03 April 2014

Birth story - Baby J

Kangaroo care - 3 days old
The birth of baby J took us by surprise - he arrived 8 whole weeks early and when I realised that I was in labour (I was in denial for the first hour of contractions) I was scared witless, imagining all the possible complications that could arise from his premature status. 

I didn't have much chance to wrap my mind around all of it before he was born though, as he made his appearance 2.5 short hours after labour began. It was a natural meds-free vaginal delivery - pretty much the only part of his birth that went according to 'plan'. Instead of the peaceful home birth with midwife in attendance that we had decided on only a month before, we set off on a mad dash to the hospital once we realised that things were serious. We arrived, me fully dilated and our precious baby boy was born about 10 minutes later. Those ten minutes were a blur - I remember pushing twice before he was born and I zoned out for most of the time, hoping against hope that it wasn't really happening. 

About 4 hours before J was born - no sign of labour yet
 The thing that I'm most grateful for was being able to hold him immediately after birth - for a few brief minutes - and let me tell you he was absolutely perfect. I was amazed at his size - 2.17kg and a full 1.5cm longer than A had been at birth (she was full term) - I had thought he would be much smaller given his gestational age. He was whisked away by one of the NICU nurses and I urged TheHusband to go with him as I desperately didn't want him to be without at least one of us in the first few minutes/hours after birth.

I was still in the delivery room, the doctor attending to the delivery of the placenta and giving me a stitch, but I didn't care about any of that. TheHusband returned a while later (how long? I have no idea, probably another 10 or so minutes?) and we were left alone in the delivery room to process everything. It all felt unreal, and yet, looking down at my suddenly deflated tummy, it was all so very real. Baby J was doing well, the doctors were busy with him in the NICU and I just kept on thinking that this was not how things were supposed to happen. My heart was breaking for my baby boy, born too soon and with who knew how many challenges ahead of him, for my husband who was obviously also panicked, for myself and for my little girl, A, who's life had also just irrevocably changed. Eventually I got up and bathed and was told I could go and see J.  I walked down the long passage, not knowing what to expect, just focusing on my baby boy. 

2 hours old and the first time I saw him in the NICU. 
I was completely unprepared for the NICU. Most people have no clue about the reality that exists within those four walls - myself included, before being thrust into this. He was lying there - tubes all over his body, monitors beeping, drips attached to him and hooked up to a breathing machine, which they told me was giving him only 25% oxygen, which was apparently something to be happy about. I wasn't happy, I was scared. Seeing him like that was heart breaking. I cried for most of the first 24 hours. For myself, yes, but the thing that got to me most was not being able to be with him 24/7, after all I had another child at home that also needed me. 

Thankfully he only needed to be on the breathing machine for 24 hours. I was not able to hold him again until the Tuesday morning (he was born on Sunday afternoon). I cannot describe the feeling of getting to hold him skin-to-skin there in the NICU - I savoured every single moment of it, breathing in his newborn smell and marveling in how small, yet absolutely perfect he was. In those moments everything felt right in the world, but every day that I had to leave him there, every night that I went to bed alone, without J near me, was horrible. 

Latching like a pro on his first attempt - 11 days old.
On day 11 I was able to breastfeed him for the first time and I knew this meant that the end was in sight. We were able to take A to finally meet her little brother on that weekend, 13 days after he was born. Children aren't allowed in the NICU, so she had only had a brief glimpse of her little brother through the window of the unit up until that point. My heart soared when I saw how A reacted to holding him - a very proud mama moment for me. 

 Finally on day 15 I received the good news that he was to be released from the NICU and I spent the next 24 hours rooming in with him in hospital. On day 16 he came home. 

It is three weeks later and it feels like those first two weeks never happened. I try not to think about it, because when I do it fills me with sadness. And the birth of a child should be a joyous thing, not something to cry about. He is our little fighter and we are so immensely proud of how far he's come in such a short space of time. Rock on baby J, rock on.

Siblings' first meeting - J was almost 2 weeks old here

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