My first week with a brand new baby was definitely not what I expected it to be. In fact it was pretty close to a living nightmare that I never want to experience again.
Because I had delivered so early on Sunday 4 January I had the whole of Sunday in hospital and was doing really well. My doctor was happy to send me home on Monday and after a quick check up I was ready to be discharged pending the paediatrician seeing Willow.
Hubby and I did all the things that you do day two in the hospital – we bathed the baby, got her footprints done etc. – while we waited for her doctor to come past. That’s when everything started to go downhill.
When the doctor got to us he was delighted to hear that we were being sent home. He had a chat with Hubby about what to expect and give us a basic survival guide then her went to check on the baby. That’s when he noticed she was yellow.
We were told it probably was nothing to worry about because lots of infants get Jaundice, but he ordered a bilirubin test just to be sure before he was willing to discharge us.
While waiting for the results of the blood test I went to have lunch with family and then came back to the nursery to wait. That’s when the nurse arrived to tell us that her bilirubin count was high and she was being moved to the neonatal unit where the doctor would meet us and explain what was happening.
It all happened so fast I was left reeling. One minute we were going home then the next we were headed for the NICU.
When we got to the NICU the doctor explained to us that there is a type of Jaundice that is brought on my an blood incompatibility between the mother and the baby. In layman’s terms when the mom and the baby are both positive, but have different blood types the antigens clash. I am O+ which means I have both A and B antigens and Willow is A+ like my husband and has B antigens. My A antigens clashed with her B antigens which lead to an accelerated breakdown of the red blood cells.
When a red blood cell is broken down it releases a substance called bilirubin into the blood stream and tiny baby livers are not very efficient at flushing it out of their bodies. The build up of bilirubin is what turns the baby yellow.
If the bilirubin count gets about 25 within the first few days or birth you run the risk of long term brain damage. Willow’s count was 19.7 at 36 hours after birth and she needed to get under the UV lights as soon as possible (phototherapy is how they treat Jaundice).
Seeing as how the baby was staying in hospital I opted to stay the extra day as well. I had been breastfeeding successfully up until she was admitted, but because my milk hadn’t come in yet I wasn’t providing near enough to meet her needs. The heat from the UV lights is very dehydrating so in addition to a drip she was being given a lot of liquids to help flush out the bilirubin. I was encouraged to pump to help get my supply established. They gave her whatever I was able to manage but had to supplement her diet with formula.
The following day we were greeted with the good news of the increase of biliruben being arrested and it had started to come down (although it was only 19.4). She was under two UV lights and during the night she had been given a feeding tube because the Jaundice makes them lazy to suck. I was sent home with the instruction to keep pumping and to try not to worry – stress is the enemy of breast milk. This advice is all well and good when your baby is not in the ICU and you’re not an emotional car wreck from all the hormones!
My parents in law were visiting us at the time and my parents were travelling to come be with us, and my husband had taken a week of work – all with the idea that we would be bringing a baby home. It was an incredibly stressful situation and I’m not sure what I would have done without all the support. Many tears were shed that week.
When my milk came it I suffered with engorgement. It was incredibly painful and as I didn’t have a baby to feed we had to keep trying to express so that the supply stayed up. My husband was wonderful through all this and helped me to get everything under control. The last thing we needed was for me to get mastitis on top of our other problems.
I was finally given the go ahead to feed on demand on the Thursday and spent most of my time rushing back and forth from the hospital to feed Willow. Our NICU is great in that parents are allowed to visit any time, except for two hour long hand over periods each day. However, the baby needed to be under the lights as much as possible to get rid of the Jaundice so I couldn’t hold her any other time except when I was feeding her. The sisters were amazing instead of having me sit there and watch her sleep for hours they agreed to phone me when she started fussing for food and as I lived 10 minutes away I would rush to the hospital to feed her.
We were hopeful that we would be able to take her home on the Friday, but got a nasty surprise when we got to the hospital. Instead of another decrease like we had expect her biliruben had gone up! It was another two full days under the lights before we saw the decrease we needed to bring her home (the count needed to be below 10 to be in the safe zone).
We were finally able to bring her home late on Sunday afternoon. She was a full week old. When we got the news that she was being discharged I just broke down in tears.
She is doing so well now. She has no sign of Jaundice and no sign of being anaemic – which is another worry as a result of the breakdown of so many red blood cells. She such a sweet little girl and I’m so glad to have her home at last!
Wow, this has been another wordy post. If you’re still reading thanks so much! Now go make yourself a cup of tea, you deserve it!