Rushed to the NICU
My baby was born too early … 34 weeks and we were ecstatic, but had no clue what the next 3 months had in store for us.
My Zara was only 1.8 kg when she was born. As soon as I delivered her, I could not see her, as they had to immediately ensure she breathes well, and a team of doctors and nurses were whisking her away to NICU, when I yelled, ‘I want to see her face!’
And there it was – the first look. I began crying … “She’s my baby, she is so cute, love.”
The next one hour was rush hour – stitching me up, while somewhere in between, delivering the placenta (without my knowledge), and in my husband’s language – “they are fully violating you love (and he winked).”
And I was like, “Love, run after our baby, until she is placed in the NICU. Please go, I am fine,” my first motherly instinct kicked in.
At my baby shower, one of the questions we had to answer as a couple was this: Will Mark stay with you or go after the baby, once the baby is born? Both of us said – go to the baby. Surprisingly, Mark would not leave my hand. (Selah!)
My first breastfeeding experience
Few hours in, and after I had a good sleep, amidst people congratulating me in my semi-sleep condition, and an after-party happening right in my room, the call came. Time to feed. What?! Never done this before. I was positive though.
Read the full story of my breastfeeding experience here along with challenges of jaundice and low weight gain. It is also useful to anyone breastfeeding a preemie for the first time.
No one knows your baby like you do
Before I go further and share my story, let me just say: mommy, you know your baby well. Just like the baby has a natural instinct to suck as soon as she smells your breast, you also have a natural instinct to understand her like nobody else in the world does, not even your doctor. You are going to get plenty of help from good (Mallu) nurses to breastfeed, and lot of love as a first-time mom or first-time-preemie, from the medical staff, but no one knows your baby like you do.
Why did this happen?
Who cares! Seriously, this is not the time to wonder and ponder, and introspect, and cross-question, and speculate, and think of stupid superstitions. Even science has not been able to exactly figure out why some babies come out early, so let your speculating relatives broadcast their live feed in another room and spare you the nonsense.
Your husband is your best shield now – dear fathers, your fatherhood starts right here. Please shield your wife from all the interrogation so she can focus only on your baby, because she needs her mommy more than anyone else, more than ever before, never more than now. If the father is not around, then probably your closest friend or relative can help.
Focus on YOU and BABY
For me, my husband and mom built the great wall of China around me. I was nestled
comfortably, and all I could do was rest and recover from my labor, and then just feed and feed the baby. Many folks hated my mother for her guts. She actually managed to keep visitors OUT for almost two full months (following our doctor’s strict instructions)!
I cannot emphasize this more – your baby needs ALL of you right now. So, either you build a wall around you or allow your parents or spouse to do that for you. You have to concentrate on keeping yourself very healthy by eating and sleeping, so you can nurse at the baby’s beck and call. Oh yes, she is already calling the shots 🙂
You lose calories when you feed, so you need more calories than ever. My gynec put me on a low-sugar and low-salt diet to avoid swelling just for three days, and it worked great for me. She even said I could eat biryani but I refused that offer and I don’t know why. Avoid constipation at all costs, you don’t need any extra stress down there.
I was given an ayurvedic juice and a stool softener for three days and later I took the ayurvedic powder for a month.
There is nothing wrong with your baby
She is just tiny, and there is nothing wrong or bad or unhealthy with being tiny. When Zara was born, she had to still grow another layer of skin and fat. She was so delicate and vulnerable. I would hear people whisper, “Oh look at that baby, so small” as if something was terribly wrong with her.
What matters is that your baby is in good health. Many preemies have breathing trouble for just a few days. Zara had apnea for two days so they gave her cafirate oral drops and she was fine with that.
As a mother, it does hurt to see your baby in the NICU, away from you, and you can’t wait to cuddle her. Zara was in a diaper and nothing else, under the Phototherapy for treating jaundice, and they even tied a small band around her eyes. I just could not see her like that. But when I went closer, she was happily asleep, and the nurses who took care of her were real loving and quite experienced.
My heart would break every time they would take her blood sample to check for jaundice. I personally think the hospital was over-cautious to take it twice every day. I took solace when Zara stopped crying and went to sleep. Your baby is not suffering, as you might fear. She is just sleeping. So take comfort in knowing that she is in safe hands.
She is in safe hands
What brought me comfort was listening to tales about Zara from the nurses. “She cries the loudest when she is hungry and wakes up all the other babies,” said one nurse. I would ask them to tell me more about her, and would sit, stare at her, admire her and pray over her. God loves her much more than you ever can. Trust Him and speak words of power over your little one.
“Baby, you are prospering in health, every day. You are getting better and better. You have divine health in Jesus name. No weapon formed against you will prosper. Angels surround her and guard her. You are well in Jesus’ name. Holy Spirit, I know you are covering my baby. I release your presence over her. Amen.”
When Mark first saw her
I clicked a photo every time I went in so I could show everyone. Later, the nurse told me that the parents were allowed, so Mark was so thrilled. I remember the first time when he saw her, after birth, at the NICU. We both wore those long gowns, washed our hands thoroughly and tip-toed in. Though the nurse asked him to carry, he was quite scared and apprehensive. (Once she was shifted to the room, he could not help himself!) He saw her, said nothing, stared at her for few seconds, and said, “Let her sleep. Let’s go.”
I let him soak it in, and asked him much later how he felt. “I got the same feeling like I did when I saw you for the first time in your gown at our wedding. Very emotional.”
First five .. rough days
My biggest struggle was breastfeeding her. The nurses helped me out so much that when they were not around, I would panic. I would call for them, and then rush for the nipple shields to be sterilized and really get anxious to feed. Zara was such a sweetheart – she would latch on every time.
I think it was the third day when I took the plunge. Zara was crying and I just put a pillow, sat down on the chair, and took her in my arms, placed the nipple shield, and just brought her close and helped her to latch. It worked!!
Mark was there with me 24/7 almost! He insisted on staying back at night with me all the days. He was such an encourager, like an angel from heaven. He kept motivating me to feed independent of help from the nurses, every single time. We did not go to any breastfeeding classes before, but the nurses at the hospital were very helpful and trained me well at every nursing session.
No time and no place for negativity
Just don’t take any negative words to heart. While most of the nurses were good, one or two were very negative, and almost pronouncing on me that I had low milk supply. One nurse would say it every time, and I began believing it and she was the one who introduced the nipple shield also. She looked like she cared for the baby – I really felt very demotivated whenever she helped me in my nursing sessions. After a while, I just chose not to believe her words. I remembered the promise I was claiming for my baby. Here’s what it says, “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance” (Is 66:11). I would believe it and declare it over my baby, every time she nursed.
Beloved mommy, please do not allow negative words to nest in your head – give them no renting space at all. You anxiety directly affects your breast-milk production. Your baby loves your smell, loves your milk and loves to be cuddled by you. Give her as much physical affection as possible, and be absolutely positive. Take courage. This might be your first time, like it was for me. Still, you have been prepared your whole life for motherhood. You are ‘naturally’ a good mother. By instinct, you know how to take care of your child.
On the second day, I got a call from the NICU to come feed Zara. I ran to see her. I walked into the room and heard her cry real loud. She was about three feet away. I said, “Princess, mamma is here,” and she instantly stopped crying. The nurse looked at me, excited, “Ma’m she knows her mother’s voice!”
I teared up and ran and kissed her and hugged her. While she would breastfeed, I would keep gently rubbing her arms, full of hair … I never stopped touching her.
Time for discharge, or not!
All packed to go, we were super excited. I had mixed emotions though. Hospital felt so safe and clean. Well, there’s nothing like home, I would say to myself. My parents took one half of the luggage and left early to go and prepare the room for little Zara.
And just when we wanted to leave, the ped walked in and said, her jaundice levels are high, we can’t discharge her now. Our hearts dropped.
Why did the jaundice levels peak? The doctor said it could be low milk supply. I was so upset. They did give her formula milk too, apart from my breast milk. Anyways, we stayed back, very disappointed. The homecoming had to wait. Another two days.
We pushed through, somehow, the next day. While Mark was taking care of finances, I was focusing on improving my game 🙂 Zara was exclusively on breast milk for the next day and half, and her jaundice levels dropped, to my surprise. Praise God!
I remember, walking out, and tears rolling down my face, as I carried Zara out of the hospital, into the polluted air, I whispered, “Welcome to our world.”