After several hours on the postnatal ward, Elsie and I were finally discharged into the real world. Free to leave the safe confines of this sterile world into which she was born, and our little IUGR super star slept on. We’d been told we’d have to wait until feeding was established before we could leave, but once my pain relief medications and fragmin shots were ready the midwife in charge saw no reason to keep us. So, strapped into our Doona (more on that later) Elsie and I made a very slow retreat from the hospital. Much of our first week together was documented on Instagram, through photos and captions and comments and I’d love to share some of them with you.
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Having been inside the hospital since Thursday, it was wonderful to feel fresh air on my skin on that Saturday night. And as the city was getting ready to drink, dance and laugh, we were off on a new, very different adventure.
I know enough now to know that a baby’s first night at home can be very different to their first night in hospital, especially if they’ve been born by c-section. Often the drugs that have filtered through to them, coupled with the exhaustion of being born, can make babies so tired during their first 24 hours, so I wasn’t surprised when Elsie suddenly woke up on her second night. It happened around 11pm, just as I had eased my sore body into bed.
And then the question. Do I spend all night sitting up, reaching over to my baby, feeding my baby, lying my baby back down and then lying down myself- over and over again? After a c-section none of this is very easy at all, and after a brief period spent crying in pain, I decided to take Elsie back downstairs. And there we stayed, until the house awoke again.
At two days old, Elsie slept and slept and slept. The midwife came to see us, and made arrangements for the breastfeeding support counsellor to come the next day.
At three days old, we were still waiting for her to open her eyes.
Our breastfeeding counsellor immediately expressed concern about Elsie’s feeding. I was concerned too. Latch was fine, but she was still only sucking for around 20 seconds or so before falling asleep, exhausted. She wasn’t waking for feeds and was becoming more and more lethargic and.. I didn’t want to say it… floppy. Not right. Something wasn’t right. We were advised to try all that we could to get her to feed- strip her down to nappy, lots of skin to skin, feeds every two hours with syringe feeds in between. We needed to get Elsie to eat, and we could see that with our own eyes. Our breastfeeding counsellor told us she would return the next day to check how we were doing.
That night I tried all I could to get Elsie to wake for a feed. She fed for around 4 minutes at 11 pm and by 6am I was desperate. Fraught. Frightened. Exhausted. I’d tried. And failed. And tried again. And my baby was fading before my eyes! At 6am I finally managed to get 1ml into her by syringe, but she vomited quite a lot of that back up. Nothing was going down or staying down. Knowing that she needed at least 30 times more than this meant that we were feeling a little out of our depths. This was all unknown territory for us- all the others had been great feeders and we had expected Elsie to be the same. This was the first time we realised that she really isn’t the same, after all.
By the time the breastfeeding counsellor arrived, I was disraught. And seeing how little she had eaten, the midwife was called for advice. The midwife decided that she would come and weigh Elsie so that we could get an idea of how much weight she had lost. Newborn babies are usually weighed at five days old, but Elsie was to be weighed a day early, at four days old. In the meantime we had to do our best to get her to feed as much as possible. On top of this, Elsie’s jaundice wasn’t clearing and we were concerned that it might worsen if she didn’t start to feed a little more. Jaundice in turn can cause feeding issues, so all at once we were stuck in a bit of a cycle.
Ghostwiterdaddy took charge. What a glorious moment when he managed to get most of 8ml inside our little Elsie Rose! And all just before the midwife came to weigh her too. Elsie Rose lost 9% of her body weight since birth, taking her down to 4lb 13. There is a 10% rule for newborns- if they lose this much or more, then intervention is needed. Elsie was just below the limit but due to her IUGR the midwife was still concerned that she had lost too much.
The midwife called the hospital, who wanted to admit Elsise for tube feeding. And at that point Elsie let out a shriek.
She cried! For the first time in days, perhaps since she was born. Our little lady let us know she wasn’t done yet. She was going to give it another go.
On hearing the cry the doctor agreed to wait a while. We were to have her re-weighed in 48 hours, and if she had gained enough by then she would escape admittance. Hoorah!
The next two days, sadly, are a little blurry. Filled with feeding attempts and expressing and nappy assessments. But slowly, Elsie began to pick up We saw our breastfeeding counsellor daily, and she provided the right amount of support and guidance so that we were able to continue without going insane. And on the fifth day we realised that something was changing. Eyes were opening and cries were ringing out. To see the difference in her was amazing.
To go from a tired, sleepy, lethargic baby to a wide eyed wonder was amazing! Her skin was pinker, her little body was moving. And she was FINALLY waking for feeds now and then. And on day six she was weighed once more.
The relief was immense! And the support we received from everyone via text, phone call, tweet and Instagram comment has meant the world to me.
Our little Elsie Rose ended the week on a high!
On day seven my stitches were removed, and the midwife made plans to come back and re-weigh on day 11- until then we were left to our own devices! And by that point we seemed to have settled into a little routine of sorts. Elsie was by this point waking for feeds every two hours or so, and I was expressing what she couldn’t finish for herself. Due to her small size and small mouth, breastfeeding had been a struggle for her and it continues to be a challenge today too. But what a change we saw in her. No longer floppy and uninterested. Instead, our one week old baby was starting to find her place in this strange world.