I head to the bathtub just to clean myself. My vagina feels like it’s been ripped to shreds. My tummy feels wobbly, loose and weak. I wonder how Joshua feels – he’s been squeezed out, where he had a bit of a cone head! As I soak, I take a breather, realising that I gave birth to my little human, my little boy. I am amazed and in utter shock! Me, a mummy?!! I have my own family, Joshua, Martin and I? Very strange. The bath is soothing me, but the water starts turning red. Disappointed I couldn’t be there longer I get out. It’s time to wear the maternity pads of which I forgot that they’d be a lot of bleeding afterwards for weeks.
Returning back to the maternity ward as a family, it’s late in the night. We try and get some sleep and Joshua is actually a gem during the night. We’ve awaken him for feeds and checks only. Through the night, my eyes are drawn to him as I just can’t stop looking at him. As he’s not latching well on my breast, I worry that I can’t produce enough milk which actually really hurts, especially as I am told to hand express as I opted for breastfeeding. The hand expressing needed patience from me to get it going (and possibly the right technique) of which I found so difficult but got there in the end and was able to express up to 45ml.
The morning a midwife does her routine checks for all mothers and their babies. As he is physically checked, his colour is also checked. I hear “He’s a bit yellow”. I think, well that’s because I am yellow – drrrrrrrrrrr, forgetting about the jaundice symptom. I then remember it’s due to bilirubin not being expelled properly from Joshua’s body, which causes the yellow bruising. Good thing I didn’t blurt it out. My heart sinks twice as his foot is pricked to test for Jaundice, along with confirmation of Jaundice at the bilirubin levels of 117. On top of this he is also taking to the neonatal clinic for antibiotics as he was early to help prevent or at least decrease any infections that could occur. He’s returned to me with a sock on his hand to cover the pain he’s experienced. Feeling really low about all of this, Joshua is treated with phototherapy. This is a UV light treatment in his cot to help break down the bilirubin. This entails that Joshua only wears a nappy and a mask (Makes him look like a superhero), so that all his skin can be exposed to the light. The downfalls with this is you have to be quick on feeding, changing nappy’s and soothing him, so that he can absorb as much light as possible. This was a very stressful process for Martin and I as we wanted to be spending quality time with him on the first week, with skin to skin, playing, and holding him. In addition, I had to breast feed, use expressed milk, and top up with formula which was classified as one feeding. We then had to feed every 3 hours no matter what, to ensure Joshua could flush out the bilirubin with his poo and urine. (O my gosh the poo! He had expelled and aimed his black poo with a gesture of his fart all over me!). I have to say there were times I felt like giving up on breastfeeding. The feeding became a tiresome schedule through each day and was quite a battle.
A case of the baby blues showed its face, whilst Martin was away during the course of 1 night. Amongst the crying of the other babies in the ward, the engorgement of my breasts (Boy, were they so painful), the 3 feedings in 1, changing nappies, consoling him when crying, seeing the UV light, pelvic/back pain, tired, not being able to always hold him and questioning everything I’m doing bought me to utter despair. I felt useless, crap and a failure. I got through it many hours later, as a midwife was there to advise and assist where needed. I still have little sobbing moments to this day ( 5 weeks ) but what do you expect!? I’m hormone crazy where my body is trying to get back to normal.
All through this, Joshua stayed quite positive. He was usually quite well behaved. He did however despise that mask. If he knew how to use his hands he would have ripped that mask in our faces! When night time arose, he would fidget a lot but was quiet. His temperature was a tad bit low most days and nights so I did get the chance to have a bit of skin to skin. Rather than fully enjoying this time, it was rushed so that the time in the UV light couldn’t be compromised. Eventually he looked better where the yellow decreased. But each day he would endure a blood test – which he took remarkably well with only flinching and no crying.
Being there was a challenge for 8 days. As I was getting familiar with everything, I did see some new mummies and daddies really struggle. One thinking a bit of posseting is baby chocking and about to die. Another not holding the baby at all. The lady across me was experiencing the same – with her baby having jaundice. The mother who can’t carry or move as easy. The mama who didn’t have English as her first language so didn’t understand what the doctors were saying. What helped was Martin being there, family and friends visiting and the midwives being very helpful constantly. We learnt so much and felt more confident by the end of the week. It turns out that that they could not find a fault of why the jaundice is being prolonged after mainly tests. We are home but Joshua still continues to have jaundice (5 weeks and 6 days later), of which the updated results shows his bilirubin is higher than when he was born and that he has neutropenia which is abnormally low number of blood cells. Awaiting the next steps from the paediatrician.