There we were – four days after we had finally gotten to bring our little beauty home – running around the house like lunatics trying to make the place look presentable before the public health nurse arrived to check on Ruby. Myself and Andy both looked like zombies. We were only getting about one and half hours sleep (if we were lucky) between Ruby’s naps. During the day it wasn’t too bad as my parents were living next door, so my mam was in and out all day long helping out. But night time was torture. Ruby would wake and I would get up to feed her. I was breastfeeding, so unfortunately Andy couldn’t help in this department. Between the two of us we would try and wind her. Andy would then change her. We would all go to sleep and the process would start over again. I was probably getting maybe an hours sleep each time. I was still worried about Ruby and I had some anxiety every time I had to put her down to sleep. I spent most of my time watching her sleep and checking her breathing. Which was still really rapid from the *TTN and the previous day I had noticed that her feet were going blue again. At the time I just put an extra pair of socks on her thinking her feet were just cold – surely it couldn’t have been the **cynosis that she had after the birth, the hospital had said she was in the all clear.
So the health nurse arrived and checked Ruby out. I had to fill her in on Ruby’s condition after the labour. It was then that I mentioned to her about Ruby’s feet being blue the day beforehand, and the fact that her breathing was still really rapid. So she checked all of these things out for herself. Even though she was good in all other departments, the nurse wasn’t happy about her rapid breathing and blue feet. So she sent us off to my doctor in order to get a letter so that we could bring Ruby to Crumlin’s Children Hospital. She suggested that we waste no time in doing so. I quickly packed a bag for Ruby and phoned the doctor, who sent us immediately up to Crumlin.
I couldn’t believe it. Four days home and we were already on our way back to the hospital with her. I had no idea what to expect. She was seen very quickly once we had filled any required forms out. She was only 11 days old at this stage, so they didn’t want to leave her in the waiting area where she might pick up an infection. At about 5 pm we were brought into a small observation room where she was once again hooked up to a pulse-oximeter, which is a machine to monitor oxygen levels in your blood. We were told to count how many breaths she was taking in every 60 seconds. It was a long wait, with lots of doctors and nurses checking her out, but she was eventually admitted to one of the wards shortly after midnight. Only one parent was aloud to stay, so since I was breastfeeding I stayed. Andy had to drive all the way home to Kildare as there was no availability in the Ronald McDonald House.
That night felt like it would never end. There were no mother and baby rooms left on the ward we were admitted to. There was just one cot available in a room with another very sick little baby (the nurses spent the whole night coming in and out to tend to that little baby, he seemed so sick). As there were no mother and baby rooms free, I had to sleep on a reclining chair beside Ruby’s cot. As well as the machine to monitor Ruby’s oxygen levels, she was also hooked up to a respiratory monitor to make sure that she didn’t stop breathing at any stage. Twice during the night the breath monitor went off to indicate that she had stopped breathing. I was sleeping both times (more like dozing) but I got such a fright, because when the machine goes off, all the nurses on the ward just dropped what they are doing and rushed to which ever machine is going off. Thankfully it wasn’t anything serious, she had just stopped a little bit longer than what was normal. They kept both of the monitors on for Ruby’s entire hospital stay. The breathing monitor only went off one other time while we were there. But you can see why I had some anxiety when it came to putting her to sleep!!
The next morning, the doctor assigned to Ruby came in to have a chat with me. She spoke to me again about the TTN and cynosis she had when she was born. She explained that the TTN normally lasted about 3 days after birth. Since Ruby still seemed to be suffering from it, she wanted to run some tests to ensure she had no hidden problems that could be causing her trouble. She also explained that her feet were more than likely blue due to her breathing being a little bit more laboured than normal. So over the next few days Ruby was scheduled to have a mountain of tests. I can’t remember all of them, but some included a chest x-ray, heart echo, blood tests and loads more. It was four days worth of tests.
Later that day, at about lunch time, we were moved to our own mother and baby room on the same ward. I was so happy – I don’t think I could have managed another night sleeping on a reclining chair. I basically didn’t get any sleep the night before – I got such a fright when the breathing monitors went off that I couldn’t relax enough to nod off to sleep. So I really needed some kind of a normal bed to get even a small amount of sleep. Including Ruby’s cot, the new room consisted of a pull out bed with pillows and a blanket for me, a sink and TV. It felt like luxury compared to how I had spent the previous night. The only down side was that the room was like a fish bowl. Glass on very side. Understandable, as it was a children’s hospital, so the nurses would need to be able to see into and gain access to all the rooms. But not so great when its situated right beside the nurses station and you are trying to breast feed – I felt like I was being gawked at the whole time. The second day, I was also told to start pumping again. So again, I started pumping like a mad woman. But unfortunately, after we came home I wasn’t able to establish breast feeding again on my own, so I kept up pumping and fed Ruby breast milk from a bottle. Truth be told, this was the beginning of the end for my milk supply. But more on that in another post.
The next few days were a mixture of sheer exhaustion, lots of coffee, scheduled pumping, endless shows of tipping point on the TV and lots of worrying. Poor Andy would stay until about 10 or 11 pm, drive home, and was up again the next morning for 9 am. I spent so much time in the room with Ruby that the nurses used to have to make me leave so that I could get a coffee and some fresh air. It was so hard to leave her, even for the shortest amount of time. But finally on the fourth day, once all of the tests had been done and all of the results were clear, we were told we could take Ruby home. They found nothing wrong with her that could be causing her to have rapid breathing. The doctors said that it was either just the way that she was breathing or the TTN was just taking longer to go away. They said if she ever had breathing difficulties where she was struggling to breath to bring her back in, but they were confident that she would be fine. It was like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Her breathing did settle, but it took a few weeks. But it took more than a few weeks for my anxiety to go away every time I had to put her to sleep. To be honest, that anxiety is probably still there a little – she’s 18 months old now and I still use a video monitor when she sleeps! But it keeps me at ease and Ruby’s none the wiser with the monitor in the room.
I have to say a huge thank you to the staff in Crumlin Hospital, they really were great. They do such a fantastic job, not only looking after very sick children, but the parents too! Thankfully (and touch wood), Ruby hasn’t had any issues with it since. Besides the odd cough or cold, she’s been great! But it was a very scary start. Everyone has their own birth story to tell and while there are stories more serious than Ruby’s, it was still a very stressful and traumatic time for both myself and my Andy. Especially as first time parents when every is new and scary anyway!
Until the next blog,
Orla The Irish Mammy x
*TTN – Transient Tachypnen of the Newborn: A respiratory problem that can be seen in newborns shortly after delivery. It can last up to three days and is caused by the slow absorption of fluid in the lungs. This fluid makes taking in oxygen harder and the baby has to breath faster to compensate. (Www.stanfordchildrens.org)
** Cynosis – When parts of the body turn blue because oxygen cannot be carried around the body efficiently.