|I'm a 42yo online communications & IT consultant, and ex recording artist, from Melbourne, Australia. |
After much searching, I finally met the right man. Then I got pregnant at 41 - baby boy was due 20 April 2010.
It was to be quite a journey. We discovered via ultrasound that our baby had some health problems, namely a hole in the heart, hypospadias and IUG growth issues.
Then I became very ill with pre-eclampsia, and was admitted to hospital at 34 weeks gestation.
Our baby Charles was delivered prematurely on 16th March 2010 weighing a tiny 1460g (3.5 pounds). He spent a month in hospital before coming home.
So Baby Charles has Duane's Syndrome Type 1.
Baby Charles is now 6 months old. That's his real age. In terms of his developmental, or corrected, age, he's just under 5 months old. It's complicated trying to calculate and explain that, every time someone asks - such as the nurses at the local health centre, who need to know the specifics in order to work out whether he is meeting his developmental milestones.
On 11th April, little Charles came home.
It's late March 2010 and baby Charles is in an isolette (dubbed The Glass Box) in the hospital's Special Care Nursery, where premature babies are cared for.
At 35 weeks, he is one of the oldest babies there. However, due to my inter-uterine growth restriction issue (see earlier blog), he is also the smallest baby there by far. He is breathing unassisted and is relatively well developed, but, at 1.4kg, he is SO tiny. Other babies there are much bigger in size than Charles, but as they were delivered at lower gestation ages, they have other problems such as undeveloped lungs.
Special Care is staffed by cheerful and welcoming women who care for the mothers almost as much as the babies. I spend my remaining time in hospital, while recovering from my caesarian, creeping into Special Care at all hours of the day and night, to sit by my baby.
Generally I sit there and cry.
He is too small to suck and so he is fed Nan formula via a tube through his nose. This causes problems with my milk production - despite the best efforts of lactation consultants, his prematurity and the lack of a sucking baby (plus, possibly, the medication I am on) means I don't manage to produce any milk for him.
I weep still more, and feel like a complete failure.
I put my hand into the glass box and stroke his head. I talk to him - and he appears to react to my voice. I watch over him and the nurses watch over me.
He is treated for jaundice and wears tiny little sunglasses. Once each day he is brought out for a kangaroo cuddle, which involves him being put down inside my t-shirt. When he cries, he sounds so weak and tiny. I cry too. Constantly.
But he is a fighter.
I leave hospital and commence the daily visits in to see him. I am so freaked out at first, upon returning to the real world, that I jump at loud noises. I continue to cry at the drop of a hat. Quite traumatised, I realise later.
After about a week, I stop crying. After two weeks Charles starts to rapidly put on weight, and the nurses encourage him to suck a dummy, in preparation for life after the feeding tube.
Eventually he is fed for the first time from a tiny bottle. The look of astonishment on his face is priceless, and I laugh for the first time in weeks.
The weeks pass. As I continue my daily visits (I'm proud of the fact that I never missed a single day) he leaves the isolette and moves to a proper cot. He is fed more and more milk by bottle and eventually his tube comes out altogether. He puts on more and more weight.
The cardiologist scans him and is pleased with his heart - apparently he has two holes, but they are tiny and he is hopeful they'll both close over as baby grows. He is in no immediate danger. A small light appears at the end of the tunnel.
The peadiatrician is also very pleased with him. "He's punching above his weight", she continually tells me. Eventually, at 1.9kg, with his appetite increasing by the day, he is allowed to come home.
My motherhood journey begins in earnest.