The day after Matthew was born I was moved from the labouring room into a single room. I felt quite lucky being allocated a room of my own, what with having so little privacy in the open wards. It wasn’t until later on that morning that I overheard one of the midwives telling another staff member that they had put me there so I wasn’t in amongst new mums and their babies.
It broke my heart, but I felt grateful that they had thought about me in that sense.
Still unable to walk and with the doctors debating my requirement for a blood transfusion, my husband wheeled me over to the NICU to see our son. The unit was much scarier in the cold harsh light of day, with a great deal more staff there than the night before.
Matthew still looked the same. Small and fragile.
I still felt the same. Disconnected and ashamed, feelings I didn’t share with my husband.
We spoke with the doctors who told us that Matthew was doing really well considering. The pressures on his ventilator weren’t too high and they were in fact thinking about extubating him in a few days if his stats remained at such good numbers. At this point Michael and I knew nothing more than the facts and figures they were giving us and so we were content to leave every decision up to them.
A decision we did make ourselves was that we wanted to have Matthew blessed by our priest. Michael and I are both catholic and it was important to us that this ritual was carried out in case the worst should happen.
Michael contacted our priest the following day and he was at the hospital within hours, offering to baptise Matthew for us. It was just myself and Michael there standing at his bedside and despite the sense of urgency and the fleeting ceremony, it was actually a beautiful moment for us both and the first time I felt any sense of hope about our situation.
I had been trying desperately to express milk for those first few days, but to no avail. It was important for Matthew to have breast milk ready for when the doctors started him on feeds. Breast milk was easier for his body to digest and kinder on his gut than formula, so I really felt the pressure to deliver the goods as it were.
It took 4 days, but on Sunday the 23rd of August my milk supply finally came in. I managed to express 0.6ml which sounds like nothing, but it was honestly the most rewarding feeling in the world being able to produce anything at all.
I immediately got ready and took the syringe over to the NICU, where we were met with masked and scrubbed up doctors and nurses surrounding Matthews open incubator.
His lung had collapsed and the doctors needed to insert a chest drain to allow for the fluid and air to escape. I honestly think my heart stopped beating for those first few moments.
We of course consented and were ushered into the family room located across the corridor. Both Michael and I fell apart and held each other, waiting for news.
We waited for what felt like a lifetime. It was in fact 30 minutes. The procedure was successful and Matthew was stable and a lot more comfortable than he had been in the previous half hour.
It was in this moment that my heart swelled for this tiny boy. He was fighting for his life, already enduring more in his first few days of life than most people do in a lifetime. I felt overwhelming pride and an outburst of love and affection. The feelings and emotions missing from those first few days surged through my body like a tidal wave. I sat by his incubator, put my hand inside, placed it gently on his body and wept for my son.