It’s been a long time coming but we finally came back home on December 23. Let’s start with photos first!
Images between December 10 and 24
Doesn’t he look tiny in the car seat? I have very few images to share during this time because life has been just crazy the past couple weeks. Read below for details if interested.
Christmas Photos of Evan, Jack and Joseph
These are images I took while lazying around in our bedroom on Christmas day. This year’s Christmas was pretty uneventful because we were so busy and it came and left in a blink of an eye.
There’s just way so much to share from the past 2.5 weeks and so I will recollect as best as I can…
The Adventures at Grand River Hospital
Before I start though, I have a disclaimer: we went through a few scares since my last blog update but all is well now…
The reason why I have not been writing much the past few weeks is because I’ve been living the life of a “real” mother since December 12. I was persuaded to “move-in” to one of the Courtesy Rooms at the Grand River Hospital to encourage around-the-clock breastfeeding. These rooms are for mothers only and are shared between two moms. You also have to sign-out of the NICU if you want to leave the unit because the nurses have to know where you are so they can find you if your baby needs to eat. The hospital here does not allow you to use a phone or plug your laptop or iPad in your room and there’s no free WiFi. I was quite miserable the first few days because I felt like I had just voluntarily signed up for privileged jail time. I was very grateful for the opportunity to breastfeed 24/7 but I was not happy with the arrangement and cut-off from the rest of the world.
Life in the NICU at Grand River was quite different than Good Samaritan. The nurses, although nice, were much less educational here. There were no neonatologists on staff because it was only a level 2+ NICU – only pediatricians who were also shared with the Pediatric unit. There was also a clinical teaching team here and so there were residents and clerks who made their rounds in the morning. It was a very different experience than at Good Sam where it was a level 3 NICU with highly specialized pediatricians (aka neonatologists) and no students.
Since Evan was transferred from out-of-country, he had to be kept in isolation for roughly 9 days until 2 sets of swabs came back negative; it’s hospital policy. :p Evan being in isolation meant that we had to wear gowns and gloves before we could enter his room and then de-gown before leaving the room. This gowning and gloving process was very annoying. It’s amazing how difficult it is to breastfeed with gloves on. It was also sad that I couldn’t “touch” my baby because I had gloves on… Very frustrating… especially considering that I was touching Evan even on the plane ride, so if they really wanted to quarantine properly, they’d have to isolate me as well, which they did not. Oh, how we humans love procedures!
Grand River Hospital also did not believe in sending babies home on a fortified diet unless they have to. So they wanted to wean Evan off fortification as quickly as possible. Evan was originally on a +6 calorie diet from Good Sam (which everyone at Grand River called a “weird funky” diet because Grand River only gives +2 calories) but very quickly Evan was brought down to pure breastmilk because he kept pulling out his feeding tube and wanted to suck. After two successful times at pulling out his own feeding tube, the nurses declared him “committed” to breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding was a challenge. I was mentally prepared for the battle of latching; however, what I was not prepared for was the “drowning” of my child. At first we were using a nipple shield to help Evan latch. The lactation consultant felt that Evan was latching on decently well and wanted me to try latching him directly on the breast without a shield. So we tried direct breastfeeding which at first worked out well because I could feel that he was transferring more milk. All the nurses thought we’d be going home soon because he was feeding so well.
However, on session three of direct breastfeeding, Evan choked on my milk and turned blue within a few seconds. He then proceeded to become completely phased out and turned grey. The nurses took him out of my arms and tried to stimulate him but with no luck. They then took him out to a different room as I sat where I was fearing for my dear boy’s life, crying and I thinking to myself, “Common Evan, we’ve come this far… don’t give out now…”
After a few minutes a nurse came back to get me and told me Evan was okay. Phew! Apparently, his heart rate dropped below 60 and of course all his other vital signs dropped as well so they started to give him chest compressions to facilitate oxygen and blue circulation because nothing else was working.
What a scare! Here I was thinking Evan was doing so well (according to all the nurses) and I was getting all excited about the prospect of taking him home soon and then this happened… I became very weary and scared at the prospect of taking him home then. The nurses gave me a contact to arrange for a private infant CPR lesson for me and Joseph just in case it were to happen at home in the future. I immediately called to make an appointment and got an opening the following day. Both Joseph and I had previous First Aid and CPR training but that was over 14 and 10 years ago respectively so a refresher would be good!
Because of this incident, Evan had to stay in the hospital for at least another week and I was instructed to feed him with a nipple shield again to help reduce the flow of milk. A week went by and he had no more issues feeding with a nipple shield. His weight gain was not so good though (less than 10 grams a day) but the doctors did not seem concerned because he was working a lot harder to get food which burns more calories and in addition, his diet was no longer fortified. They felt that eventually he’d grow into the new feeding/diet regimen and would eventually gain more weight.
On December 21, we were discharged to go home! It felt so good to be finally going home! But it was short lived… Life seems to always throws weird and hard wrenches at you. On the evening of the following day, December 22, Evan once again choked on my milk, this time even with the nipple shield on, and he had the same symptoms as a week early; he turned blue –> then gray –> then become non-responsive –> then limp and unconscious. Joseph ended up performing CPR on him while I called 911. After about 6 cycles, we managed to bring Evan back to consciousness and crying. It was one of the most scariest times in our life! Although the whole episode only lasted a few minutes in reality, it felt like such a long time when we were in it. It is so hard watching your child drift towards death and feel like you had caused it (even though it wasn’t technically your fault).
Sigh. For the first time ever, I had the very sad and desperate thought of, “I wish I could trade him in for a less broken one…” And I’m very sorry to have thought that because not once in the past three months did I have that thought earlier. I was in such despair that I almost caused my baby to die again by just feeding him. I wanted so badly for there there to be just an easy solution but there wasn’t.
After the ambulance arrived, Evan was taken to the hospital to run through some tests just to make sure he was okay. The pediatrician that eventually saw him was the same doctor that had just discharged him the previous day and also the same doctor who had seen him a week earlier when he had the first choking episode. What a coincidence! He wanted us to stay at the hospital for at least another day under observation before he would feel comfortable sending us home but said that it was really our call on whether we’d want to stay even longer.
Neither Joseph nor I wanted Evan to stay longer at the hospital because he would have to be admitted to the Pediatric unit which is typically not the most sterile/safest environment because of contagious diseases. But by the doctor’s orders, we’d have to stay at least one night under observation and so we did. From that night onwards, I was no longer comfortable breastfeeding Evan.
I know breastfeeding is good for mommy and baby and is the most efficient way to feed a baby but I was no longer able to bring myself to put Evan on my breast because I was so scared. So bottles it was!
We’ve been home now since December 23rd and Evan has been feeding well on the bottle. He’s eating a lot and pooping a lot which is a very good thing! Now he just needs to grow more regularly!
It is a lot of hard work pumping and then feeding by bottle, especially with all the equipment and bottles that need to be washed in the process; but for now, it’s what I feel most comfortable doing and it’s what’s I consider the safest for Evan.
Below is a video of Evan yesterday having his “tummy time” on daddy’s chest looking awake, alert and curious.
We are so happy to finally be home and we look forward to continuing this adventurous journey with our little munchkin! Oh, the wonders of being a parent!