Waking up the day after the birth and the operation was difficult but waking up without our baby there next to us was gut-wrenching. We returned to the hospital as quick as we could and it would become my resting place for the next three weeks. I was kitted out with a mobile, electric breast pump, not too different from the contraption we see in a cowshed, only this cow had to be milked every three hours. I saw how little they survive on in those first few days, poor starving babies, but I also saw the rich colour of that life-giving, nutritional start a newborn needs, colostrum. Seeing that invoked a determination to ensure I ate in the most healthy way possible.
Allia spent three days in intensive care and apart from being asked to leave when they removed the respiratory equipment, the days passed with little drama. We learned that she had an Ileal Atresia, basically an obstruction in the small bowel, which required 35cm of it to be removed, leaving 130cm. Reading the notes of the operation and procedures in the Intensive Care Unit, I completely understand why some things are best not witnessed or even read about at the time one is going through them. I recently came across the discharge summary and actually have no recollection of ever having read it before, it’s not pleasant reading and I feel thankful to have a healthy daughter who shows no sign whatsoever of this challenging start to her life except the scar across her middle.
As if making up for that initial separation, we were then gifted with something few mothers experience I am sure, three uninterrupted weeks of constant companionship, the two of us sharing a room that became our world, three weeks in which I learned that this small being was connected to me in a way I had never imagined possible.
Apart from when the nurses struggled to find a vein when doing blood tests, Allia never cried. She slept, she awoke, she rested in my arms as we waited for that all important organ, the bowel to commence its function. That would be one of the first signs of recovery. She was given milk through a line, so it had to happen soon and if everything functioned well, I would be able to start feeding her.
I would slip downstairs to the cafeteria for my breakfast when I saw she was sleeping and she was always quiet on my return, I would then read the notes to check if anything had occurred while I was away and it was via this I learned that this blissful sleeping baby was aware of my absence. The nurse had noted that Allia had cried and next to this note, that the mother had left the room to have breakfast. That the two events were connected was something of a shock initially, but so reassuring, to come to understand and experience something of the magic of the bond between mother and child. It is something I remain in awe of. The next time I left for breakfast, I made sure to tell her where I was going.
Once she recovered and was feeding and putting on weight, we were ready to go home. We were discharged on December 18th and re-entered a city transformed by the approach of Christmas. A festive celebration it was indeed and the perfect time to be coming home and preparing for the season of joy and hibernation.
Next Up: in A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence