This is the last installment of our birth story. [Read Part I, here, and Part II, here.]
After I was moved from L+D to the maternity ward, Greg accompanied the nurses as they took Dhara to get bathed. When she came back to me after her bath, she came placed in a scarlet red Christmas stocking, clad in a white kimono top, with only her head and shoulders peeping out of the stocking. There was also a knitted red ribbed cap on her head. It was quite the most merry + adorable Christmas present EVER. She was fast asleep, my little one. Her poor little body had been through alot in the hours prior to this.
Little did we know that she would be taken not even an hour afterwards to be put under the lights. You see, within the same day of her birth, tests confirmed that Dhara had high bilirubin levels. In other words, my baby had a case of jaundice — which is common in many babies, but she ended up having higher levels which the specialists said could lead to her having a blood transfusion. Yikes!
Her jaundice was caused by blood incompatibility. “It happens when the baby’s major blood groups differ from the mother’s. The most common group incompatibility is when the baby’s blood type is “A”, “B”, or “AB” and the mother’s blood type is “O”. The mother can create antibodies to the baby’s blood group. Damage to the baby’s blood results in high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is harmless in low levels, but if the levels are very high, injury to the nervous system and brain occur.”
Up until this point, and for the next 5 days, I didn’t get to hold my baby girl for an extended period of time. Forget the bonding and getting-to-know-you time that is so important after birth — nope, it wasn’t happening. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling correctly. It was just sadness. You carry a baby for 10 months, go through an insane delivery, and then you can’t even hold her. Tears rolled down my face many a time during that hospital stay.
One HUGE blessing was that the hospital let her stay in our room while she was under the lights. Even when my allotted time as a patient was up at the hospital, they moved Dhara and I up to Pediatrics and gave us a room that all three of us could stay in — this was unheard of in the hospital — at least the nurses had never seen it done before. Usually hospitals will keep babies in the nursery and send parents home to come back the next day and visit with their child. If they made me do that I probably would have sobbed the whole time she was away. [My fear of nurseries is that the nurses let babies cry and cry. It makes me shudder to think of that.] So I thank God with a full heart for the blessing of having her near Greg and I, and us being able to stay with her. [And especially being there to scoop her up if she wanted to be held close.] Although, it was sad to see her eyes covered by the goggles which were needed to protect her eyes. Sometimes when she was awake, we could see her trying to peek from under her goggles.
Every night a nurse would come into our room to take Dhara to the nursery for 15 minutes to get a blood sample to test her bilirubin levels. Dhara would come back to the room with needle pricks on her heels. Every night Greg and I were always on the lookout because Dhara had a tendency to pull her goggles over her nose. We were afraid that she wouldn’t be able to breath if that happened when we weren’t watching, so we BARELY got any sleep in the hospital. That Dhara made sure to keep us on our toes. We were oh so tired. I should also mention here that due to my 3rd degree tear, recovery was slow and painful. No one ever talks about the recovery period for mom. But it’s icky, and uncomfortable, and painful. Showers and toilet sessions were the worst.
We were under strict orders to only take Dhara out from under the lights for feedings and diaper changes — once those were done, she had to go back. Those days really felt like the hospital owned her — like I just didn’t give birth to her! I remember one night of Dhara just crying and crying — poor gal — I told Greg to give her to me. She slept in my bed for part of the night — sweet bliss! — the next morning, the nurse came in and reprimanded me for having the baby out from under the lights. I guess she had every right to reprimand me, but I just wanted some cuddle time with the babers. Infants really are just the sweetest things in bed, they just cozy up right next to you. Dhara’s test results fluctuated. This was kinda depressing. Whenever we thought she was doing better, her levels would go back up again. Her highest bilirubin level was 18.
A couple of my fondest memories:
— Greg singing a made-up song to Dhara about “that mean Mr. Bilirubin”. He’s so good at coming up with songs that make me laugh. Especially during this time when I was kinda down in my spirits. We had fun singing and coming up with verses for his made-up song.
— My favorite happened during the wee hours of December 29th. I was partly awakened by the sounds of the pediatric nurse coming into our room. She came in and shut off the lights above Dhara’s cart. She then rolled Dhara’s cart next to my bed, and then quietly left the room. Even though I was half asleep, my heart new it was all over — my baby was going to be alright. Later that morning, once we awoke, we learned that we would be taking her home that day. Oh for joy! I get to finally keep her, was the feeling I felt. And it was such a good, good feeling.
[End of Part III.]