Parent Speak : Bringing Home Our Preemie Baby
As It Happened
Two Months to the Due Date Raaghavi :
On the 17th February 2017 around 4 a.m, as I came out of the washroom after changing my clothes for the third time, he asked me what was wrong. I told him that I had been urinating from midnight without control. I never realised that my water bag had started leaking until he typed, ‘water-bag discharge during pregnancy’ on Google! It was only the two of us at our home and no one else to help. With no further delay, we rushed to the hospital and got admitted. But I was still not in a state to understand what was happening. I had a mix of emotions that were not pleasant. And, that day would have been a tragedy if we had not figured it out in the early morning, when we did. My hubby was supposed to leave early that day for his most important official meeting (I still remember how he was preparing himself the previous night for his big day!) and my parents staying in my native place had to leave for my dad’s appointment with orthopaedic surgeon in a different place. I thank god for being kind to us in the timing. At the hospital, I was completely under bed rest and continuously monitored for the next 24 hours.
Yuvaraj : That was the time I used to surf a lot of things related to pregnancy, her diet, do’s and don’ts etc. As soon as she told me about her leakage, I prepared to expect the unexpected. I immediately got her admitted, discussed with our gynaecologist and senior paediatrician about what needed to be done. The discussions and decisions were so fast. I was told that she’ll go into labour anytime and it was decided that steroids injection which would help in the baby’s lung maturity, would be administered. The 2nd injection was to be given after a gap of 12 hours. Though I was convinced she would deliver our baby soon, I wanted it to happen only on the next day so that there would be enough time for both the injections. Meanwhile she was completely under bed rest with legs raised and systems connected to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. I was mentally preparing myself to handle the situation.
18th February 2017
Raaghavi : I was completely shocked to hear my doctor saying, ‘Let’s operate! The water level is getting low and it’ll be very risky to wait anymore’. I was always dreaming about a normal delivery of a healthy “full-term” baby. I never ever imagined my delivery to be like this. I thought everything will be fine and that I would go back home. I was not at all mentally prepared as I had a solid two months more for my expected date of delivery! But in no time, I was prepared. In between my hubby and I discussed the situation. I didn’t know, from where I gained so much courage. Being, a person who would scream for a single needle prick, I was totally ready to get cut open and stitched back. My only mantra then was to welcome my baby and ensure his safety. I could picture the scene; I was being moved into the OT while my husband and parents were standing outside helplessly, prayers in their mind. Since, it was a C-section; my husband was allowed to enter the OT at the last minute.
We were congratulated for being blessed with a baby boy! A nurse brought my baby near me, while I was being stitched. I saw my baby covered with mucous like substance, and I kissed him. This is what I remember about my first few minutes with my baby. It took me almost 24+ hours to see him again and 10+ days to hold him in my arms!
Luckily she didn’t go into labour on the same day and 2 doses of steroids were given. By the next day morning after performing an ultrasound,the Doctor told us to get ready for the delivery. Though I was sure that the delivery would happen, I didn’t expect it to be a C-section. However, as labour didn’t spontaneously start, we were left with no other option. I was worried at that moment but at the same time I was preparing myself to prepare her mentally. If I showed that I was worried, I felt as if she would lose her confidence too. Hiding all my fears I spoke to her after the doctor had left the room.
“The decision was taken for the wellbeing of baby”, I told her. Gradually she stopped worrying and I knew she was ready. All I wanted then was to ensure that both are safe.
I was allowed into the OT at the last moment. I was made to sit near her. I was holding her hands with no idea about what was happening behind the screens. And suddenly, I heard our baby crying. The Doctor congratulated us for delivering a boy baby. I was focusing only on the baby’s voice and I didn’t hear what the doctor said. So I checked again. By that time the baby was handed over to the paediatrician. Later, I was getting done with the NICU admission formalities, when my wife was getting stitched and the baby was being prepared for NICU. I was running from the NICU to the ward and back to NICU to check whether everything was fine for both of them”.
Raaghavi : I thought that after delivering my baby everything would be fine. But, the real struggle had just begun! I was in pain, which went high when I heard a baby crying from the next ward. I desperately wanted to be with my baby but I was taken to the NICU in a wheelchair only by the next evening. While the wheelchair rolled on to the NICU, I was trying to picture my baby’s looks. I tried hard and failed. I thought I should take a deep look at him so that, whenever I wanted to see my son, I could at least be able to see him in my mind. As I entered the NICU, There were around 6 to 7 babies, and I didn’t know which one was mine!! My husband took me near my son who was under photometry with few tubes/wires connected for feeding and monitoring. From then, I gained even more courage. I ignored listening to free advice, similar stories and even to some others. I promised myself to be more positive as my only aim then was to bring my baby home. Direct feeding was not possible since his gestational age was 31 weeks and his sucking capability was not developed by then. Lactation was another problem I faced. Since, it was not happening in the natural way, it was tough. I used to pump milk every two hours. Once I was done, it was followed by washing-sterilising-drying the feeding bottles/pump followed by pumping again. My Husband would carry the pumped milk to the hospital every two hours including midnights. NICU followed a structured timing pattern of feeding at particular time interval and the babies would start crying out of hunger even if it was a minute late. The feed quantity was to be increased as the baby’s weight increased. Sometimes, I would need 10 more drops of milk to pump so that the quantity touched the required mark on the feeding bottle measurement! I used to relax, drink water, pray, have a positive mantra in my mind, and try pumping again. If I was able to pump enough milk for a feed, I would feel like I had accomplished a great mission. While this was our routine, after 10 days of delivery, I was told to give KMC (Kangaroo mother care- I have a detailed post on this in my blog). That was the first time I was holding my baby. There was a rush in my hormones and I was on an emotional rollercoaster! He was so small and delicate to handle, a nurse helped me to hold him. To be frank, I had an urge to feed him and asked if I could. But, they refused since he was not even 34 weeks to be directly fed. While I held him, I would talk to him about how we missed him and how we all were waiting for his arrival and would sometimes sing a lullaby to him. Also that was the first time I could feel myself bonding with my baby as a mother. This routine continued until my husband’s paternity leave got over. The major drawback was that only the baby’s parents were allowed inside the NICU for safety reasons. So, neither my parents nor his could help us out with hospital duties. They could help us only in taking care of the home and cooking. From then, my everyday routine started early by meeting doctors in the morning and getting an update on the baby’s health- expecting to hear the discharge date, checking out the white board that was there on the NICU wall with every baby’s detail including daily weight gain(if it was marked ↑, that would be a great day! And sometimes it would also be ↓ too). Later I would look at my baby and talk to him for about 20 minutes, take my bags and rest for a while in the lounge, move to the nursing room and pump-fill-sterilise every two hours, again go back to NICU and talk to my baby. By evening, my husband would join me after his office. After him spending some time looking at our baby, we would have our dinner in the hospital that he had brought from home. After dinner, I would pump-fill milk for the whole night and store it in the NICU fridge, glance at my baby, say goodnight while my husband would wait in the lounge. Later, we would come home and again I would follow my night routine: sterilise-pump-fill for midnight (if the quantity stored in the NICU is not sufficient) and the early morning feed.
After 3 weeks-when he was 34 weeks, I was told that I can try to feed my baby directly. With so much love and excitement, I tried feeding him. But I realised it was not so easy. He was sleeping all the time, and it was like I was forcing him to take feed. It took 3 days for me to make him have feed directly. Every time, I and a nurse would tickle his feet and ears, wake him up, lift his heads, push him towards me and it was forcefully done in the beginning to help improving his sucking capability. Gradually, he was able to suck and accept direct feed. Slowly, we stopped using OG tube (orogastric tube that carries feed directly to baby’s stomach) for his feed intake. By 35 weeks, he was under direct feed and paladai feeding. Paladai (small bowl with long pointed lip) feeding was followed because, babies might loss energy while they suck and most of the times they sleep during feed. At the end of his gestational age of 35 weeks, 27 days after he was born, he was doing better. And that is when we heard our doctor saying those words that we were longing to hear. ‘YOU CAN TAKE YOUR BABY HOME!’ he said. Our joy knew no bounds. We had happy tears. Our day passed with a happy wide smiling faces. We had bought our son his first new clothes with so much love. I could remember that we had a sleepless night dreaming about spending the next day with our baby at home.
Yuvaraj In the initial days of the baby’s stay at the NICU many things bothered us. The regular checkups, scans, blood tests, neonatal jaundice, hiccups, vomiting, weight loss and many things alike. But thankfully,there were no challenges there and everything was normal. When she started giving KMC and direct feed, everything was getting better. We both were more positive and supportive to each other that helped us to face our challenges. That is when our love towards each other increased multi fold.
On 18th March 2017 On the 28th day, it was the 18th and Saturday again. We got ready early, bought sweets for our NICU nurses and rushed to the hospital. He was dressed in the new clothes we had bought for him. Our whole family was in the hospital to look at our Appu for the first time. I also remember, myself and Yuvi had small argument on who will hold the baby till the car. I gave him to my husband as I had already touched my baby while he had not. That day was a festival for us. And from then everything went fine with few ups and downs.
Being a preterm baby, we had to do many tests and scans even after discharge, to ensure that he was fine. We ran from ENT tests, eye tests, brain scanning to Neuro-developmental tests. Once, we also had a negative result and were later ensured that everything was fine in the retest. The most important thing we learnt was not to press the panic button for smaller things. We accepted that life is a mixture of all and everything can be handled with a positive attitude.
This is our message as Preemie Parents
1. If you are a new Preemie Parent, Remember you are not alone. If we were able to be positive and fight our hard times, you can too.
2. If you are already a Preemie Parent, why don’t you help other new NICU parents? Come and join us on our facebook group - " Support Group for Preemie Parents" created to bring awareness and support others who need help.
3. You can invite others who are non-parents who want to creating awareness and provide support about being a preemie parent.
4. If you happen to know or meet a new preemie Parent, just give them your positivity and remember that this is not the right time to seek answers for your queries.
5. Like other babies, Preemies can also gain weight as they grow, it does not mean they are healthy/bubbly despite being a preemie. Ignore anecdotal stories from friends and relatives. Every baby develops at his or her pace.
Editor's Note: Raaghavi and Yuvaraj, you are a shining example of hands-on committed parents and partners who met the curveball that life threw at you with positivity and fortitude. Thank you for taking the time to write this joint account. Your story is bound to inspire other parents on the same journey. For more from inspiring parents like Raaghavi and Yuvaraj , follow the Times of Amma on Facebook. Follow the Times of Amma on Instagram for a behind the scenes look at our team. If you would like to write a guest post for the Times Of Amma, get in touch here.