There I was, sitting up in my bed with my mam to the left of me and my future mother-in-Law to my right. Ruby was sleeping in her little crib just beside my bed and Andy was down in the cafe getting me a much needed coffee. I remember feeling so utterly and unbelievably tired. I had never felt anything like it before and I couldn’t begin to imagine how I was ever going to recover from the ordeal of the pervious day and night. I ached all over, I could barely move and to be honest, I still felt a bit out of it. Like I was in the twilight zone. I must have really looked out of it too, because my mam had just said that she thought I was in shock!! But no, I was just feeling like I had been hit by a brick wall. But soon enough, visiting time was over for the morning. Everyone left and made their way down to the cafe for lunch and left me to eat mine and get some much needed rest. So after I finished my lunch (which was really awful – as was all the food we got), I fed, changed and put Ruby down to sleep and rested for a while.
During this time the nurses were in and out to check my stats and drip. I was still on the medication that I needed to help my uterus contract normally and once that was finished, I was due to start on another antibiotic because of my temperature spike during labour. A student baby doctor had already routinely been in to check on Ruby twice that morning. Both times it was mentioned to him about Ruby’s blue arms and legs, which seemed to be getting worse. But he kept saying that it was nothing to worry about. But I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. I was still having no luck with breastfeeding and any formula I was giving her wasn’t staying down. So later in the evening, when a nurse from my diabetic team came in to tell me that Ruby’s blood sugars were all normal, I mentioned my concerns to her and what the other doctor had said. She said to leave it with her and that she would see if a more senior doctor would come and take a look at her. So most of the evening went by with no visit from anyone besides the on duty nurses to routine check my blood pressure etc. I remember saying to Andy that I think they have forgotten about Ruby. But eventually at about 6.30 or 7pm, a doctor popped in. She spoke to both my self and Andy about our concerns and took a quick look at her. She explained how she wanted to take her down to a small examination room at the end of the ward so that she could have a better look at her. So she took Ruby off to be examined and told us that she would be back to us with any findings that she might have. In the mean time, my sister and my dad arrived to see Ruby. I kept telling them that she was only gone for an examination and that she would be back soon. Little did we know that it would be another week before they would get to meet her! So at about 8pm the doctor arrived back to the ward, without Ruby. At that point, she explained that she wasn’t receiving enough oxygen throughout her body, which was causing parts of her body to go blue. So she had sent her up to the high dependency unit and that we could go up and see her at 9pm once they had her set up with oxygen. I remember that I started to shake really badly all over, like when you are really cold. I think it was shock or something. When you have a baby, you abviously hope and pray that everything will be ok. But I didn’t really think that something bad would actually happen.
We both got such a shock when we went up to see her. I wasn’t expecting her to be in an incubator. She had a feeding tube in her nose and wires coming out of her everywhere. I wasn’t allowed to hold her. I just burst out crying. I couldn’t stop. There was a nurse there explaining everything to us. I didn’t hear a single word. Thankfully Andy is an EMT and was able to explain it all to me the next morning. We weren’t allowed to stay very long. So I went back to my bed and Andy had to go home as visiting hours were long over. I cried myself to sleep. The next morning I went up to the ward as soon as I had my morning check up, along with Andy who came up extra early. When we got up to the ward there was a new nurse there named George. He explained everything to us in a little more detail. Ruby was started on an antibiotic during the night. He said it was just precautionary in case there was an infection and they had taken blood samples so that her blood cultures could be checked. She would stay on the antibiotics until the results came back. He had also been giving her some sugar water too! He asked if I was breastfeeding, and if I was that I should start to pump as she wasn’t to be taken out of the incubator. He said that I needed to get as much of my colostrum into her as possible. It didn’t even occur to me that I could pump when I was first having problems with feeding her. So I was sent down to the shop to buy all the equipment needed to use the pumping machine on Ruby’s ward. And so I started my extremely scheduled pumping regime. And apparently, I was producing a huge amount of colostrum. It was like my body knew that Ruby really needed it. And once she started to get it, she really started to improve. The only way I could feed her was by standing beside her incubator with one hand inside holding up a tube which was attached to her feeding tube. So over the next few days I pretty much spent all of my time with Ruby. I would go straight after my morning check up and not return until about 9pm. After that I spent the night pumping every 2/3 hours. I was a women on a mission. I really wanted to breastfeed, and since I couldn’t, I was going to give pumping a damn good try. And it turns out I had a massive supply. In the meantime, the nurses on my ward noticed that I had kind of gone missing. On the third day there was a phonecall up to Ruby’s ward asking if I was there. Of course I was. I was asked very politely to come back to my ward. They said that it was obviously ok for me to be up with Ruby, but just asked that I come back for my other three check ups.
On the third day we got confirmation that Ruby’s blood cultures were all clear. So she was taken off antibiotics and we could now hold her to feed her. It was amazing to be able to hold her again. We were told that if she handled being held for longer periods, that she would be taken out of the incubator and brought into the special care baby room which was next door. And of course my little lady did just that. So on the Monday morning we went into the new ward. Her oxygen levels were still being monitored with a device and she had a feeding tube in still. But later that day we were told to try her on a bottle of breast milk – which she devoured. From that night on I was told to try and establish breastfeeding. That first night was a disaster. I came up to the ward every three hours and each time was an utter fail. The midwife on duty wasn’t a great help either. It seemed like if Ruby didn’t latch on straight away, that she told me to stop and go back to bed. I was so disheartened. I tried all through the next day with the same results. Then, at that nights shift change, I happened to be there trying, and failing miserably at feeding Ruby. The new on call nurse came up to me and stopped me straight away. For starters, I was holding her wrong and I had no support pillow. She brought me out one and started to show me a few different feeding positions. She was so lovely and reassuring. This was exactly the type of nurse I needed. By the next morning she told me that I had inverted nipples, especially on the right. And that Ruby had a severe case of tongue tie, which makes feeding really difficult. So I was told to try using nipple shields the next time I fed Ruby. As soon as the shop down stairs opened I got some. I won’t say that they worked straight away, but by lunch time we had both mastered the art of breast feeding. I was delighted! We were told that Ruby could go home on Thursday 20th – 7 days after she was born. But before we could go, we had to be shown how to give Ruby a bath and we had to attend a first aid class.
The whole time Ruby was in the high dependency and special care baby wards, the doctors had been very vague about Ruby’s condition. It was like they weren’t fully sure what was wrong with her. They never really fully gave us an explanation. The nearest one we got was – “she is failing to thrive outside of the womb”!! It wasn’t until I got her hospital release papers that I discovered she was suffering from *TTN and **Cynosis. TTN is only suppose to last about 3 days but for some reason Ruby was still having problems with it for a number of weeks after delivery. I have to say though that the staff in the Coombe Hospital, especially in the high dependency wards, were amazing. There was one nurse we dealt with the most, George. He was fantastic. Absolutely amazing at his job. He was so reassuring and so good with the babies. He explained everything so clearly too and had no problems answering any questions that we had. I don’t think I’ll ever forget him.
So at 3pm on Thursday 20th of August, we got to bring our little beauty home. I was terrified to leave the security of the hospital, but happy to get home and start our little family together. I was so exhausted that I slept the whole way home with Ruby. Once we arrived home, we were greeted by our parents, brothers and sisters and their kids. They had balloons and banners everywhere, and my mam had gotten the biggest and tallest baby hamper I had ever seen! It was such a wonderful reception to arrive home to. I wish I could say that we had no more hospital visits. But Ruby had one more hospital stay ahead of her. Something that I will write about in my next blog. I hope that you have enjoyed reading Ruby’s Birth Story and I really hope that I haven’t turned anyone off having babies! It really is a wonderful experience!
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.