An Aiden update

It’s been five long, long days since my last post. For the first three days of this week Aiden simply slept. All efforts to wake him up were fruitless. As a result we had no luck with breastfeeding. But there were lots of positives. Both of his drips were removed, as were all the sensors on his chest and tummy when he had his first bath on Wednesday. Which means all that’s left is the feeding tube and a sensor picking up his heart rate, but that one is moved from one foot to the other every three hours so is easily attached and removed. In addition, the volume of his feeds was steadily increased and by Thursday he was up to full feeds (50ml), even if they were all being given through the feeding tube.

Yesterday I arrived at 08:00 to find Aiden the most awake and alert that I’ve seen him. He breastfed well at 08:00 and lasted until 11:00 without needing a top up through the tube. This was a big breakthrough. He also fed at 20:00 so we managed two feeds in a day.

I managed to catch the paedatrician on his rounds and he also only had good news to deliver. He said that Aiden is doing wonderfully. As soon as he’s up to full feeds on the breast (eight a day) we can take him home. The doctor said this can happen in as little as two or three days but did warn me that little boys tend to take two steps forward and one step back, so to mentally prepare myself for a longer wait.

As for the rest of the family … Cameron has settled a bit more as the week goes on but had a major wobbly on Wednesday night as neither Col or I were there for bath and bedtime. He seems to be coming to terms with the reality of having a brother. We’ve been showing him photos and videos of Aiden and whenever I express milk at home he comes up and says, ‘Milkies, baby.’ He did the cutest thing yesterday – he found one of his teddies, said ‘Baby’ and then pretended to give it some milk. Next moment he popped the teddy down my T-shirt and said ‘Sleeping.’ Clearly all the photos of Col and I doing kangaroo care have made an impression!

As for the parents – we are running on fumes. I think this is largely because this stressful period has come on the back of a tiring month so we didn’t start out rested. We are finding balancing home and hospital utterly exhausting and to top it all, Col is incredibly busy at work (something we are very grateful for as it’s been a tough year for his practise). I don’t think either of us have ever been so tired in our lives.

We are handling our days on an hour-by-hour basis at the moment and eagerly await the day Aiden is discharged. The future holds plenty more interrupted sleep, but at least we’ll all be together and the logistical complications will be a thing of the past.

Cameron, classic

Of late, Cameron has developed the most endearing way of describing things. He puts the adjective after the verb so says things like, ‘Park, lovely’ or ‘Milkies, yummy.’ Today however he came up with a combo that is sure to haunt him to his 21st birthday.

This morning Colin took him to a zoo. Amoung the ‘ami-nals’ they have are a number of tortoises roaming the grounds. At one point they came across a pair who were mating. Cam took a look at the male’s face, turned to Col and said, ‘Tortoise, happy.’ Classic!

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NICU – remembering, adjusting, surviving

The fact that both my boys were born at 35 weeks is an rather odd coincidence for me. In some ways having had a baby in NICU has made it easier this time round. We’re far less anxious and are approaching the whole situation with more patience.

Aiden has been in for five nights now and we’ve been given no indication of when he’ll be discharged. What’s more, we haven’t asked for one. We learnt last time how quickly things can change; how the information one receives in the morning is irrelevant by the afternoon; how babies have breakthroughs and suddenly the whole process speeds up. We are also approaching each day without the expectation that it will be the same as the previous one. I remember Cameron feeding marvelously on day three of his stay, and expecting to have him home by the Friday. On the Thursday he slept all day, wouldn’t feed at all and was only discharged on the Sunday. Making plans for more than the current day is just a waste of energy so I simply don’t.

I also remember how every day in the NICU feels like two. You can have a great morning, with excellent breastfeeding sessions, which leaves you feeling hopeful and positive. But that very afternoon, your baby can’t be persuaded to latch, develops jaundice or just won’t be roused from sleep and you’re left feeling utterly discouraged. The range of emotions one experiences, the lack of sleep and constantly changing circumstances leaves one emotionally drained and confused about what happened when.

But of course it’s not the same this time round as it was with Cameron, because this time there’s a two-year old at home to consider. And so at the moment I find myself living in two parallel realities. There’s Aiden and our quest to establish breastfeeding. And then there’s Cameron, needing reassurance, patience and a lot of energy. Colin is bearing the brunt of caring for Cam, and trying especially hard to spend time with him on weekends as Cam is spending the majority of weekdays without either Col or I around.

Days in NICU are divided into three hour sessions, and that division has carried over to our home as well. Those sessions when I’m at home leave me feeling like I’ve tried to squish in a whole extra day. Trying to keep the house from disintegrating into total chaos, remembering to turn the oven on early enough to heat whichever freezer meal is on the menu tonight, spending time with Cam, getting that three-hourly reminder that it’s time to express again – at times it’s overwhelming. By comparison, the NICU, where all I have to do is cuddle with Aiden and attempt to feed every few hours, feels like a holiday!

Since I’ve been discharged, the two realities are coming closer together. There are moments when they are almost touching. Like yesterday when I changed Cam’s nappy and mentally compared it to changing Aiden’s. It was such a strange experience and I could almost feel my brain short circuiting! I can foresee a moment when the two realities merge, the effort of maintaining them both will catch up with me and I’ll just cry uncontrollably for a while! Until then, we’ll just keep swimming.

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The big brother

I think the time has come for a post about how Cameron is handling the arrival of Aiden. It’s been a tough month for Cam with his mom disappearing off to hospital every few weeks and not being her usual active self when at home. As I’ve been here since Sunday this is my longest stay and the way things have worked out, we’ve only managed one visit a day. But we’ve developed a few hospital routines that Cam enjoys – eating my jelly and custard for one! Since Tuesday there have also been exciting gifts to play with – an Avengers balloon my brother brought and a huge Mickey Mouse and teddy bear that have been put into service as wrestling partners! My bed moves up and down with a remote so we’ve had fun riding that. And of course Aiden, being the generous soul he is, has given Cam presents for the last three days.

Yesterday we had a really wonderful visit as I was feeling strong enough to walk to the coffee shop. Cam held my hand the whole way and gave me such wonderful cuddles while sitting on my lap and drinking my milkshake. Between the bed rest before Aiden was born and the pain I was in for the first two days after the op I’ve been handling Cam a bit cautiously lately. Yesterday was the first time in weeks that I could physically engage with him more normally and it did my heart and his a lot of good.

As for the reality of being a big brother, we aren’t sure how much Cameron understands. He hasn’t been able to meet Aiden as he’s not allowed into the NICU. We’ve shown him photos but we aren’t sure what sort of connections he’s made yet. With Aiden being in NICU, Colin and I are finding ourselves thinking of our sons in a compartmentalized way. It’s going to be special moment when we can finally see our boys together!

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Day three update

Just a quick post to update you on Aiden’s progress today. His blood tests showed that the infection has gone so the doctor has stopped the antibiotics. He has also started to digest the breastmilk and is up to 5ml every 3 hours now. This is a huge relief for us and for him – the isotech (nutrients given intravenously) is providing all he needs but not filling his tummy so the poor boy was hungry and unhappy this morning. At least now his tummy is being filled up, even if he isn’t able to taste the milk as its being given through a feeding tube. Odd to think he’s three days old and hasn’t tasted anything yet!

He has developed jaundice and his bilirubin level is 187 (should be below 160). So he’s been under the UV lights since 15:00 this afternoon and will remain so until tomorrow morning. The downside of this is that we can’t hold him so Col missed out on his afternoon cuddle. Fortunately I had lovely cuddles this morning and a two hour kangaroo mother care (KMC, skin to skin) stint from 09:00-11:00. Lots to be grateful for today!

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Introducing Aiden

At 8:59 on Tuesday morning our son Aiden Mackenzie Rip was born. He came into the world five weeks ahead of schedule and via an emergency cesarean. On Sunday afternoon Colin brought me to the hospital because I was having contractions again. I was admitted and the initial assessment was that I had a urinary tract infection. However on Monday morning tests showed this not to be the case and after a kidney sonor, the doctor was on the verge of discharging me. However during a routine check of the baby’s heartbeat the nurse noticed that Aiden’s heart rate had decelerated while I was having a contraction – a sign of distress. I then went to the gynea for a scan and although everything looked good, he decided to keep me for another night for observation. During the night Aiden’s heart rate repeatedly dropped, although this time without any contractions being present and the gynea scheduled the c-section as soon as he’d seen the results of the night’s observations.

So our little boy is now two days old. Lung x-Rays showed that he either had fluid on his lungs or congenital pneumonia. A sonor of his lungs yesterday showed them to be clear of fluid so he’s on antibiotics for the pneumonia. They are going to do a blood test this morning to test the level of infection and will then increase or decrease the duration of the antibiotics depending. At the moment he is unable to digest anything. They are feeding him intravenously and trying him on 2ml of breastmilk every three hours. I am getting to know my breastpump again and getting a nice stockpile of milk going!

I am doing well but finding the recovery from the cesarean much more painful than last time (although it’s possible I’ve just forgotten how bad it was). I was mobilized yesterday and Col and I both had our first Aiden cuddles yesterday afternoon – Col got first dibs this time round!

The first occurrence of premature labour was on 3 September and Aiden’s arrival brought to a close a long and taxing month. Both Col and I are finding our emotional capacity to be a little thin. Col is having to balance work with hospital visits as well as playing the role of single dad to a demanding two-year old. Between my parents and Colin’s mom we’ve got an amazing amount of help with Cameron but logistics are complicated at the moment!

I am finding the NICU aspect of things much harder this time. When Cameron was in NICU everything was overwhelming and new and I sort of developed tunnel-vision. Now so much of it is familiar and it’s almost as if I have more capacity to notice other things as a result. I am far more conscious of all the wires and tubes attached to my baby. He just seems far too tiny to be in the world and I find myself getting tearful when I’m with him.

Besides all of that though I think we are both struggling to process the emotional fall out from Tuesday morning. The gynea said that if he’d discharged us on Monday I probably would have noticed a decrease in Aiden’s movements but by the time I did anything about it, it might have been too late. The doctor’s relief was palpable when Aiden was delivered and it was only when we saw that, that we realized how serious the situation had been. As the days pass I’m sure the gratitude we have for our healthy boy will override the fear of the close call. At the moment it’s a bit raw though and creeps up on us at unexpected moments.

I’ll try for another post later today or tomorrow with another update (the fact that I have the energy and desire to blog again is definitely a good sign). But for now, nap time!

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