After a lovely homebirth, short over night stay at the lovely Barkentine Birth Centre and lovely few days at home it was recommended by my midwife that we take Penny along to the hospital as she had lost over 10% of her original birth weight.
I had been determined to breastfeed exclusively this time around. After a lack of understanding of the benefits when I had my eldest, and a lack of support when my son was born, I made it my goal to learn as much as I could before hand. We had a few struggles with latching, but Penny seemed content on the breast (It was just painful for me), but we used the creams and things were getting better we thought. We did as we were told and went along to our local A & E. They were concerned about the weight loss, and suggested supplementing with formula. This was a blow for me. I’d been trying so hard, but after 5 days my milk still had not come in fully. After some discussion we agreed to supplement with a syringe rather than a bottle because Penny’s sodium levels were high. Disheartened we returned home under instructions to return the next day to a ward to have her bloods checked again.
We spent the night syringe feeding and breastfeeding Penny, as well as me frantically using a pump to try and encourage a greater supply. The next day we returned to the hospital, where they agreed to check Penny’s urine. Long story short, our eldest daughter was born with Vesicoureteral Reflux, which caused failure to thrive as a newborn and she was diagnosed with her first UTI of many at just 3 weeks old, requiring IV antibiotics and at the age of 6 an operation to repair the faulty valve between her bladder and kidneys. We wanted it to be ruled out for Penny, but instead the sample came back as showing signs of infection which meant we had to be admitted.
This was devastating for myself and Jonathan as we had fought so hard to have our baby at home and to avoid hospitals and interventions. This was supposed to be our bonding time and because of hospital rules, only one of us could stay. The exact thing we wanted to avoid by having a home birth in the first place. After a very traumatic 5 attempts to insert a cannula into our 6 day old princess I refused anymore. Thinking back I don’t know how I didn’t flatten that doctor after the 2nd attempt. A few hours later I agreed to allow a different doctor who assured me that he had experience with preemie babies to try. He did it first try while Penny slept peacefully and the IV antibiotics were started as well as a feeding tube.
We continued working on trying to maintain breastfeeding as well as regular top ups to help her gain weight and get her back to her 8lb birth weight. Getting the balance right was a constant battle with doctors who simply wanted to pump her full of formula. We had 2 visits from a lactation nurse and constantly tried increasing my supply. Everything I expressed was given first, and then formula, as well at latching. I was exhausted, Jonathan was exhausted, the children missed us and we still didn’t really know what was wrong. After 2 days we were transferred to a longer stay ward which is when my problems really started. I was alone when we were moved, and my anxiety was peaking as I had gotten settled and comfortable with the doctors and nurses treating Penny. I was worried I would have to begin the fight over formula all over again and I just didn’t have any fight left.
I started breast feeding Penny and had just unlatched when my whole body seized up. I lost control of my body from the neck down and was terrified I was going to drop my baby. I was falling, but managed to lean back so I slid from the chair, but I was terrified. I tried shouting but nothing came out. Just as I was about to hit the floor a nurse came in. I managed to say ‘take the baby’, which she did. She ran from the room with her and came back a few minutes later and put her in her cot. By this time I managed to get onto the armchair, but was in agony. I’d been cramping a lot, and thought at first that it was because of feeding Penny, but this was different. I also had a temperature of 39.8. The nurse didn’t seem all that interested in me, and eventually asked if someone else could come and watch Penny while I went to a&e. I could hardly speak, but managed to call Jonathan. I’m not sure of much about what happened next as I suffered a major panic attack, but I know I was taken to a&e and then to labour ward as I was only 9 days post partum. They diagnosed a uterine infection and I had to stay there for the night on IV antibiotics and fluids. The next day I had a scan which confirmed debris in my uterus from the birth. I was given tramadol which I’d taken before and I finally got to go see my baby who now had Jonathan staying with her. My nan had also come down to meet her newest great granddaughter.
After this visit I was getting ready to go and have my next lot of antibiotics, but stopped to help Jonathan change Penny. As I lent over the cot I remember saying I don’t feel well. The next thing I remember is a doctor talking to me. A crash call had been put out as I had collapsed and the room now had around 12 people in it. My nan had Penny in another room, and Jonathan was telling me I was going to be ok. There were heart monitors and everything was fuzzy. I was transferred to the high dependency unit but by then I was feeling much better and a bed was found on the postnatal ward. Being there without my baby was the worst feeling in the world. My mum stayed the night with me, and I was eventually allowed to attempt a visit to see Penny again. This time in a wheelchair, but I was determined to be with her for her ultrasound scan and to try and feed her as much as possible. They were now treating Penny for suspected sepsis due to my condition, and it is still unknown where her infection originated from. We were both finally discharge home on the Friday after 6 very long days.
I can only thank everyone for all of their thoughts and prayers while we were going through it all. Through out, I knew that I didn’t have to worry about Ellie and Andrew, and I had constant support either in person or over the phone from our family. We could not have gotten through it all without the selflessness of our parents and those willing to drop everything to be there. You know who you are and we love you all xxx
Last month Penny had her x-ray/scans to check to see if she too had the same condition as her big sister. Thankfully there looks to be no evidence of this, and we hope that after her review in May, she can stop the prophylactic antibiotics she has been on since her hospital discharge. We stopped breastfeeding completely at 2 months old, but it’s something I am very proud that we fought to maintain. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be this time, but I’m sure it helped maintain our bond while having to be separated at such a young age.