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In an intensely personal account of the birth and early days of her premature baby, this mom shines through with her strength and resilience. Salute!
They say, ‘with every baby, a mother is also born.’
Add to it – ‘with every premature baby, a premature mother is born’.
It was 12:00 PM, when she checked the thermometer again. It was 100.7 degree Celsius. This was the last thing she needed; fever again. No. This is not done. This can’t be. She tried to lie down and sleep, but nothing seemed to work. She checked the fever again. 100.8 this time..!
Devastated, she called up her doctor, who asked to see her immediately. By now, she kind of had an idea of what was going to happen.
Within thirty minutes of the call, she was at the hospital with her husband’s parents, who were equally worried. The doctor immediately called her in and said they were going to do a surgery immediately.
Surgery? My baby was just 32 weeks old. How will she be able to cope? What if she is born with some medical problems? They say that they will keep the baby in NICU for few weeks. How am I going to survive without seeing my baby?
So many questions were flashing without any answers. Everyone was trying to calm her while panicking inside, themselves.
She was admitted to the hospital immediately and while changing her clothes, she looked at her belly. The baby was sleeping quietly and seemed to be okay. Then why were they taking her out so early? Her heart was pounding, and she was trying to stay positive, praying, but feeling that sinking feeling with every minute that passed.
As a machine was tied around her belly for monitoring the baby’s heartbeat, she closed her eyes and started thinking about the first day when she got to know that she is pregnant.
Since then, she has dreamt of her baby, every day and night. She has seen her in every scan session. From just a tiny dot when she noticed the heartbeat for the first time, to the development of those tiny limbs and feet; and from those tiny kicks while sleeping, while moving, and while having serious discussions during office meetings to those movements while having mango. She was doing everything that the doctor asked her to; from exercise to yoga, from no sugar and no oil to complete control on cravings; from big sized scary medicines to big sized injections daily. Anything and everything that she could never think of doing.
But nothing seemed to be working as she was destined for something else. Her ever increasing liver enzymes were causing fever again and again which were not good for the baby. Finally, the doctor had taken the desicion to take out the baby.
At 3:30 pm, when she opened her eyes, she saw her husband signing something. She was told by the nurse that they were going to take her to the operation theatre. Something happened to her and she started shaking inside. Now? How can they do it now? Will my baby be alive and okay? They said that her lungs won’t have been developed by now. How will she breathe then? God…!! Please help..!!
Suddenly she found herself on a wheelchair with the nurse pushing it towards the operation theatre. She longed for her mom, but of course she was not there. Before she could tell her husband to take care of the baby if she didn’t come out alive, she was in the operation theatre.
The door opened and she was alone with the nurse in the lobby, another door opened, then another one. With every door opening, the noise was reducing, and when the last one opened, she saw a bench with that typical halogen lamp, lots of machines and some doctors around. Everyone and everything was serious. She was collapsing every minute while her heartbeat was increasing every second. This was not what she had thought about. This is not like the hospital room she was admitted to. She never imagined an operation theatre to be like that and while thinking all of this she saw some instruments, the knives and the scissors. No. I can’t do this. I want to run out of this room, now…! Where is my husband? I am all alone. Where is my doctor? Who are these people?
While she was thinking all of this, the anaesthesia specialist placed an injection on her lower back and she was told to lie down straight and then everything just happened. The doctor came in, put a cut in the lower part of her stomach and the next thing she heard was her baby’s voice.
The moment had arrived. She is here. My baby. My soul. My heart. I did it. Thank you God..!!
While the doctors placed the baby on her chest for a few seconds, she heard the doctor saying that baby needs to be go to the NICU immediately as she can’t breathe properly. Her heart sank on hearing this and all she could do was pray. So she did that, and went into a deep sleep.
Tia was in NICU and her father had got a video of her from there.
No. She was unable to see Tia in that state. All she could see in the video was the ventilator bed she was kept inside, an oxygen pipe inserted into her nose, a food pipe inserted inside her mouth, a cannula injected into her palm, the heartbeat monitoring wire resting on her chest with the help of a paper tape, the blood pressure monitor placed around her feet, with red lights.
Why? Why is she suffering so much? What wrong has she done? She was craving to see her baby but she couldn’t move from her place, was not even able turn on her side. So she closed her eyes and tried to sleep, and then again started her prayers; the only thing she could do now.
She pushed herself to sit up and stand the very next day. There was no anaesthesia now, so she felt all the pain. But she couldn’t really wait to see her baby. The nurse told her that the baby needs mother’s milk; she tried to express it; but no success. Horrified once again..!!
She was then taken on a wheelchair to the NICU to meet her baby. Excited, she went inside a big room. There was absolute silence there and so many babies. Her heart sank once again but she regained some strength. Where is Tia? The nurse then helped her with finding the baby. She was named as ‘Baby of Anshi’ on the sticker around her bed.
Tia was inside the ventilator bed, sleeping with every possible machine tied around her. She was making sounds while breathing and suddenly her mother read on the monitor oxygen support – 55%. She couldn’t breathe even for a second without support. She couldn’t take food directly and therefore the food pipe.
The monitor was beeping continuously and was showing all possible percentages and lines, stuff that she could not understand. What she did understand was her longing to hold Tia in her arms, when she was told by a nurse that she could touch her through those small holes in the ventilator bed. She had to gather all her strength to do that. When she touched the baby, a voice inside her told her, ‘Congratulations..!! You are a premature mother. It’s going to be tough, but not impossible. Enjoy the journey…!!’
She was discharged from the hospital on the fourth day. She was able to walk now and eat her food. And yes, she was able to send milk for the baby.
She sat in the car. Her husband and family was there with her but Hey! Where is the baby? She was inside my belly when I came to the hospital. Now, she is neither inside my belly nor in my arms. I have left her alone in the hospital. She is too young to be alone. What kind of mother I am? What have I done with Tia? Why is she suffering?
It will be a long struggle, she told herself. But she has to give more than what she can.
She started going to the hospital every day, from the very next day of discharge, sitting there for the whole day, pumping milk, touching the baby through those tiny holes, seeing the nurse changing her diaper and feeding her through the food pipe, standing beside the ventilator bed for hours. She was not even able to sit properly yet, unable to eat much, and eating only because her baby needed milk, who was thankfully gaining strength each passing day.
One fine day, she saw the baby on a normal bed and not on the ventilator one, and was overjoyed. Tia had come a long way. The oxygen support was reduced to 20% now.
She used to bring new clothes for the baby every day, but nothing fitted the baby, as she was too tiny and too skinny. But that didn’t really mattered. Her baby was better and would be there with her in a few more days. Positivity helps..!!
Days passed like that when one morning she saw the baby without the oxygen pipe and without the food pipe. Ohh..!! This is how my baby looks like without pipes. How pretty…!! Must be like me. No. Maybe her father. No. Actually, I don’t know. Blissful feelings surrounded her while she congratulated herself on being able to achieve one more milestone.
But the happiness didn’t long for more than a day, when the next morning she saw the baby with the oxygen pipe and the food pipe again inserted.
“What’s wrong now? How can this happen?” She asked the nurse, who very matter-of-factly replied that this happens normally with the premature babies. They sometimes skip breathing, and don’t take milk easily as their sucking and swallowing reflexes are not developed.
No, that was not as ‘normal’ as the nurse had explained. She broke again, and hoped to soon see her baby without those pipes, in her arms. While she was sitting inside the NICU, pumping milk, she was again reminded by her brain, ‘don’t forget, you are a premature mother’.
A few more days passed, when the nurses kept on trying to feed Tia with a spoon, but she spilled out everything, and was not gaining weight because of that.
While going back home alone every evening, she consoled herself by thinking that they were doing better than what she would be able to do at home. And if she wasn’t able to take care of the baby properly, she would have to take her to the hospital, again. So, a few more days, till Tia is totally okay to be taken back home. Crying and self-consoling sessions were routine now.
Finally, the day came when she was allowed to be taken home with instructions for everything. From feeding to burping, from handling to carrying her, from medicines on time to maintaining the right temperature, from no outsiders to no dust, from not touching her without sanitizing the hands to no kisses, everything was instructed, noted and was to be followed.
Unfortunately, at home, it was even more tough. Another phase of the struggle started.
Tia refused to be fed at home. Slept without feed for long hours and then didn’t wake up unless she was pinched or tapped on her feet. It was painful to see her condition.
The doctor had told her that premature babies need five times more care, attention and efforts than normal babies. And it was so true. Everything was a struggle. She didn’t even fit in her mom’s lap and holding her was so risky. She was delicate (five times more than a ‘normal’ baby). She used to sleep for long hours and waking her up was a challenge (five times more than a ‘normal’ baby). She refused to latch (five times more than a ‘normal’ baby). She slept while feeding, and was not gaining weight (five times more than a ‘normal’ baby). She was five times tinier than any ‘normal’ baby. She was premature and so was her mother.
Seeing Tia’s condition, the guilt of not being able to keep the baby inside her womb was killing her every day. The guilt of making her suffer so much was too much to handle. The guilt of being a premature mother was much bigger than the joy of being a mother.
She heard it from everyone around.
‘Ohh, you have a premature baby, please be patient….’
‘She will take more time in achieving her milestones, so don’t expect her to be on time….’
‘She will not gain normal weight, unless she starts having proper food…’
‘Ohh..!! She is too tiny…!! How do you hold her? I have never seen such a tiny baby in my life…’
‘Ohh… what happened to you? Why did you have a premature delivery?’
‘You should have stopped going to office earlier!’
‘You should have planned the baby earlier. Your baby should not be suffering because of you!’
‘Why is her skin so dark? Ohh…phototherapy? So she had jaundice also. Poor baby.’
She had to hear everything that made her feel that her baby was not a ‘normal’ baby, and she was not a ‘normal’ mother. But she had decided to be strong and never give up.
It was a struggle to feed her so that she gains weight. It was a struggle to see her skin which had wrinkles. It was a struggle to see her palms blue because of the cannula. It was a struggle to make her bathe. It was a struggle to see her not starting to smile at the right age. It was a struggle to see her not being able to turn and roll around at the right age.
It is a still a struggle to see her not having her food and milk properly. It is a struggle to see her not being able to sit. It is a struggle to see her feeble body while changing her clothes. Everything with her was, is, and is going to be a struggle (five times more than a ‘normal’ baby).
Ask a premature mother, how she feels when she struggles like this. When she gets to hear all the things that she doesn’t want to hear about her baby. When she is compared with other kids who were born under ‘normal’ conditions. When she is told that her baby is not achieving milestones, when at every session the doctor tells that her weight gain is okay but should not be compared to ‘normal’ babies, when she sees other moms bragging about milestones.
She is given instructions and advice (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
She is given much less time to recover (five times less than a ‘normal’ mother).
She is entrusted with responsibilities (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
She craves for her baby (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
She has to stand strong and answer to the world that she is a normal mother and her baby is normal (five times louder than a ‘normal’ mother).
She has to protect and shield her baby (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
She is even judged for breaking down on seeing her baby’s condition; she is judged for everything she does, and every decision she takes (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
Has anyone thought of what being a premature mother means? Has anyone thought about how much she wanted to have those last week’s pains? Has anyone thought that she also wanted to wear those big sized maternity outfits and have that maternity photo shoot?
Has anyone thought how much physical and mental pain she goes through? How much she hates to answer that her baby looks so small “because she was born premature”? How much she is struggling every day to see her baby as a ‘normal’ baby? How much she is worried about those milestones? How much she wants to be recognized as a ‘normal’ mother?
Why is she expected to do everything right? Why is she judged when she follows the doctor’s suggestions and not what is generally practiced?
The answer is no, because no one actually bothers to understand these things. People can differentiate between a ‘normal’ and a premature baby, but cannot differentiate between a ‘normal’ and a ‘premature’ mother.
It’s hard to accept that. Because it’s a ‘normal’ process to deliver a baby, and everyone is doing that. Nothing new in that. Everything is looked upon as if it was bound to happen. But every time a woman becomes a mother for the first time, she faces all those problems for the first time, she gains that weight for the first time, and many more things. But she overcomes all of that and smiles when she holds her baby in her arms.
But a premature mother doesn’t get that joy, and still survives. She is a strong woman (five times more than a ‘normal’ mother).
Image source: shutterstock
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She was born just about a week ago, though a few weeks before her arrival had been scheduled.
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