Fight for Preemies: "I feel like I am the only mother..."
New blogger Tonia was inspired by the Bloggers Unite: Fight for Preemies event to write about her daughter’s first two weeks of life following an early and possibly unnecessary induction of labor. She submitted this post to The Unnecesarean as a guest post.
I feel like I am the only mother in this world, that can’t tell about their child’s first 14 days. I feel that this is apart of my daughters life, that should be shared, yet my throat, remains dry and lumpy, my eyes fill-up with dread. My heart stops for a second or two then thumps like toddlers down stairs. I get pressure headaches for moments, and then I have to remember to breathe.
How can I describe the need to hold someone, yet the only holding was when I nursed? How can you tell someone that you hurt, you feel ashamed, that you blame yourself for everything? How can you say that you are sorry, to someone who can barely hold your hand? The first days of life was supposed to be the greatest joy of all time. It turned out to be just one of the rocks, cascading a rippling affect, which left my emotions raw.
36 weeks they say, not so bad, yet another two would have brought you home. 36 weeks was quite not enough, to complete your body whole. My first memory upon seeing you was a rushed kiss and a gentle hold, just before you where whisked away, to Daddy, then down the hall. I had to wait until the feeling came back, yet it returned only in my legs. The rest of me went with you, as your father carried you away.
For some reason the lady in blue thought I wanted to see my room. When in fact I only wanted to see you, the baby my body rejected, my baby girl, who needed the womb. I felt helpless, and let her do what she needed to do. The second time I saw you; I washed my hands and followed your father in. I had a sinking feeling, that I will never be me again.
“Which one is my baby?” I wanted to scream “Why don’t I even know?”, when in fact I birthed you, just hours before. How could a mother not even know, her baby in the crowd? Yet there you lay forgiving me, in every innocent way. So pure, so perfect, yet someone I never deserved.
Numbers, cots, monitors, and teeny tiny babies. There at the end were you, my baby girl who deserved two more weeks, yet nature could not hold. Daddy, Aunty Shannon and I sat beside you, admiring your tender life. As the sun was brought upon the earth, the morning birds with their song. Just another day I thought, as people awaken to another dreaded day of work. I am dreading the realization, that this is really not a dream.
You should have been in my room, your first drink upon my breast. You should have been held, by warm and tender arms. You should have had someone there, when you awoke cold and scared. You should have had more than, what was offered in there. This is wrong, they weren’t right; the time spent was not enough! Not enough to keep this tiny daughter, out of sickness, loneliness and harm.
We spent the first week with sounds of alarms, screaming babies, weigh-ins, and nurses calling me ‘mom’. I fought to stay with you upon discharge. I threatened I would sleep on the couch, in the closet and even on the floor. Yet, the closest I ever got to you was reading in a chair. I had to fight to nurse you; something I knew was the only way. I read everything that was provided; information in binders that was located in my room. Yet I did not know you, no decision was mine for you. How dare they call me Mom?
I was afraid they’d take you, because after all, they knew you more than me. You spent your first weeks afraid of touch, afraid of being pricked and being tousled from hand to hand. They shoved bottle of formula, when they knew Mommy fought to nurse. The nurses changed your first diapers, and put you in your first clothes; they even did your first bath, and changed your first bedding. None of this I shared with you.
There where times that you stopped breathing, only once was I ever there. That one time was at the breast, a memory burned beneath my lids. The other times I was not informed, until I walked to your side engorged. They told me you ‘had a spell’, what exactly are they for and why can’t I nurse? Yes let’s give it a fairytale name, to diminish what is real.
My baby stopped breathing, revived with a mask, oxygen and finger pumping your chest. No one came to call on me, was I not the first to want to know? I was told I needed to rest, that they see this all the time. This might happen often to them, but not to my dear little baby girl. A mother needs to know these things, which is why there are phones. Not once was I called, for this or for us to nurse.
I thought you did not want me, I thought you assumed I did not care. Well, why would a Mommy leave their precious alone in there? How can a mother not know anything at all? How could a mother be unable to touch her own child’s hair? I would often sit beside your cot, with nurses all in tow; I would often hear them on the phone, telling Moms they missed their baby’s feedings. Then go on to tell about the child’s day. I turn to you, as a smirk crossed your mouth, at least you know that I am here and I am never going away.
It was then that I started fighting, all because it was then that I knew. That you’ve found the strength to understand, that this was not what I wanted for you. I freaked about the lack of notifications, I yelled into the wind. I breathed a sigh of relief that I made a stand that day. I finally would not take it, the choices I got back, you no longer were the infant that my body rejected and didn’t want. You are my daughter, and I your mother, a relationship to be kept intact.
I told the doctors, technicians, and nurses nothing is done without me there. I stood beside every test and needle. I was called for every assumption. The hardest was the spinal, your tiny being had to endure. I knew it was liquid fire, just like the heat that enraged in me. I was afraid of the outcome - paralysis, but they said there was something else extremely wrong.
I was there with you as they scanned your brain, lungs and heart. I gained the respect of the nurses, yet the Doctor did not like me much. The Doctor asked if your Daddy and I where related, because you jittered so much. He even asked if I was on illegal drugs while pregnant, it must be something that I had done. He informed me to dry up your milk, because you might not see another day.
You stopped breathing, more than excepted, for a child of your size. The Doctor said it was the milk that my body made for you. Of course, it was me, there was nothing else could it be? I asked for another Paediatrician, only to find he was the only one. I thought we made it this far, I will nod, smile, and disagree. I don’t have to like him, but if this gets you out faster then I would do almost anything.
I continued to nurse, and Madonna was the one, who introduced us to Kangaroo Care. This was another time to be with you, another time to share. I proudly lifted my shirt off my wary head, took you out of your cage, and you rested the nearest to my heart. I placed the warmed blanket upon your back. I tucked the new womb snug. I leaned in the chair thinking, this will be the closest to your home.
We stayed like that for hours. The peace that came to us both was just what we needed. It was something we both missed out on, something that was ripped away. I never got to see the full belly, and you never got to feel it too tight. This is something I will always remember, a gift from your night nurse, the empowering knowledge and joy.
All the tests came back normal; your fairytale spells still today remains a mystery. They did an echo-cardiogram, but I knew it would come out wrong. When the test came back with some concern I knew the reason why. I explained that during the procedure you had your very first hiccups. I never thought I would be so pleased to see the look on the Doctor’s face.
The only thing wrong, was you where small and premature. Yet you had to stay to finish the antibiotics, something to my dismay. On the 11th day of your life we were transferred to the paediatric unit. It seemed like a more welcoming place, and I finally got to sleep in your room. Finally, we were close at last.
I was amazed on how often you awoken in the night, my thoughts drifted to how many times you’ve been ignored. I know it’s not the nurse’s fault; they have so many others to watch for. They could only do so much. They did their jobs accordingly, and they did it the best way they could.
It was nice to be alone together, as you fell asleep upon my breast. You became less flintchy, when I went to pick you up. We spent most of your waking moments in the love of Kangaroo Care. I was honoured to listen to you breath, and I would melt at your sighs. I was amazed to notice your movements same as in the womb, it was nice to see you like this, and another part of me grew.
When I awoke at night with you still asleep in your bed. I would sit on the ledge of the window; I would watch you scrunch your little nose. I began to take more pictures, leaving out all the tubes. This was when the mother came out, and having a new daughter settled in. There were no more emotional rides, no more living one day to the next. No more fake happy faces, when I was worried at what was next.
I was glad that is was all over, memories of passing days would be soon forgotten, the only ones I would allow to remember, are the ones of you and your family, when you where always in another’s arms. I nursed you constantly, I made another promise that I will stop when you are through. Since you did not get the chance to prepare for birth, this was the least that I could do.
On May 6th, the day before discharge, I was informed you had two doses left. My heart doubled in delight that we are finally starting our family, and we get to take you home. Tomorrow will be the day that our life begins and I can forget our dreaded hell. You can finally be home to get tender loving care and finally be at peace.
The nurse took off the tubes and went was the monitors, but the IV was the only item left. The nurse said she likes to think of that as apart of graduation, from hospital to home. I liked that concept very much, something to look forward to in the morn. The rest of the day went calmly, as I called everyone that we knew.
The day of discharge, The Doctor came for more testing; this one will be the last. He told me that I could not be there for this one. It would be quick nonetheless. I nursed you as he told me to hurry; you finished and passed you off. Nothing ever I regretted more then what happened next. I followed you to another area, with a door across the way. They took you in there, then closed and locked the door.
In an instant you screamed. I forced myself not to break. I paced what seemed for hours, and finally the torture was complete. I immediately took you from the Doctor Quack; I lifted my shirt for you to nurse. You where so distraught that you would not latch, and he quickly walked away. The nurse and I walked to our room, and I held you as you trembled. I asked the nurse what he’d done to you and I could see her shake her head.
She did not want to tell me, but they strapped you to a bed. As you screamed your veins would not give blood, he tried every means to draw. As you protested the more rougher he got. He nearly pricked you raw. The nurse said “That man should not be in pediatrics”. I cried for you and for the lack of trust you so rightfully had.
That mid afternoon was when Daddy came to pick us up. The thought of home was heaven, the thought of never coming back was peaceful, and the thought of you being in a safe loving place was just. This was something that we both have worked for, for far too long, and finally it was here. Finally we where a family, and you where coming home.
Most of our experiences are more pictures and short stories, after spending several years buried. They seemed scattered around in my brain. Sadly, even when I try to write it out, they still can’t coincide. I remember your NICU nickname, The Little Impatient One. It brings a smile to my face, still at two and a half it is exactly who you are.
You presented yourself as a fighter, and you have very passionate emotions. You have always made your needs heard. I love that you are my daughter, and I have learned a lot from you. Throughout the years when I tried to talk about our experiences. I often get told that you are beautiful little girl. I should be happy and not to dwell upon the past.
For years now, I wondered silently, why I feel like I do. I hated my body for failing, I thought about things I have done. I thought that looking into births would help relieve some of this pain. I came across articles and a documentary, explaining inductions and how they are abused. I realized that, your birth was similar and I continued to question it even more.
I contacted our Family Nurse, to explain to me about your birth, I asked further questions, and I analyzed what I heard. You see when I went into the second labour, they told me to walk around, after about an hour of this, all my contractions where not profound. Daddy and I went back to triage, where they called our family doctor in. Without giving any notice and without giving us a choice; He proceeded to break your water and commenced Pitocin, to induce your delivery.
I found that I could have been sent home. Yes, granted you still may have come early, but my body did know at that time, what to do. I might have gone into labour at any time, but for a baby 2 weeks behind in gestation, doesn’t need to be induced. You deserved all the time you could have had, in the natural womb. Maybe we would not have had to go through, what we now know to be true.
So when you decide to ask, about your first days of life. I ask that you forgive me for the feelings I may have. My feelings are not connected in anyway to you. I have contempt over this situation that we didn’t have to have. If your mother was smarter, and never had mistrust. If I stuck to my guns, things would be different; I know that in my heart. This is not what your father and I wanted, a Princess deserves more in the beginning and that is what we wanted to give.
© Tonia Newton, November 14, 2009