“My baby developed infant jaundice. The results revealed that the baby’s infant jaundice was caused by poor feeding. A week after birth is when we finally took the baby to hospital… The pediatrician was constantly on my neck asking why it took so long for us to bring the baby to hospital…”
Looking back, I remember Monday the 4th April 2016 like it was yesterday. I was in the office, working as usual, my full belly touching my desk. Treasured movements that I was already used to were happening in my belly, they reminded me of the great phase of life that awaited me. It had been a long journey, one that I hadn’t prepared for but one that I learnt to embrace from day one.
I noticed some streak of blood
On that day, during my very frequent trips to the ladies, I noticed some streak of blood. I was alarmed, shocked and very disturbed to say the least. Was I about to miscarry? Had I strained too much during the weekend (you see, I had spent my weekend baby shopping and running other small errands).
I called my sister and she advised me to immediately see my doctor. So I called my taxi guy who rushed me to hospital just near my work place. On arrival, I was sent to the maternity ward for a check up. They wanted to find out if I had dilated. To my shock the doctor told me that I was already 2cm dilated!
About to give birth at 37 weeks
Well, how can I begin to explain my my disbelief; two centimeters already? So I asked again, just to confirm. And yes, I was 2cm dilated and about to give birth to my baby at 37 weeks.
Actually I wasn’t sure of how to react; I cried and laughed in disbelief. It was too soon; that’s how I felt. And I was not mentally ready for my baby’s birth. I kept asking the doctor so many questions – like, why was I not in any pain, why my waters hadn’t broken, if indeed I was about to give birth.
These are the unusual stories we hear every day about child birth, I thought. Then I called my mum who was equally shocked. She was in the village, I was in Nairobi. If there was an airport at Nyeri, am sure she would have taken the first flight here. Unfortunately not!
Doctor advised me head straight to Kenyatta National Hospital
Anyway, after calming down and calling almost everyone in my family all of whom were far away, I asked the doctor for the way forward. She advised me to go back home, get my clothes and those of my baby plus any other requirements and head straight to Kenyatta National Hospital. ‘Ati Kenyatta?’, I asked her not sure I had heard right. ‘Why should I go to Kenyatta and this is the hospital I had booked for baby’s birth?’
Now, it turned out that my preferred hospital did not have enough facilities in case there should be an emergency during or after birth!!! And since mine was a premature birth, they didn’t want to take chances!
So I did exactly that. I remember the taxi guy asking me several times, ‘When we go to Kenyatta I will wait for you so that I can bring you back home, right?’ Laughing, I would answer him, ‘I will not be going home today, may be in the next few days. I will just give you a call.’ Then he would respond, ‘Si you are just going for check up, you don’t look like you are going to have a baby?’ He was a mature man, his wife had already given birth to three kids and am sure he was wondering why I was not writhing in pain; since I had no sign of labour in me, no one could guess that I was going to give birth that very day.
I even managed to go to my bank to get some cash and go shopping for some few items that I hadn’t purchased! It was just my normal self doing my errands, all by myself.
I was put on a drip
On arrival, I went straight to the maternity admission area, carrying my two bags with me. As I walked and turned on corners, I could tell that all eyes were on me. I was sure their biggest question was how a heavily pregnant lady was carrying 2 somewhat heavy bags and going to admit herself for delivery. I too wondered the same. Heavily pregnant women are brought for delivery by their spouses or relatives, but that didn’t deter me one bit. I walked on.
I was at 4cm dilated when I finally got admitted to the labor ward. Then my two friends appeared; turns out my sister had contacted them already. They assisted me in settling down, all the while questioning my lack of pain and how come I was still laughing at their jokes. Some of my work colleagues came too, brought me dinner and an extra phone. I was now settled for the night to be.
At around 7 p.m. that night, I was put on drip. The nurse then told me that my baby would be delivered by midnight. I waited and waited for pain in vain. I even started wishing for it.
They broke my waters and put me on the second drip
I walked up and down the maternity rump as advised. Nothing yet.
So they broke my waters and put me on the second drip. This was around 11 p.m. maybe. Half-way the bottle, some pain came. All this while my roommate had pain written all over her face. I couldn’t imagine that kind of pain was what awaited me.
Then at around 3 a.m., heee! The real pain came as if it heard me wishing for it. I literally stood up every time the pain came surging. “This is it!”, I thought. I dipped my hand into my trench coat’s pocket as every one minute went by, checking time on my phone. Every instance I checked, I would be imagining that a whole hour or two had passed since my last check – only to find that only 2 to 3 minutes had gone by.
Nurse told me that this was just the beginning!
How frustrating this was getting! Then my nurse told me that this was just the beginning! I felt like cursing that lady in uniform, she was supposed to be encouraging me in this journey, or so I thought. She disappeared after instructing me to call her when the pain got worse! Who does that?!
So I waited for pain the to worsen, and worse it became. I called on her in vain. I was very sure she went to nap; she wasn’t coming and I was there shouting at the top of my voice.
After what seemed like an eternity, she came, wheeled me to the delivery room and again disappeared. Then all I could see were doctors, getting in and out of the delivery room as if we (myself and another lady, the two of us writhing in pain) were very invisible. We called and shouted at them and at sometimes begged (Wooi, daktariiii….kuja utoe huyu’….that was me).
Lastly, at 6.15 a.m., on the morning of 5th April, 2016, my baby boy was born. It was such a relief to be first free of that crazy pain and most importantly to know the gender of my baby. I had opted for a surprise and surprised was I, and all of us were excited about our newest family member.
One of my baby’s eyes had turned yellow
Two days after discharge is where trouble began. On closer look I noticed that one of my baby’s eyes had turned yellow. I wasn’t alarmed, though I did report to an uncle of mine who happens to be a pediatrician. He asked me to check the other eye and examine his body too, which I didn’t. I thought it wasn’t a big deal. But he insisted that I take baby to hospital for further tests, which I promised to after settling back at my parents house. I wanted my mum to assist me take care of the baby as I regained my health and strength and she graciously did so. She and dad were very very helpful, something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
My baby had developed infant jaundice
A week after baby’s birth is when we finally took the baby to hospital. It was heart breaking to see my tiny innocent baby have blood drawn from his tiny little hands. Then the doctor broke the news – my baby had developed infant jaundice and they needed him to be admitted like immediately. Those, I think, are the worst news I have heard since becoming a mother. I had never been admitted to hospital myself, I even hated the thought of it. I cried and wept for my little son who was barely a week old. My mother was just quiet. She held the baby and from the look on her face, I knew she was also very sad.
Infant jaundice makes the colour of a baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow due to high levels of bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. A premature baby may have liver that is yet to become completely developed. The liver therefore fails to function as it should and is unable to remove the bilirubin. While a woman is pregnant her liver removes the bilirubin in the bloodstream of the foetus.
Several tests followed. The doctors needed to find out the cause of the jaundice and how high the bilirubin was. And it was very high. The pediatrician was constantly on my neck asking why it took so long for us to bring the baby to hospital. I wanted to blame myself for the ignorance (well, I was still to blame slightly for taking the matter lightly earlier) but then the results revealed that baby’s jaundice was caused by poor feeding.
The suckling energy was just not there
It was then that I remembered that on the day I delivered, my baby wasn’t feeding. I had asked the nurse doing the rounds and her answer had been, “Don’t worry, a baby can stay even up to 3 days after they are born before needing any food, because what they were consuming before birth can sustain them till then.” Well, every time I remember this statement I feel a lot of guilt for my ignorance and I despise that nurse who gave me bad advice.
What I learnt later is that a baby should not stay more than 8 hours before getting the first feed after delivery. Even if it is baby formula or some water, baby should feed almost immediately and constantly thereafter. Jaundice can be caused by premature birth as the baby may severely underdeveloped liver or fewer bowel movements. This slows down the slow filtering of bilirubin and its removal. The baby may also not be getting sufficient calories and nutrients if not having enough or quality breast milk.
After my baby’s birth, he only fed very little amounts and slept for so long. I remember there is a day he slept for so long and we had to wake him to feed. I later learnt it was because his energy levels were so low that he couldn’t even bring himself to wake up or even feed. The suckling energy was just not there. Maybe it was because I wasn’t trained on proper breastfeeding or maybe it’s because no one monitored us closely, because they thought we were doing well?
First-time mothers don’t really know…
I wish that everyone gets to know that we mothers, especially first-time mothers, don’t really know what we are doing. People assume that you do know. But the truth is that some advise and monitoring would go a long way – in helping mother and baby adapt. As well as avoid these common yet fatal birth conditions that some of us end up experiencing.
I have heard mothers share their experiences with baby starvation and jaundice and it hurts deeply. It reminds me of my son. Of the many preventable deaths that I have read and heard of. It reminds me how ignorantly we trust our doctors and nurses.
I say, do your research well so that you will know when a certain piece of advice doesn’t sit too well with you. If you are in no position to breastfeed, use formula. You would rather be safe than sorry.
His blood was drawn every now and then
Long story short, baby was put under phototherapy, continuously for the first 3 days. I only took him out while feeding, changing diapers or bathing. His skin turned dry and his hair changed color and thinned. He had a drip on and got two shots of antibiotics every day. His blood was drawn every now and then to test bilirubin levels.
It was a very heartbreaking experience that we went through. Two weeks later, we got discharged. I was so excited to take my little son back home despite the excess weight I had gained while in hospital. They told me that I had to eat well to ensure sufficient breast milk, and eat I did.
Now, as we celebrate a whole year of this wonderful journey, I can’t help but recall the events that led to my baby’s premature birth and those thereafter. Am grateful for this far that our good Lord has brought us, it could have been different but his grace saved us.
Happy 1st birthday to us!!!
Mine is now a very strong, very healthy and very joyful baby boy. He brightens my very dull days and reminds me to keep focus even when things don’t go as planned. I love my baby and I soo love motherhood. It has changed me so much! Happy 1st birthday to us!!!