I’ve been writing this post for two three four days so it’s going to be a long one – tons of info to update you all on. Most importantly (and most excitingly), Cameron is now home – exactly one week after his birth! Getting to that point though has been an emotional roller-coaster of epic proportions.
The first down
On Tuesday night two of the NICU (neo-natal ICU) nurses explained the method of increasing feeds according to the daily progression of one, two, three, four, six then eight. (By the way, feeds are at 02:00, 05:00, 08:00, 11:00, 14:00, 17:00, 20:00 and 23:00.) They warned us that it seldom increases smoothly day by day, and that often babies get stuck on the four feeds a day and take a few days to move up to six. I did one feed on Tuesday, so if everything went perfectly, the earliest he’d be home was Sunday. We’d been labouring under the false expectation that if he wasn’t on antibiotics he could be discharged after five days, so we had been half expecting to take him home on Friday. And now for the rest of the week …
The first up (Wednesday – day three)
On Wednesday I was discharged but fortunately we were allowed to stay in the room until the evening. Col had a work free day for the first time so we hung out at the hospital all day. I had two successful feeds with Cameron and stocked up the fridge with expressed milk for the others. Hard as it was to leave our boy, it was absolutely wonderful to be home. Col’s mom brought us dinner and I can’t tell you how good that home cooked meal tasted! Katy and Tash came over and helped me make some sense of the nursery – something I’ve been itching to do. It was bliss to get into my own bed, but I struggled to fall asleep because my mind was racing with all sorts logistics and plans. All in all though, a good day.
The second down (Thursday – day four)
I woke up at 02:00 and 05:00 to express milk. While I sat there pumping away, I thought about Cameron which left me in a state of high excitement by the time I went back to bed. I’m so inspired to write at the moment and sentences were formulating themselves in my mind relentlessly. When I told Col in the morning that I’d lost precious sleep due to excitement, he smiled wryly and assured me that practice would wear off!
I arrived at the hospital full of optimism that today we’d manage at least two feeds, possibly three. The nurse reported that the doctor had been very happy and given me the go ahead to breast feed as much as I wanted. This was confusing because it seemed today’s nurse didn’t follow the method as strictly. Never the less I settled down to the 11:00 feed full of delight that Cameron seemed to be taking the fast track. Then we hit a wall. It took ages and every trick in the book to get him to latch. He grudgingly fed off one side but no amount of persuasion would get him take the second. For the first time I saw something other than a contented baby. However, I refused to let myself be discouraged and took myself off to the coffee shop for a good lunch.
And then the 14:00 feed was a complete disaster. Cameron just cried and cried and absolutely would not latch. After 20 torturous minutes we gave up and gave him his milk through the feeding tube. I packed up to go home and express. On my way out I asked the nurse what she thought the problem was. Her theory was that Cameron had entered a sleep phase. She said there was no point breast feeding during this as he would be too sleepy to suck. I asked her how long the phase would last, and she blithely replied, ‘About a week.’
And so began what I call the ‘Mythical sleep phase meltdown’. I’d gone from thinking Cameron was fast tracking his way out of ICU, to adding a whole week of just waiting to the process. Tears quickly threatened to overwhelm me. I was in a proper state by the time Col got home, and in desperation phoned my doctor contacts – Natalie (my cousin) and Tash (a friend). Neither had ever heard of the sleep phase, although Tash found an article about it, but it said that breastfeeding could continue.
That evening Col and I went to the hospital at 20:00 to spend some time with Cameron. When we arrived the nurse was feeding him, and thinking I’d come to breastfeed, apologised for starting his feed. Now I was thoroughly confused. When I said as much, and explained the 14:00 disaster her theory was just that Cameron had had a bad day. He was a bit yellow though and theory two was that he might have jaundice which would also make him sleepy.
Col and I then spent an amazing hour with Cam. His drip had been removed so we could move him around the ICU. The sister arranged a private room for us to sit in and for the first time our little family had some alone time.
The second up (Friday – day five)
We wanted to see Cameron’s doctor so got to the hospital in time for the 08:00 feed. That went well, and his colour was better so the doctor didn’t think it was necessary to do a blood test for jaundice. We went home for a bit and Col’s mom dropped me off for the 14:00 feed. I gave him a bath (the first one I’ve done), had a lovely hour of KMC and fed him again at 17:00. It was a 180 degree turn from Thursday and Col and I started to feel hopeful about bringing him home towards the end of the following week.
I decided to get some sleep so we only went to the hospital for the 11:00 feed. The doctor on call was there when we arrived and absolutely floored us by saying that Cameron was doing so well that he thought I should lodge for the night and try to do all eight feeds. If they went well us that we could take him home the following day.
And up we continue to go (Saturday – day six)
Col and I then went into a bit of a hysterical excitement period. I was so worked up that the feed didn’t start well and it took some coaxing from Col to calm me down enough to settle Cameron. Afterwards we went out for lunch and had some major discussions (bordering on hysterical once again) as we contemplated this drastically reduced timeline. In the end we just decided that it was perfectly in line with Cameron’s previous behaviour. Three days before he was born, we’d been to the doctor who’d announced that everything was looking good and he thought Cameron would carry to term. For the first time since the premature labour at 32 weeks Col and I had truly relaxed. And then bam! On Friday night we’d made our peace with waiting a week to bring him home and then bam! Our boy certainly does things on his terms!
I stayed over on Saturday night and with the help of the lovely Sister Maria had successful feeds at 20:00, 11:00, 01:30 and 05:00. She came to call me from my room for each one by saying, ‘Mrs Rip, your baby is calling you.’ So precious!
Home sweet home
And so yesterday Cameron was discharged. In the end the last bit went really quickly and it was a bit overwhelming to suddenly find ourselves heading for the door. Col and I then had a super stressful few minutes trying to figure out how to lengthen the straps of the car seat that Col had rushed out to buy the day before (we needed one with tons of padding for our little preemie). But we got him safely home and he didn’t seem the least bit stressed, even if we were just barely keeping panic at bay!
And then all the grandparents who were in Pretoria came to meet Cameron. (Poor Grampie Goodwin is the only one not in this number. He confessed over the phone that it was taking everything in him not to drive down and rectify that! But he’s coming this weekend so will get some special time then.) My mom had come down for the weekend to feed us in between hospital runs, and was staying at the guest house across the road. She came first with Col’s mom and sister. Then at five, Col’s dad came past with Isabel, Dylan and Simone. So there was an awful lot of cuddling going on.
By seven everyone had left and Col and I settled in for our first night at home. But that, my dear readers, is a whole other story which you will have to wait a while to hear.