November 2013. A typical winter’s day expectantly marked the beginning of my family. At 8.23 in the morning, a 7lbs 14oz miracle was placed in my arms. 2 days late and 20 hours of labor, he arrived, our perfect baby boy; Jude.
Everything felt perfect as I sat cradling our newborn with my husband by my side. For 33 minutes, life was bliss. I experienced an overwhelming love, emotions so strong that the world around me simply disappeared. It was at that exact moment that I truly understood Agatha Christie’s quote:
“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path”.
That half hour was untouchable.
Before I had time to place Jude’s first set of clothes upon his soft, flawless body the nurses took him away. “Nothing to worry about,” I was told, “just a check-up to ensure he’s in good health. It would only take 30mins, which would give me time to rest a little before my role as a mother took flight. My mind wouldn’t let me relax, the sheer excitement of my parental love excelling for such a small little man caused me to sit and think about taking him home, introducing him to the nursery I had worked on for so long, sitting and doing nothing but watch my little boy grow and develop.
Who would have known that a doctor walking into my room would cause those thoughts to be paused and a heart breaking reality to take place? “We have discovered some things,” was the start of a very long and dream-like conversation. My husband and I were informed of 3 issues that had been identified. Our son was in the NICU on oxygen and high amounts of antibiotics as well as an IV drip of glucose solution. Additionally, he was unable to control his temperature; on top of other health concerns with regards to fluid levels in his lungs and his inability to keep his glucose levels stable. The news felt like an iron punch to the heart, and all I wanted to do was see Jude and be by his side.
A hall had never seemed so long; my husband and I made our way to the NICU. Passing other patient rooms, I could hear the sound of crying babies followed by the sight of eager new parents gleefully holding their child with the same look of peace and wonder in their eyes I felt I’d been robbed of.
Nothing could have prepared me for the earth shattering sight of my boy. As I turned the corner into the NICU, there was my precious little boy hooked up to wires and numberless beeping machines. Seeing him struggling to breathe as they forced air into his lungs caused my stomach to drop. Not even a couple of hours old yet he was facing an enormous trial, the fight for life and a place here with us. My heart broke as I longed to take this immense burden away from him and battle it myself. Instead, I sat by his side and watched as he struggled to do the basic functions that a healthy baby would be able to accomplish without cause for concern.
The hospital was unable to tend to all of his health concerns and we were found ourselves behind an ambulance, journeying to a higher established NICU. Jude was only 3 days old and he was already having his first ride in an ambulance. In a small, surprising way I was glad we were moving, the hopes of our little boy getting the care he needed increased as we transitioned into a new hospital.
Days rolled by and the new hospital quickly became our home. The doctors informed us that they felt confident with a diagnosis; bacterial pneumonia. This subsequently gave possible insight as to why his glucose levels were fluctuating; a result of his body’s need to adjust to life outside of the womb, independent from an umbilical cord. My husband and I introduced our son to family members abroad via Skype and local relatives at the hospital NICU. This was not how it was meant to be done.
When you’re pregnant, you create a birth plan. It constitutes the perfect labor and delivery, the perfect first hold, the perfect first family introduction. However, our situation changed all things deemed ideal and our story became unpredictable. We simply did not know how Jude’s health would change from day to day.
Finally, we saw a positive change; he was getting better and was able to withstand lower concentrated doses of medicine. He was now controlling his own temperature, the fluid seemed to clear up and his glucose levels were stabilizing. The last obstacle we had to overcome was feeding; this task seemed more difficult than imagined. Jude had been bottle fed since the day he was born to ensure the doctors knew how much milk he was taking. This meant that breast-feeding was a challenge, and took a lot of patience. No matter how many times we tried, it would take so long to try to teach him how to suckle that we would end up bottle-feeding him again in order to keep his glucose levels stable.
Looking back on this I thought I’d feel a sense of rejection knowing that my baby did not nurse however, I was overcome with joy seeing that my son was getting better and if bottle-feeding meant he would continue to improve and come home, I did not mind. Things were finally improving and I felt the pressure and anxiety, which loomed over me daily, was finally lifting. That is until doctors round came on Thanksgiving, and my world changed yet again as an unexpected change in Jude’s health meant the world would once again fall to pieces.