Updated: Jan 28
Breathing, but unevenly, her chest jerking... They took my new born baby away from me, but they reassured me that she was fine and there was nothing threatening her life. I had nothing left but to trust them.
I said hello, you said good bye...
Her father followed her to the child reanimation room. I could only join them once I finished pushing out the placenta and the midwife put some stitches. Another miracle of nature: 30 minutes after this major transformation of my body, I could walk and without any wheel chair. This is one of the advantages of the "natural" birth, without epidural. This being said, I had never thought before that there might be anything positive about the pain. However, I would never ever willingly want to give birth again under the same circumstances...
My little baby had been washed and weighed. Luckily for me, she was a small shrimp - just 45 cm and 2,7 kgs. I still cannot figure out how women give birth to babies weighing 4 kgs and more without anesthesia.
My girl was breathing, but aided by a sort of an oxygen mask, but it was not enough to keep her safe. The clinic where I gave birth did not have the neonatal department so she had to be transferred to a hospital in an incubator. I saw her leave and I felt completely devastated. I didn't even understand anymore what was going on. I was in a sort of a surreal drunk cloud. They asked me to give her something from me to keep with her my smell and I took off my grey top. They put it in her capsule and she was off. It was about 6 AM and I was exhausted. I fell asleep immediately after and slept as a baby myself. When I woke up, three hours later, all my anxiety disappeared. I somehow knew and didn't doubt anymore that my baby was doing well and that I would join her just a few minutes later.
A few minutes became a couple of hours though and both the Chef and I started loosing patience. In the hospital where our princess was there was no room for me so either I had to go home and visit her occasionally throughout the day or we had to go together to a different hospital. We chose the second: a room was found for me in a yet another clinic equipped with the neonatal department and we headed off there to join our little shrimp.
We found her in the neonatal department, still in her capsule, still with my grey top near her. She seemed tiny and completely unprotected. Lots of cables were connecting her to the machine that was measuring her heart rate and the level of oxygen in her blood. Another cable, a probe actually, was leading directly to her stomach so she could be fed (I hadn't yet breast fed her so she had to deal without me). She was so small and yet so strong. My little warrior was fighting to get better soon and just 24 hours later she was liberated and we got reunited in my room.
In French hospitals parents are recommended to do as much "skin-to-skin" as possible to stimulate breast feeding and the natural contact between the parent and the baby. Also, it has been proved scientifically that premature babies get stronger much quicker if put often on the parents' chest. Skin-to-skin, cheek-to-cheek, heart-to-heart, life-to-life. This is the first moment where I fully realized that this little creature's life depends on me, on us. A little tear dropped down the Chef's cheek when it was his turn to hold Slatki in his arms. Since the moment we had left for the hospital, he was cheerful, excited and always very supportive, but I hadn't seen him shaken till then. Our little daughter in a matter of seconds managed to crack this rational, analytical, emotions-are-not-my-type soul.
We spent in the hospital eight long days. Every day I hoped it was the last one, but the doctors would not let us leave: lack of weight, excess of calcium in the blood and finally jaundice - we went through it all. None of this is really dangerous and all of these are common for new borns, especially the premature ones. It's easy to say it in theory, however when it comes to you and your baby, you as a mother, live all these diagnoses as if they were magnified under the loop. Every 30 grams of weight your baby gains is a victory, every 15 ml of colostrum (first milk that you produce as a mother) you manage to extract make you ecstatic and every scream of your baby rips your soul.
So when a nurse came to my room at 3 AM saying that Slatki needs to have a phototherapy as soon as possible because of the high level of bilirubin in her blood, I was crushed. Jaundice is a common disease for babies because their liver isn't mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Its symptom is the yellowish tinge to skin and the white of the eyes. And we were thinking that she had a nice tan! I have to admit though that the day before her phototherapy she looked almost like a half-breed. Slatki had to be placed under a special blue lamp for 12 hours, excluding feeds, so something around 18 hours altogether. During this treatment, she only had to wear a diaper and protective eye patches that made her look like a super-hero, ready to save the world. Except that she was not ready. She yelled as if she was being slit, for hours, non-stop and nothing could console her. I was crying with her begging doctors to find a different way to treat her, but they were firm - either now or later, but she had to go under the lamp. Finally, she calmed down and the 12-hour count down started.
United, we are stronger!
These eight days were long, but I had an impression that we were like a team on a mission - to get out as soon as possible. My mom was spending with me in the hospital every day and let me sleep during the day after sleepless nights. My mother-in-law came to save me once to do a baby's clothes shopping therapy. The Chef was coming to spend time with us 2-3 times per day. I even indulged myself with a good portion of sushi after 8 months of abstinence. Without this constant support this period would have been way harder. And I needed forces because it was just the beginning of our new life, with our brand new baby who just joined our small family and turned everything upside down.