I was exhausted after a night in the high dependency ward, being disturbed every 15 minutes from my cloud 9 drug coma so they could check I was still alive and kicking. Sometime during the morning I was declared OK and moved to the regular ward, a cramped room with 8 beds closely surrounded by curtains. Between the still very numb legs, the IVs and the catheter I was bed bound, struggling to change Squirt and failing to breast feed, despite lots of help from the midwives. The new grandparents arrived for visiting hours and left shortly after. The day passed in a quick haze and I had a reasonably good night’s sleep, only waking a few times to change and fail to feed Squirt.
The morning doctor checks declared me reasonably fit and well but the nursery nurse said she though Squirt was jaundiced. A paediatrician later confirmed that he was jaundiced, although not enough to require treatment…yet. By late afternoon I was released from my bed and my pee tube and able to take possibly the most enjoyable shower of my life and hobble around in a way which made me miss my pregnant waddle. I was still failing to feed Squirt and had been told it was important he fed every three hours to recover from the jaundice. Neither myself nor the midwives had been able to get an increasingly sleepy Squirt to latch on successfully so it was suggested that I express and cup feed in order to meet his demands. My first attempt produced a paltry 11mls which was celebrated by the staff, apparently anything over 7 is good in the first stages. That night I expressed every 3 hours and laboriously fed Squirt with the cup, glad he was finally eating, even though he only drank a few mls before he fell back asleep.
Again the doctors informed me I was fine but Squirt was still had an air of tumeric about him. I continued to express, with my enormous boobs finally proving their worth with their production impressing the midwives and leading to jokes about me being a wet nurse for the whole ward. I was still cup feeding but became quite stressed when the Dr told me he should now be having 30mls every 3 hours. He never had more than 10 before nodding off again. This led to a day and night of hourly feeds with my 45 minute opportunities to sleep being thwarted by one of the many noisy, colicky babies on the ward. It was quite interesting to ear-wig on the other patients around me. There were lots of members of staff passing through and they all, almost always said the same thing about the babies. Squirt was always called gorgeous, bonnie, cute or handsome (naturally), the kid to my right ‘has a great head of hair, hasn’t she?’ (I heard at least 6 people say exactly that) and the baby opposite ‘was very long’. I also enjoyed watching and listening to the new mums and dads interacting with each other. It was a little like watching a dramatic, hormone intensified soap opera. I had to find some way to entertain myself between feeds when my kindle battery died.
By this point I felt like I had boulders in my colon and was terrified of going anywhere near my stitches. I had heard horrible stories about women’s first poop following childbirth and I can whole heartedly concur. Regular readers will be aware that I occassionally have a slight tendency to overshare ;-), but even I cannot bring myself to share this experience. Suffice to say I would rather give birth again than go through that ever again.
Squirt was still jaundiced and his levels were still rising. I was now failing to meet the required 50mls every three hours and starting to struggle with the week of fairly extreme sleep deprivation and a flood of hormonal emotions. Eventually I tearfully explained my predicament to the nursery nurse and she told me to use bottles rather than the cup to feed. I almost lost it when Squirt immediately gobbled down the required 50ml in 3 minutes flat. Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me before? I was convinced that he would have recovered from his jaundice already had I done this immediately. I had no idea I was making life more difficult for myself by trying to cup feed. After he started receiving proper quantities of milk Squirt perked up considerably, happily farting away and filling nappies at such a pace that I went through a whole packet of wipes and half our nappy supply in one day. I had another sleepless night, disturbed by a 10 pound, inconsolable baby next door who SCREAMED for long enough for my tired and uncharitable self to being making mental suggestions involving open windows, while my own little cherub whimpered for less than 30 secs when he was ready for another feed.
Again I was pronounced fine (although I was quite shocked when I caught sight of my wan, drawn complexion in one of the few mirrors on the ward, and every midwife who came to see me asked if I was always pale- answer: no). Squirt was still jaundiced when the doctor checked. She seemed to be taken longer than normal when she was using the stethoscope. She gently told me she could hear a murmur and I disintegrated, post-partum hormones, stress and sleep deprivation finally getting the better of me. I sobbed through a huge, snotty bout of ugly crying while she gave me a wealth of information I wasn’t really capable of absorbing. Sometime during her explanation WW arrived with the beginning of visiting hours and so the doctor started again. The gist was it was common and could be nothing or it could require surgery and she was booking us in for an echo cardiogram as soon as possible. We had the scan done, little Squirt continuing to be on his best behaviour, not wriggling or protesting at all. Later the doctor confirmed that the scan had shown a Ventricular Septal Defect, a hole between his ventricular chambers that was supposed to have closed after birth and hadn’t. It could eventually close by itself or it might require surgery to close it. We are booked in for another appointment with a cardiologist in 6 weeks and were told we can’t fly back to Thailand until he has been checked in case the change in pressure affected his heart. I continued to breakdown on and off all afternoon, unable to sleep for worrying. WW stayed late with me and minutes before my dad arrived at 10pm to take her home we got our first piece of good news: Squirt’s jaundice levels had finally plateaued and we could go home. After I checked there was no immediate risk because of his heart condition there was no way in hell I was risking my remaining sanity by staying by myself trying to hold my shit together over another sleepless night. So I jumped on it and started a two hour fight to get discharged, calmly listening as they suggested it was a too late and I should wait until morning, then firmly telling them I was leaving regardless. We eventually escaped and arrived home at 1.30am, with WW taking over for an evening so I could concentrate on just pumping and sleeping.
Now our life as a new family could finally begin.