(First section is here)
So, Little O was born on Sunday, 17th May 2010. After we got settled in that night and I'd been escorted to my post-partum room (no wheelchair for ME! I am a big brave warrior and wobbled my way there on my own two feet), I allowed my brother-in-law and his girlfriend to come in to my room and discuss in some detail how the birth had gone and what we were expecting to happen next. After they left I learnt how to express milk for my new baby (WHAT a palaver) and spent the night visiting him in his special care nursery, using the breast pump, and trying to get some sleep - which wasn't easy, given I was incredibly hyper, overtired, and sleeping on the hardest bed known to mankind.
Anyway, the next day I got up and toddled down to the nursery again, only to find there was a middle-aged woman with grey hair peering at my son over spectacles. She introduced herself as Dr. B, a geneticist, and talked my husband and I through her 'findings'. Seeing as I'd never even heard of a geneticist, much less asked for one to analyse my beautiful baby, I was a little surprised and offended by her assumptions that Little O had a genetic condition. She discussed the fact he kept his fists closed, had an ear tag, inguinal hernias, a grade-II intraventricular haemorrhage, funny little feet, very small eye openings (and didn't open his eyes until he was a week old, although we didn't know that yet), a small mouth, cleft palate, wasn't coping very well with feedings on his own, and the fact he was five weeks premature. Slowly my husband and I took all this in, but the more she talked and the more I thought about my own family's history, the more I came to understand that she might be right. We agreed to have our own blood tested to compare to Little O's once I was discharged, and returned to a flurry of excited visitors and concerned phone calls from far-flung family members. I also got to hold him that evening for the first time since the birth.
The next day I went down to the special care nursery to drop off that morning's expressed milk, and found a number of doctors and nurses surrounding Little O's incubator. Someone pointed out that I was the mother, and someone else (a doctor, I think, although I can't remember who) told me to sit down. They told me something about Little O having seizures, and all I can remember is looking at this tiny creature I was no longer allowed to touch (that nurse bitch Debbie - I'll never, ever forgive her for denying me this basic human right when I was so distressed) and praying to God that I wouldn't lose him. I went back to my room when they ordered some tests for Little O and I called my husband, bawling down the phone. He legged it up there, and we spent the rest of the day talking to specialists, nurses, and the hospital chaplain about our son's condition. I will forever be indebted to the kindness of that chaplain. Her name was Beth and she was the most wonderful creature to the two distraught parents in her care; patient, kind, not pushy with her faith, and she spent time every morning for the next week visiting Little O and praying at his bedside.
I was discharged on that Tuesday as I was healing very well. I'd only had one really wobbly moment: the day before. I was showing some friends our new baby in the special care nursery, and had been standing up for far too long and trying to do too much. I had to call out for a chair before I fainted, which was rather dramatic at the time, but I lost very little blood overall and felt well enough to walk out when I was released from hospital. After kissing my baby's hand over and over again before we left, I think a nurse took pity on us and arranged for a separate room to be available opposite the nursery that we could use as a 'base' while we waited for developments. We could sleep overnight there if we wanted to (which we did, only once) and it was a private and peaceful place for us to eat, recuperate, and for me to express milk and put my now-hugely-swollen ankles up.
The next week was a complete and utter blur. We went to the geneticist's office to have blood samples taken and were told the results would take a little time; and we spent many, many hours meeting with new doctors and talking to family about Little O's condition. My husband had to go back to work on Thursday, so I spent the rest of the time expressing milk (an arduous process, and one it pains me to remember), demanding to hold my baby, putting my ankles up, and watching Nancy Grace on daytime-TV (eugh). By Sunday morning things were looking up, and people were telling me Little O could probably go home by Wednesday or Thursday; however, that evening his seizures got worse. He would spend over an hour just shaking and jumping at a time, and for a tiny premature body that's incredibly wearing. The doctors looked very serious and ordered more tests, and the nurse in charge suggested we stay the night in case things got worse.
You can imagine the effect a statement like that had on us. We COMPLETELY freaked out, thinking we were about to lose this perfect-looking person we'd only known for a week, and we spent the whole night either in tears or waiting for news. At 3am a nurse knocked on our room door and told us Little O's oxygen levels had dropped dramatically, and that they'd had to put him on a nasal canular. By 8am they'd given him so much phenobarbital (an anti-seizure medication) that he was woozy and not very responsive, and by 10am it was decided that he should be transferred to another, more capable, hospital.
They sent for a specialist paediatric ambulance to transfer a week-old-baby to the new unit, and while we waited for it to arrive I just sat there by his tiny bed, rocking him and singing to him and crying my fucking eyes out. I was absolutely terrified. The nurses were incredibly supportive (except Debbie, bitch) and allowed me to spend as much time with him as I needed to, but when the ambulance crew arrived with their horrific-looking portable incubator I just lost it. I cried like you'd never heard a woman cry before, and I refused to let my baby go. He was so tiny, and so beautiful, and giving him away to strangers felt absolutely barbaric. I'm normally very capable and very calm under pressure, but they say you don't know love until you look your first child in the eye, and they're right. My heart just broke. The new hospital, St Joseph's, had sent over a senior nurse to accompany Little O, and she must have seen how distressed I was because she began to mother me herself. She became very calm and comforting, and yet she also took charge enough of the situation to allow me to feel secure in putting Little O into that yellow machine. (Later on, when my husband and I arrived at St Joe's, the same nurse told me she thought I hated her for taking my baby away. She wasn't far off the truth...)
I hate the fact that my child's first experience of being in the outside world was being driven to another hospital in an ambulance. I hate it, but there wasn't a lot that could be done. He needed more intensive care, and the only way to achieve that was to trust strangers to drive carefully while they moved him. I still shudder and give myself nightmares thinking about if there'd been an accident on the way; I would never, ever have forgiven myself.
Regardless of the how, why, or when, Little O's new home was at the St Joseph's Hopital NICU. He transferred there on Monday, 24th May 2010, and would stay there for the next two and a half weeks.
More to come...