Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflecting back - the feeding and the memories

Being born at 35 weeks little Nicolas found it difficult to feed. This is apparently quite normal for a premature baby, and I was told to expect him to take up to 10 days to figure out the whole breast feeding thing. Nic received his feeds through a naso-gastric tube.

With the help of some amazing nurses I started the journey of teaching Nic to breast feed. Most attempts would result in him in hysterics, desparate for milk but unable to co-ordinate the drinking. It was hard. However, it wasn't the task of feeding Nic that was so challenging - it was the emotion-laden flash backs to the time when Matt was born and he struggled to drink. Matt couldn't suck and co-ordinate swallowing. He was in the high care for 3 weeks as we tried to teach him how to drink. The months that followed consisted of hour-long feeding sessions with a bottle that I could squeeze when Matt became too tired to drink, expressing litres of milk, managing reflux, and cleaning up vomits at least 2 or 3 times a day.

I was surprised at how powerful the memories of Matt's early days were, and how debilitating they were. On the second night after Nic was born, I phoned Lloyd from the hospital, in tears declaring that I just couldn't go through it again. I was so overwhelmed by it all. For Nic's 9pm feed I was blessed by the company of an angel - well she was human, but she was like an angel to me. Her name was Frankie, she was one of the high care nurses on the night shift. She sat with me and Nic for about an hour, helping me to try breast feed, then expressing and feeding him through his tube. I am not sure what exactly it was about her: "her down-to-earth"ness, her sense of humour, her patience, her chatting about her love life, her gentleness with Nic, her confidence that he will get this whole breast feeding thing - probably all of these were like a tonic to my tired and frightened soul.

I fell asleep with peace in my heart, and I woke with courage to do what I needed to do to get my little Nic feeding. Early the next morning Frankie brought Nic for his feed - and he latched well. It felt like a miracle. Franke also told me how she had tried cup feeding him through the night and he had taken to it. With my new found courage I became reaquainted with the breast pump. I got the nurses to teach me to cup feed, whilst still persevering with the breast.

By day 4 I was able to give Nic all his feeds through cup feeding - so out came the naso-gastric tube. And mercifully the paediatrician agreed that we could take him home. I don't think it is policy to send kiddies home unless they are feeding well by breast or bottle. It definitely helped that Lloyd is a paediatrician, and that we had experienced more challenging feeding difficulties with Matt.

It was glorious to be home with Matt and Lloyd. And Nic completely surprised me by mastering the art of breast feeding by the 2nd day home. Good bye expressing, good bye sterilising. What a joy to be able to breast feed. I still stare in awe at Nic gulging down the milk.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflecting back - the birth

Despite anticipating premature labour, by the time we reached the 30s weeks I thought that we would carry to term. I couldn't see what would prompt early labour if it hadn't already happened. So in my mind I was expecting to carry until the end.

On the 18th August, at 35 weeks, the membranes of our little dead twin's sac ruptured. After a lot of debate and discussion our gynaecologist decided it was best to get our healthy twin out as soon as possible as the risk of infection in my womb was now very high. And my body concurred with this decision as I soon went into labour.

Only thing was Lloyd was writing his neonatology subspeciality exams on that day, and the following. So my courageous husband came home from exams, took me to the hospital, watched the birth of his baby, supported his wife, went home and wrote the 2nd part of exams.

We had planned to do a lot after Lloyd's exams - including deciding on the name of the baby, finishing off the nursery, going on a romantic weekend away, finishing off work... So our little boy didn't have a name for the first few days of our life, and we have had to be fexible with our life plans.

We chose the name Nicolas because it means Victorious. We felt that this reflects God's purpose for his life. His second name is Michael - after my father.

What a relief to see that he was healthy and well - even though he was born at 35 weeks. Nicolas was in the High Care Ward for one night only - mainly to monitor his breathing. After that he spent most of his time with me. In the beginning he struggled a lot with breast feedings, and received his feeds through a naso-gastric tube, but more about that in the next post.

My heart rejoices in the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:1

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reflecting back - our pregnancy

I haven't written much about our pregnancy journey in the last few months. Each day required a an intentional and conscious holding onto God's gift of peace and refusing to let fear to root itself in my heart. The threat of losing our second twin was constantly looming in the background. Reflecting and writing about the process was just too taxing. Every day, from the day our one twin died at 19 weeks until we reached 30 weeks, Lloyd and I lit a candle to thank God for keeping our other baba safe, and we asked for just one more day. That is how we lived - day by day.

Weeks passed and the threat of prematurity diminished. We celebrated that our baby remained safe in my womb. Yet our peace was still threatened - a different fear: that this baba may be born with abnormalities. I felt guilty having this fear, as I felt like I was betraying Matt in some way. I love Matt and who he is, I don't despise the fact that he has a syndrome. Yet I was not sure I could manage a second kid with a syndrome.

We had decided not to have any genetic screening tests or scans during the pregnancy. It is very seldom that these tests give a definitive diagnosis, mostly one walks away with a probability or statistic. We couldn't face living with such an uncertainty again. It was torturous during our pregnancy with Matt. So we chose to wait until the baby was born and then if something was wrong, we could deal with it as a definite. However this did mean we had no idea what was in store for us when baba was born.

Lloyd was studying for his neonatal subspeciality exams in August. The text book from which he studied was called "The Diseases of the Newborn" - over a thousand pages of all the things that can go wrong with new borns. Not an easy topic to study when your wife is in her third trimester.

We did not always manage to live in that place of peace every moment and every day. There were times when the fear would almost choke the breath out of my lungs. There were, however moments, by God's grace where despite the possible threats to the safety and health of our baba, we still experienced joy and delight of life.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Matt has become a big brother

On Wednesday 18th August 2010 Matt's little brother, Nicolas, was born. He caught us a bit by surprise but we are thrilled with his arrival.

Photos and stories to follow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

First: Do No Harm

This weekend Lloyd attended an International Paediatric Conference which was held in Johannesburg here in South Africa. He displayed the following poster at the conference. In it we share our insights that we have gained parenting a child who has special needs, with a specific focus on how doctors can better support parents.

To view it in more detail click on the picture and it should enlarge it.