baby.

We visited Our Man in the Special Care Baby Nursery. He had an oxygen box over his head, and he was crying desperately. I still didn't have a good report on him, I was certain that if they would just let me hold him and try to feed him it would all be okay.

First Night at the Women's And Children's Hospital
Our Man's godmother came to visit, but after seeing Our Man was unable to return because seeing him so sick reminded her of her little boy who had spent nearly 6 months at the NICU! She was my angel through the next three or four weeks. She would call me, and usually at that moment I just needed to hear a special voice. It has got to be that just hearing her voice makes my body physically relax. She did a marvellous ministry for me.

The paediatrician came and explained that he thought Our Man had Hyaline Membrane Disease. This is basically premature lungs, and whilst it is not common in a 37 week big baby, it does happen. To have proper treatment Our Man needed to be transferred to a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Our paeds worked hard to ensure that we were transferred to the Womens and Children's Hospital, as it was just down the road from our home at Sem. When the ambulance came to transfer him in the evening I asked to be the one to pick up my baby and put him in the intensive care cot. Because I had been steady on my feet all day I was able to do this special job and hold my little Man. I wouldn't get to hold him for the next four long days.
It takes a lot of strength not to hold him.

Thus we were all transferred over to the Women's And Children's. My Obstetrician saw to it that I had a private room, and insisted that I take a wheel chair down to the NICU every single time. Best advice!! This meant that I was still focused on recovery, whilst I could also be focused on my baby. The walking would have done me in because I spent most of my time in the NICU.

The Man was put into an induced coma and intubated so that a machine could breathe for him. I still did not understand how sick he was.

The next few days are a blur. I tried to be there to change his nappies and bedding, because if someone was going to touch my baby it was sure going to be me! I was devastated that I was not allowed to hold him, all I wanted to do was cuddle him close. But I touched him as much as I was able, talked to him, sang to him, prayed for him. I clung to Psalms...lots of them.

Initially, we were told that the coma would only be for a day, because he was such a big baby he would recover quickly. But Our Man did not improve. They struggled to stabilise him at one point. A lumbar puncture was done to find an infection, but it was negative. His little body swelled till his face looked like he had been in a bad fight. We prayed.

The first hold since birth.
I desperately didn't want to leave the hospital without Our Man, but my time had come to an end. My obstetrician had given me more than my allotted time anyway, wonderful doctor. It was good to be home in my own bed, home with my Tiger and Princess, but I was not really home, my mind and heart were in the hospital with Our Man. I am ever grateful to my dear Mama who came and cared for our children and our home so that we could focus on our Man. I slept nights down at the hospital in a lazy boy chair just down the hall from the Special Care Baby Unit.

Then, just as it was inexplicable that he was so sick, he started to get better quickly. His bed was needed just as he started to take milk so he was moved to the Special Care Baby Unit (one level down from NICU care). And so the feeding game began.

All the machines attached. The thing that upset me the
most was that he wasn't wrapped. I was sure it wasn't good
for him.
Our Man had gained a lot of weight already to this point, but this was just that he was retaining fluids, but now he rapidly lost weight, and the nurses and doctors were not happy. We were told that if he was off oxygen for 24 hours we could all go home.

We were called into the office of the professor, where he proceeded to tell us just how sick our little boy was. He went on about Our Man being put in a coma (no one had put it in those terms till now, so I was a bit shocked), then he talked about infection and our need to be isolated at home, The Man and I would have to be in a separate room to the rest of the children for three months. The children were not to touch or hold him. And he MUST put on weight by the next weigh in (tomorrow morning at home) or he would go back to hospital!

Did I say I was desperate for Our Man to come home? I would have agreed to nearly anything!! Although, I was not going to follow through with much of it. I did ensure that Our Man was kept away from everyone except family.

Tiger was pretty pleased to have a baby boy!
The Man had just been moved to SCBU.
7 Days old and he started to open his eyes.
He didn't put on weight. But I did feed him just before the nurse came, so I dodged that bullet. But she suggested that I help him by supplementing feeds with breast milk in a bottle. The milk would come faster, and it would help weight gain, and recovery. I did it. But Our Man was not thriving. He would spit up a lot and would scream a lot!

I am grateful to have had so many willing helpers with
feeding and caring for  Our Man. This was our first day home.
Our routine at this time was breast feed, bottle feed, baby sleep, Mummy pump, sterilise, and repeat. Christian kept begging me to sleep, but there was no time for it! Sem families kept supplying us with meals, so there was no cooking to be done. And The Man's godmother kept calling.

Princess helps feed Our Man
His weight gain was very slow, and the screaming continued. He would scream when I put him in the feeding position, arch his back and scream and fight like I was going to feed him poison. I talked to breast feeding consultants. One said that I just needed to sit right, and that reflux doesn't hurt babies. Grrr...if it hurts me, then I'm sure it will hurt them!!

But then at 2 and a half months he got sick. I went to him in the wee hours and his breathing was bad. Dr Daddy got out his stethoscope and then sent me to the hospital. We were in hospital with our little Man on oxygen for two days, and again, you can't leave hospital until they are off oxygen for 24 hours. I sought help for the breastfeeding here again, but to no avail.

Our smiling Man...the beginning of
what was to come!
Help came when I saw Christian's wonderful "boss" Dr Jennie. She observed me try to feed, and was disturbed by the problem. She prescribed an anti reflux drug, but sent me back to the paediatrician for something stronger. The screaming Man stopped screaming within the week!

And the feeding? Well, at three months, just before that paediatrician appointment, I decided it was time to go just to breast. We had a day of trying, and screaming, and praying, and crying and trying. By the end of the day he had barely wet a nappy, and Daddy said we should try again in three days, so he gave The Man a bottle. The next morning I went to The Man and offered the breast whilst Daddy went to warm up a bottle...The Man sucked like he would never get off! And he never had a bottle again!

And the screaming? Well once the medication started we had a New Man! He stopped crying altogether. Smiling started in ernest, and if he was hungry he would whimper. Smiling became his automatic response to anything, including a bonk on the head, which after smiling first he would cry. Our Man became the smiling Man! Oh! What a smile!! He is still our smiling Man!

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