Little Miss Essie - the journey to bring a premature baby home
We have our baby girl in the world!
Miss Essie Mae Munroe arrived at 3.50pm on Thursday 9 October weighing in at a mini 1.315kg. She was born at 31 weeks and 2 days, or 9 weeks early. She is a beautiful, healthy baby - just tiny!
As many of you have read, in the lead up to Essie's birth, it became a daily challenge to keep her in for as long as we did. At 29 weeks we discovered that my placenta wasn't functioning and quickly getting worse and Essie was growth restricted, meaning she wasn't measuring the right size for her gestation - she was measuring the size of a baby a few weeks younger. For the next two weeks we went on to almost day by day monitoring with ultrasounds and CTG's to ensure Essie wasn't suffering and my placenta was holding up enough to keep her growing. We also threw in a new obstetrician as mine was on holidays and the prospect of having to have Essie at a different hospital if we couldn't make it to 32 weeks. Might as well make it as tricky as possible!
After all that I'm sitting here now in the Special Care Nursery at Frances Perry House (a different hospital to where I was booked!) having a kangaroo cuddle (she's tucked down my singlet top!) and reflecting on how lucky we have been to end up with this tiny, yet perfect bundle of joy.
Essie is now 12 days old and is thriving. She lost 100 grams over the first few days which is normal, but has started to put the weight back on (43 grams yesterday!) and has increased her feeds to 20ml every 2 hours (she started off on 6ml!). She didn't need any oxygen the first night but the next day was struggling slightly so they gave her a 'puff' of oxygen directly in to her humidicrib for a couple of days, which she now no longer requires. She also had a couple of 'apneas' where she forgets to breathe, a common problem for babies born this early, so she is having a very small dose of caffeine each day which has helped to stimulate her and she hasn't had any further troubles. All in all for a 1.2kg baby she's doing all the things she should be! As the paediatrician said to me 'don't worry - now she's putting on a bit of weight, we'll fatten her up in no time'!!
I've been extremely lucky and like last time with Poppy, have had an abundance of milk from day 1. I do look like a human cow as I have to express the milk, but hopefully in a few weeks when she starts to get the sucking reflex she might take to breastfeeding. A lot of people have asked me whether I will breastfeed this time, as last time Poppy wasn't interested in breastfeeding, she only wanted a bottle. I therefore expressed for 4 1/2 months which was absolutely exhausting and I hated every minute. Realistically it means you're doubling your work load as you have to express the milk in to a bottle first (and sterilise everything - cringe!) and then go through the feeding process. If Essie takes to breastfeeding then I will absolutely feed her. If she doesn't and like Pop, only wants the bottle then I will move her on to formula. And to be completely honest, Poppy put on so much more weight on formula. The attitude I'm taking is If it works it works, if it doesn't then that's ok and formula is just as good.
Since Essie's arrival I've had some serious emotions that I didn't expect. Unfortunately Poppy caught a bug just as I went in to hospital so was not well, crying constantly and just wanting her mum and dad. With me in hospital and Hayden trying to juggle work and looking after Pop, whilst also catching the bug himself, meant we were all at our wits end. I felt SO guilty lying in a hospital bed knowing Poppy was firstly sick down at mum and dad's and they had to try and console her, and then home with Hayd and spending up to two hours crying inconsolably. The worst part was knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do as I had to recover from a caesarean and be there for Essie. Suddenly my world had gone from having only Poppy to ever worry about, to having two babies to share my time between.
The day I had to leave Essie at Frances Perry and come home was just as excruciating as the day I had to leave Poppy. It was last Tuesday and Hayden and Pop came to collect me from the hospital. I had gone up to the Special Care Nursery early that morning to spend some time with Essie and hopefully shed all my tears then so Poppy didn't see me crying. The thought of Essie being a solid 45 minute drive away from me was absolutely killing me, but I knew she was in the right place and there was no way I could look after her myself at home.
When Hayd and Pop arrived around 10 I was packed and ready to go. Pop was clingy, whingey and teary which was not ideal, but I managed to distract her while Hayd went up to see Essie quickly. I'd decided not to go back up as I'd said my goodbyes to her and didn't want to get upset again, but as we were walking out the door, I remembered the expressed milk in the fridge that I had to take up to the nursery. Once up there the water works were triggered again! Wiping my eyes, I left the nursery wanting to crawl in to a corner and cry for hours, but managed to put on a brave face for Pop. Of course, 'Miss Cluey' was on to me straight away and her first words were 'why are your eyes red Mummy?' She never misses a trick!
That Tuesday was not a great one - Hayd and Pop both sick and me ready to cry at the drop of a hat. And to top the day off I had hired the breast pump without the attachments thinking I had them from last time, but couldn't find them so Hayd had to drive around for nearly two hours going to different chemists trying to source them whilst I sat at home with Poppy screaming and me in absolute agony because I needed to express! Suffice to say, we were both glad when that day was over!
My recovery from the caesarean has been amazing - no pain since day 4 and I'm finding it very easy to move, so I'm back driving again which is making life so much easier. Pop and Hayd are both well again - Poppy is like a different child - happy and back to her normal self. Hayden and I got to spend a good few hours together with Essie on Sunday where Hayd got to have his first cuddle. He hadn't seen her since the day I left hospital because he was so sick, so it was so lovely to see them together and to be in there with him.
Over the next few weeks I will work on finding a routine that suits us as a family and spending as much time with Essie as I can, whilst still in these early weeks when she's not breastfeeding yet, trying to get a bit of 'me' time in as well. Once she gets the sucking reflex (usually around 34-35 weeks), I will need to be in hospital a lot more as she learns to breastfeed. When I'm not there, the nurses (or should I say angels) will give her a bottle with my milk. It can be exhausting going in and out of the hospital - a 45 minute drive each way, but thanks to my amazing family who are SO supportive and helpful with Poppy, and my fabulous friends who are constantly offering to come and sit with me in hospital to keep me company, I'm sure I will find my groove shortly.
They expect Essie to be in hospital for at least 6-7 weeks. She needs to reach 2kg and be able to breast and bottle feed well before she's allowed to come home. We're almost 2 weeks in already, so let's hope the next 4-5 glide by quickly!