Monday, 11 March 2013

Oh, the tears...

...And that was the last night in hospital. Next morning, I was offered Panadol for the umpteenth time which I really, honestly didn't need and almost couldn't convince them I wasn't in any pain whatsoever.
They did manage to send me home with a couple of what they call "skirts".  Basically big pieces of elasticised fabric (called 'tubigrip') which keeps your abdominal muscles together and stops your guts falling out. Because it turned out that though I wasn't in pain, that sensation I had on getting up like my guts were falling out was that my guts really were falling out. I had a DRAM (which is an acronym for how far your abdominal muscles have separated from each other) which was 5 fingers wide - or, the width of your hand).  So apparently that didn't have to hurt, which was excellent!

And with that, I waved goodbye for now to Box Hill and off I went to the Women's for another day of being a mother with a baby in ICU. This was a transition period, where the older daughters were due to come home after staying with their grandparents and I was due to come home and start commuting in each day and being the Mum at home each night. The fantastic juggle of life was starting.

And part of this transition period, also timed with the transition of my breast milk, was the tears. Now I'm not a big crier. I would be able to count on one hand the number of people who have seen me cry except that I've done at least three cries in front of hundreds of people, so that would be a big fat lie!! But I'm not known for my public displays of emotion (or private ones, for that matter) and I can usually keep a lid on tears quite effectively.

Despite this, I reckon I cried more times in the first week of Jacinta's life than I have done since I made it out of primary school, and for not really any good reason. I blame the hormones! (And normally they do nothing to me, but I'm blaming them this time!!) I don't remember exactly when or why it started, but there were times like when Jacinta was clearly hungry and it had been only 2.5 hours since her last feed and she was being fed 3-hourly.

Obviously they have to have a schedule or it'd all go pear-shaped, but here I was with boobs full of milk and a hungry, crying baby and if I could only just get her out of that crib I would have whipped her straight out and fed her that instant. But I couldn't. So I had to hold her hand and apologise and tell her it would be coming soon and give her the dummy to suck on - which I would never, ever do at home.  Feeling that helpless in being able to give my child what she needed was unbearable. I looked away and attempted to keep a calm voice to answer my daughters' questions about why Jacinta was crying and their suggestions about what we could do.

The nurse looking after her that day asked me if I was OK and of course I said I was, since I really was, but it was just my body crying. She looked at me and said, "you're not, are you?". And I told her I really was, it was just silly. Because it was really, and it was just my emotions which Jacinta didn't need to worry about and they certainly weren't going to help!  She must have thought I was a bit mad. She did bring the feed forward though, which was nice!

Things started to get a bit real that day when Jacinta had her first visitors. As I met my other sister at the door to the ward (it's like a military compound there, total lockdown) it just hit me that Jacinta was having visitors and it was like this. I suppose that up until that point there was still a big separation between life pre-Jacinta and post-Jacinta and so it was easy to have two realities. Once they started merging, I suppose there began to be a little sadness to the scenario. She seemed tiny now, like a little baby in intensive care, robbed of her joyous and triumphant ride home and limited to two visitors at a time. And also, if my relatives were here, then she was really here too.

On top of that, there also was the reverse flow. The joy of the fact that even though she was there in intensive care, she got to have visitors too! I got to show off my baby! (Which of course makes no sense to have both sentiments at once, but the mind is a complex thing!)

So naturally, or for me quite unnaturally, on came the waterworks with protestations of, "don't mind me, I'm fine" etc. Then later, when Jacinta's grandparents came in with fiery determination in their eyes to help us do whatever we needed to, to give her the best possible chance in life, the tears came on again as Team Jacinta was formed in an instant in the hallway of the NICU. (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) I'm sure the people in the hallway had many questions as to what was transpiring, but whatever! Just having a moment!

Then it came to having a bit of a cry whenever the moment arose and I could get away with it - by the bedside, looking the other way or in the car on the way to the hospital, staring out the window so the children in the back didn't see. I made good use of the times when I drove myself in. Got a lot of tears out of the way then since I could go for the whole trip, door to door, without interruptions. The social worker would drop past every day or two and thank goodness that when she dropped past and reminded me that it was ok to cry I was able to assure her that I had been getting decent tears out when the children weren't looking. She was happy about that and said, "that's the thing with crying, if you're doing it, the social worker comes running. If you're not doing it, the social worker comes running!" I liked her, she was cool.

About the middle of Jacinta's first week there, after days and days of expressing and tube feeding her, she had her CPAP off when we arrived. I didn't see any staff when I first got in, but thought that maybe there'd be a chance to have a cuddle. It transpired that Kane had been in the room before me and when I caught up with him in the Family Lounge, he told me that they said I could have a go at breastfeeding
for her next feed if I wanted - and I felt it coming. I told myself, "don't do it, hold it in"...but I had tear incontinence. It just came on out and there I was, howling into his shoulder with the sheer relief that I can't rationally explain but mothers out there will understand.

My apologies for the analogy, but not having breastfed my baby was for me a bit like not consummating the relationship. There is so much that goes on when you're feeding, on an intimate communicative level that when it's missing, it's a fundamental piece of your relationship missing. I have never exclusively bottle-fed, but I would assume that it's a similar thing. Tube feeding does not come anywhere near breast or bottle feeding. Having had two babies before I definitely knew what it represented to me and what I was missing out on. So yeah, I cried big fat tears of joy on that one!

And it was like meeting her for the first time...

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