MomsGetReal is proud to share the story of Guest Contributor Wanda Morrissey as we bring attention to Preemie Awareness Month. Please join us in supporting the efforts of the March of Dimes by volunteering or making a donation.
I was in a panic. My mind was racing. Was Jeffrey going to be okay? Was he really having seizures? Why hadn’t someone mentioned the possibility of seizures sooner? I had a doctor‘s appointment of my own that afternoon; should I cancel it and go to the hospital? Should I call Kent at work? Should I call my mother? Mother-in-law? My best friend? I didn’t know what to do. I calmed myself long enough to decide to wait for the doctor to call back before I started calling people. I went back to pacing back and forth, waiting for the phone to ring. When it rang about an hour later, it wasn’t the doctor on the other end, it was Jeffrey’s regular nurse. Jeffrey was just fine. He wasn’t having seizures.
The nurse who’d been with Jeffrey overnight had never worked with him before. The severity of his apnea spells had scared her; she’d overreacted and put him back on the ventilator. She then reported her concerns to a doctor who had never worked with Jeffrey before and the doctor decided to check for seizures. I had never felt so relieved and at the same time so mad in my life. I’d been scared for no reason, just because a nurse and doctor, who’d not taken the time to familiarize themselves with Jeffrey’s history, had jumped to their own conclusions without even consulting with Jeffrey’s regular medical team. And then the doctor didn’t even have the nerve to call me himself, he had Jeffrey’s nurse do it; I was annoyed with the whole situation. I voiced my concerns to the head nurse and that nurse never worked with Jeffrey again and, to my knowledge, neither did that doctor.
A week after the seizure scare we got good news – Jeffrey was being moved to the Special Care Nursery (SCN). Babies in the SCN are considered strong enough to not need constant monitoring. They’re moved out of their incubators and put in a cot (the name for the little beds used by babies in hospitals) and, best of all; the parents take over most of the care. Finally some hands on time without a nurse constantly hovering over our shoulders. Obviously there were certain things Kent and I couldn’t do, like changing the NG-tube (feeding tube) but we did learn how to turn off his monitors and disconnect the wires so we could give him a bath. We could hold him when we wanted for as long as we wanted and we were able to changes his diapers (he’d gotten big enough to actually wear a diaper and was also wearing sleepers) and bathe him.
It was very exciting. It was one step closer to bringing him home.
Once he was moved to the SCN, the decision was made to try to start breastfeeding. I’d always wanted to breastfeed but up until this point had been unable to. Jeffrey was just too small and his suck reflex hadn’t developed. He had been given a pacifier to help stimulate sucking. The day after he was born I began expressing (pumping) and storing breast milk for Jeffrey. It had been stored at the hospital and it was what he was given at every feed. He now had to get used to the idea of working for his meal instead of automatically being fed every 2 hours.
The lactation nurse suggested that we introduce Jeffrey to an empty breast first. While I went to pump they started Jeffrey’s feed. When I came back they showed me how to hold him and check for a good latch. The idea was to get Jeffrey used to the idea that food came from the breast. It didn’t work that way – he took an apnea spell and was put back in his cot. We tried again the next day and the same thing happened. The third time we tried the nurse didn’t have his feeding tube hooked up. Jeffrey latched well but didn’t suck. At least he didn’t take an apnea spell. Each day we would try but Jeffrey didn’t seem to be catching on. I couldn’t understand why they had me trying to breastfeed after I had pumped. How was Jeffrey supposed to understand that milk came from the breast if he was just sucking on an empty one? The nurses were afraid that if he got a mouthful of milk right away that he’d take an apnea spell. He would take apnea spells anyway so I didn’t see what difference it would make. I was beginning to find the whole process frustrating but I was determined to breastfeed.
April 13th was a Sunday and as usually Kent and I went to the hospital. As we had many times before we spoke to the nurses as we walked past the nursing station on our way to the SCN. But on this day the nurse practitioner stopped us. She had good news – Jeffrey was being moved to the Level 3 NICU (equivalent to the SCN) at hospital in our hometown.
For the last 3 months Kent and I had been commuting back and forth between the hospital in Toronto and our home in Newmarket, which is north of Toronto. A one-way trip could take an hour or more because of traffic. The hospital in Newmarket is just down the road from where we live. Having Jeffrey there would cut our drive down to a matter of minutes and would mean being able to spend more time with him.
Instead of the day rushing by, like it usually did when we were with Jeffrey, it seemed to drag. We had to wait for the doctor to finish her rounds (it was a Sunday and the doctors did rounds late on Sundays). Once she finished rounds she would give Jeffrey a final check before being moved. Paperwork had to be filled out, they had to find a nurse to travel with Jeffrey in the ambulance and then we had to wait for an ambulance to make the trip. It was a hurry up and wait kind of day. At about 3pm they were ready to make the transfer. Neither Kent nor I could travel with him because there wasn’t enough room so we drove but we still made it to the hospital before the ambulance did (the ambulance was traveling with traffic and didn’t have its lights on). It felt great having Jeffrey closer to home. We were one more step closer to bringing him home.