Getting sick, it is horrible but it happens. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent it sometimes. What is worse than ourselves getting sick though? Our babies/children getting sick. Especially if they are little babies who are still so helpless. This is my experience with a sick newborn baby!
After having Harlee-Jae, I got the flu and ended up with a chest infection. We put it down too my body being so run down after haemorrhaging and having a pretty fast labour. Harlee was around a week and a half old when she was starting to show signs of getting a cold too – this was my worst fear. My brand new tiny, helpless baby was getting sick and it was my entire fault. She had obviously caught this off me so I was feeling so guilty but how else was I meant to prevent her from getting sick? I did everything I could from washing my hands a thousand times a day, I wouldn’t breath or cough on her, I wouldn’t even kiss her but no matter how hard I tried to keep some sort of ‘distance’, she was a new baby and she needed her mum. As a first time mum, this was my worst nightmare. All I wanted was my baby to be healthy.
As soon as we started noticing signs of the flu we took her to the doctors asap. However, it was not that simple (We have since changed doctors because of this experience). I rang and explained my situation but was told ‘sorry all of our doctors are too busy, the best we can do is to send you to see one of our well trained nurses’ – which we did. While there, she looked and observed Harlee and pretty much told me, I was over exaggerating being a first time mum and that newborns very rarely get sick. Of course being a new mum and knowing no different, you believe what they say because they know best right? Well no, that was not the case. I distinctively remember her testing Harlee’s oxygen levels, which were floating around the 96 out of 100 mark, she told me this was fine and it was not until later on I found out it was not.
The next day I could tell she was getting worse and no better. However, Ben and I thought that this well trained ‘nurse’ knew best so believed her. That night, Harlee was breathing funny and was definitely sick. Being the worried first time parents, Ben and I stayed awake all night, taking shifts, just to make sure she was okay. We got through the night and the next day she seemed slightly better. Things were looking up, so I told Ben to get out of the house and go to the rugby with his mate and I’d go stay at my mum’s with Harlee. Off he went that afternoon and by about 7pm that night, Harlee had gone downhill again. She was worse than the night before so we took her to a&e.
I let Ben know, but still wanted him to enjoy his night out and told him not to worry and I’d keep him in the loop. They were amazing at a&e, we were taken straight in by a nurse to observe us and check Harlee over. She also checked Harlee’s oxygen levels, which were sitting around the 88 out of 100 mark – she immediately let us know it should be at least 98. It wasn’t until now when I told her my experience with our previous ‘doctors’ and the lady that checked Harlee over, when she told me she was no way qualified to be checking over a new baby and should have referred us to a&e if an actual doctor couldn’t see us. My heart dropped because I knew in my gut she wasn’t okay but yet felt as though I couldn’t speak up after being told I was over exaggerating as a new mum. Never will I EVER, do that again. We are their mothers and we do know best. If you ever feel uneasy about something please do not feel the way I did and not speak up! It is your right to keep your baby safe and healthy, do not leave the doctors until you are 100% satisfied with their care!
A&E were super-efficient and we were seen by a doctor within half an hour of being there. I do not know what your A&E in your area are like but ours is usually ridiculous! You usually wait for hours on end! I think Harlee being so new; they were not willing to take any risks. She had no temperatures just a bit of a raspy cough and her oxygen levels were not good. This was enough for the doctor to not be happy with Harlee so he sent us to Taranaki Base Hospital where we would spend the night. Off we went home to quickly pack some bags and head up to New Plymouth – an hour drive away. Luckily the rugby was in New Plymouth so I rang and filled Ben in and he was ready to meet us as soon as we got there.
Everything happened pretty quickly, I still hadn’t really had a chance to think about it. On our trip up to New Plymouth, Harlee was getting worse and I was getting scared she wasn’t breathing. I ended up getting my mum in the back of the car with me so we could both monitor her. We finally made it and straight into a&e we went – which was not quite as efficient as Hawera. However, we were put into a room to wait, where we waited for a good four or five hours before going to the children’s ward!
In this time, Harlee was due for a bottle. I went and asked a male nurse for some boiling hot water to heat it up – he took this opportunity to remind me I should breastfeed and this would have probably prevented her getting sick. Well big fat middle finger to you I thought. He did not know my reasoning for not breastfeeding and as if I was not feeling like a shitty enough mum as it was! I will not talk too much of this because bottle vs breast is a blog post to come! Luckily I didn’t have to deal with him ever again after this!
Finally, the doctor came to see us. He informed us that our precious little baby had Bronchiolitis – The condition starts like a common cold. It progresses to coughing, wheezing and sometimes difficulty breathing. Symptoms may last for a week to a month. He also let us know that the worst was yet to come, he believed she was still in the early stages, so would get worse before she would get better. I was so tired and overwhelmed and then was told that only one of us could stay with her. Obviously, I was not leaving my newborn baby but I really wanted Ben there for support.
Off we went, transferred to the children’s ward early hours of the morning on the 24th of September. The day Harlee was also two weeks old – two weeks old and back in hospital! It was not a nice feeling at all. Little did we know we would be spending the next six nights here with Harlee on oxygen for five of those because she was struggling to breathe so much on her own.
It was some crazy hour of the morning and it was a pretty scary sight watching the nurse hook all of these different tubes to Harlee. She had like a butterfly shaped sticker oxygen mask on her cheeks and little prongs up her nose; this also had another tube connected to it so it would send warm air rather than cold air, as babies hate cold oxygen being blown into their nose. She had an oxygen monitor attached to one of her little toes and a sleep apnea monitor attached to her tummy. This made holding her extremely difficult – although I was a pro after a day! She lived in sleep gowns as it was just a lot easier with all these cords and tubes running off her.
The first night was not as bad because I was so tired. I went straight to sleep. However, it was only going to get worse. It was so easy to fall into an emotional state, especially being there alone at night! I would make Ben stay as long as he possibly could but the odd nurse would kick him out after a while. I hated that, it is such a vulnerable time and you should be allowed your support person to stay too. I was still a new mum who was still learning the ropes of motherhood. I was now doing it alone, in a hospital, with a sick baby. This was not how I pictured life in the first few weeks of being a new mum!
We were lucky to have many visitors during our time there. It really kept me sane. You start going a bit crazy looking at the same four walls every single day. It was the longest week of my life. I felt like we were in hospital for a month and every day they would try to take her off the oxygen was another day of being let down and told she still needed it. It is scary; you just want your baby to be okay and breathing on her own.
Nights were extremely hard; I was getting a max of four hours sleep most nights. Between Harlee waking and not sleeping, to the amazing nurses coming in and checking Harlee every couple of hours – sleep was unheard of. I am sure all you mums will agree that lack of sleep is no good for your emotional state! Now I think about it, I do not know how I pulled through. Most nights would end with me getting very upset every time Ben would leave but we had to do, what we had to do.
We were not allowed to leave until Harlee had been off oxygen for a full 24 hours. Finally on the 29th of September she was off the oxygen and my baby was getting back to her normal self – well for the normal from what I had gathered from her first two weeks of life! Minus the big red marks on her cheeks from having the oxygen mask sticking to them for a week.
There was a massive light of hope that we were okay to go home the next day, I was starting to feel happy again – not 100% because I knew there would still be a slight chance of staying. On my hoped to be last night I thought a lot about my experience and this is what I’ve learnt-
- Sometimes babies get sick and it is beyond your control – Despite your efforts of keeping them 100% healthy, sometimes they just get sick. It is life and we just have to deal with it the best we can. It may not be pleasant but you can get through! If I can, anyone can!
- Trust your gut – You are the mum and you know best. If you feel like something is not right, your motherly instinct is always right! That is one regret of mine, not following my gut the first time round with Harlee. I would never have forgiven myself if something happened. Don’t feel bad, you want the best for your child so push until your happy!
- You are not a bad mum – I know how guilty I felt and I know I wouldn’t be the only one! Its easy for me to sit here and say don’t blame yourself, don’t feel guilty. The truth is we will always do it, I know if there was a next time, I would too. However, try not to focus on that too much because you are a good mum and you do only want the best for your child and would have never purposefully made them sick! Try not to beat yourself up.
- Hospitals suck, but it is the best place for you – I know how much I hated it and most people do but the main thing is to remember it is the best place for you and your baby! If anything bad was to happen, it is 100 times better to happen in hospital rather than at home. It feels like a lifetime in there but I promise you will go home soon!
That is just a few of the things I took away from being in hospital for a week. Do not get me wrong a week is nothing compared to some families with very sick children and I truly admire them after watching my parents in starship with my sister for three months. I have a newfound respect for families whose whole lives revolve around hospitals. You guys are your own kind of superheroes! I have written a blog post To the mum’s who are hurting on Mother’s Day… If you you would like to read this.
Finally, on the 30th of September, we were allowed to go home! I was super happy! Finally, we could be back together as our little family. I was also scared because I was told she still had chances to stop breathing while sleeping. The only thing that seemed logical to me was to get an angelcare sound and movement monitor! Best decision ever – I still have it on Harlee’s cot and it has been such great peace of mind every night. I definitely sleep a whole lot easier!
Hospitals suck, being sick sucks and watching your helpless newborn sick is the absolute worst. This was one of the worst weeks of my life but we got through and she got better! She is now a super healthy 10 month old who has only ever had a minor cold since this! Part of me thinks being sick so young has given her such a strong immune system, especially because there was nothing we could do or give her to help, we just had to wait it out and let her little body fight it!
I hope that this has given all of you insight of what can happen and that you will get through if your little baby gets sick but I also hope that it will be a reminder that you are not alone if you are in hospital! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or just to tell me your story! I would love to hear them. Until next week mates!