Having a premature baby is something you never expect or plan for. Having baby D at 33 weeks is something I think I'm only just coming to terms with. I think I've been in a state of shock for the past few weeks, doing what needs to be done without really processing it.
One ordinary Tuesday morning, I went for a check-up with the blood pressure clinic at my hospital. The week before I'd been admitted for 24 hours with high blood pressure, I was put on medication everything was under control but I needed weekly monitoring. I thought I'd chug along to the end of pregnancy pretty comfortably. I went for my first appointment at the clinic, very swollen and thinking they might need to up the meds slightly as I was on a very low dose. Skip decided at the last minute to come with me 'just in case'. We had little Goosey with us. I saw the midwife and my BP was slightly elevated but not too bad, my urine however had 4+ of protein which is high. I knew at that moment that things weren't good. I met up with Skip outside and fought to hold back tears.
I went and saw the renal specialist shortly after and by that time my BP was starting to spike at 160/90. He sent me off to day stay to be monitored for a couple of hours as he was confused why my BP was so different from earlier in the day. Within an hour or so of being at day stay, the midwife had called the doctors in as my BP was going up and up and up. It was decided then I needed to be admitted straight away and they told me I needed to have steroid injections in case they needed to deliver the baby. I never really thought that they'd need to, but agreed to the shots. Soon I was whisked off to a room, little did I know I'd stay in that room for 11 days.
They laid me out on the bed, put two canulas in my arms. By that time my BP was 210/100. They started a drip of magnesium sulfate, a catheter and started IV anti-hypertensive drugs. To be honest, I don't know how long the doctors stayed round my bed. I just remember lying there with a doctor on one side, a midwife on the other and a stream of other doctors coming in and out. The renal specialist coming in and putting his hand on his chin and shaking his head. The obstetrician coming in and introducing himself. A lot of whispering between them.
A doctor from the neonatal unit came in and talked to me about expected outcomes of having a baby at 33 weeks and explaining the NICU. I don't think any of it sank in at all.
A little while later I remember Skip coming back in and being slightly taken aback at me splayed on the bed with drips and catheter.
The talk about doing a C-section that day ceased and I was left alone for a little while. Skip stayed with me until I went to sleep that night.
The next morning, all seemed calm until the renal specialist and his registrar came in and said he wanted to get the baby out soon as my blood tests had shown my kidneys and liver were deteriorating at a fairly rapid rate.
Then the obstetrician came in and went through our options. Before I knew it people were all around me wheeling my bed out and talking about getting Skip into scrubs.
The C-section was quick and quiet and strange. The nurse quickly pushed baby D into my view and then whisked him off before I knew it. Skip followed baby D and I was left on the table to be stitched up by a doctor and her assistant as they chatted about their weekend. All I could think about was D. Was he OK? When could I see him? When could I hold him?
I was wheeled into recovery where I was left lying alone. I have never felt so empty and alone in my entire life as I did then. I asked if I could be wheeled to the nursery but was told no. I was taken back to my room and my temperature was low so I was covered in warm blankets and left alone again. Alone without my baby.
Eventually Skip came back with some photos of little D. It didn't feel real. Six hours after his birth, they finally agreed to wheel me down to the nursery to see my son. I was wheeled into the intensive care unit where a kind nurse explained the ventilator he was on, the drugs they needed to give him, etc. I couldn't touch him and I just looked at this tiny being covered in wires, etc, lying in his humidicrib. The whole experience, the drugs I was on and the warmth of the unit started to make my head swirl and my stomach churn. They took me back to my room and I promptly threw up in a bowl that Skip held.
The next day, I stayed in bed. It wasn't until that evening that I was put in a wheelchair and wheeled down to the nursery. Finally they let me hold him for a couple of minutes. 30 hours after he was born.
The next days were a blur. Each night my BP spiked and I was put on the drip and catheter again. I barely saw my son. By the following Monday, I was off the drips and I started to be able to go down to nursery more and more. I got to feed him with a syringe through his feeding tube and change his nappy through the holes in his humidicrib. Occasionally they let me hold him.
Soon D got well enough to be taken out of the humidicrib. Then he got upgraded again to the next level in the nursery. The next step was to attempt a sucking feed on the breast and bottle. Now, he's taking all he's feed from boob or bottle. This means we'll get to bring him home soon and the whole hospital experience will be over.
Life in the NICU is a lot of hand washing. Mum and dads staring at their babies with a glazed look of love and shock and bewilderment. When a new baby comes in soon after being born, the dad follows with a look on his face like he's been slapped with a cold fish. He looks around, scared at what he's seeing, trying to absorb it all, disbelief that he's there. Within a few days, this foreign place starts to feel normal and you can see them relax into the routine of hand-washing and sitting and watching. Then it's the glimmer of hope that they may take their bub home, one day soon.
The nurses are wonderful and kind. I've been lucky enough to get to know one quiet well. She's sweet and she adores looking after D. She makes me feel welcome each time I walk in. It's the saving grace of this place.
This whole experience has been a wild ride. Not one I'd ever want to repeat. So, so, so different from the girls' births. So different from what I ever imagined it would be like.