Life After Birth

So it’s time to share some more of Gabrielle’s story...

It’s been an eventful 7 months! After an amazing home birth experience, which I would do all over again (you can read more about this on my earlier blog), we had a blissful first 24 hours at home. Gabrielle slept and we thought all was well, the only issue was she was yet to latch and feed. Because of this I, or my midwife, was expressing my colostrum and syringing it into Gabrielle’s mouth. She didn’t seem overly fussed by it, but into the next day, it was beginning to irritate her and it didn’t appear that much was going down. She had a consistent gurgle which isn’t that unusual in a newborn, however it wasn’t lessening. So from the trusted advice of our midwife, we decided to present to the emergency department at Frankston Hospital at around 4.30pm on May 6.

Gabrielle wasn’t much over 24 hours old. Once there, and a few hours later, Gabrielle had an apnoea episode so was immediately put onto oxygen. It became very apparent that she wasn’t managing the colostrum in her mouth and this had led to her oxygen saturation levels crashing as she wasn’t breathing efficiently. They were quick to act, however realised they were now out of their depth and we needed transferring to a children’s hospital who would be able to better treat and manage Gabrielle.

A lot of calls, organising and conversations later, we arrived at the Monash children’s hospital around 1am on May 7. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be returning home with my baby girl until June 5th!After a stand off argument with the nurse who was accompanying Gabrielle to the hospital in the ambulance, who ordered me to go in a separate ambulance, I finally won the debate and hopped in the front seat of the same vehicle to transfer us (there was no way I was travelling in a separate ambulance to my baby).

The month that ensued was as far from my wildest dreams as could be possible. Unable to see beyond my labour and baby’s birth whilst pregnant, never did I predict the unfolding of events that we endured. I also openly admit that I thought once I got through the birth, the hardest part was over.

In our reality, this is when the hardest part began. When you present to ED with a newborn, the first thing they treat for is sepsis. They want to be sure the baby doesn’t have a bacterial infection (which can be fatal) so this means lots of tests and an immediate course of antibiotics. It took 3 days to get the negative bacteria culture back, but Gabrielle’s small, young body had already received a massive dose of antibiotics. Because she wouldn’t breast feed, she went straight onto IV fluids and was hooked up to a heart rate monitor and oxygen monitor full time. She had an oxygen mask on and tube in her mouth. Leads were going every which way, lights were flashing and machines were beeping all of the time. I wasn’t able to hold her. Her tiny body lay in the incubator and all I could do was reach in through the holes to touch her. This was devastating to say the least.

My partner had returned home to gather all of our belongings and bedding for me. My midwife didn’t leave my side and was such an amazing support, we really couldn’t have done it without her. An expressing machine was arranged and I was under strict instructions to pump every 3 hours for 10 minutes, another truth that would form my reality for the month ahead. I had permanent alarms set on my phone. Around 4am, 12 hours after leaving home to go to hospital, my partner, midwife and I gathered in the hospital tea room for some food and reflection on the craziness that had been. We were shaken, exhausted and hungry. I remember being so sore, still recovering from having given birth at home not even 48 hours earlier and now as far from home as I could imagine.

I was shuffling around, too uncomfortable to sit for long, too tired to stand and without a proper bed to lay down upon. I had to use a public toilet that was quite a distance from Gabrielle’s cot and that was where I would shower and clean my teeth. I wasn’t allowed to store food in our room and my bed was a couch by day that was to be strictly packed up by 8am and not setup earlier than 10pm! My dreams of spending those first few days and weeks bonding with my newborn at home in my own bed were shattered. This was my sobering reality and still at this early stage, I really had no comprehension of what lie ahead.

To be continued...

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