When I arrived in London the doctors admitted me to the hospital. Zackary had been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when I got there. He was in an incubator hooked up to several tubes and monitors including a feeding tube. The cords and monitors he was attached to broke my heart.
Because of the incubator I could not hold or touch him. Zackary was born at just 33 weeks, weighing 5 pounds and 10 ounces and measuring 21 inches long. The doctor found he was jaundice and had trouble eating. He stayed in the NICU for over four weeks.
I remained a patient at the London hospital for three days to recover from my c-section. It did not take more than a day for me to get back up on my feet as my body recovered quickly. Though I had many restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do I was able to move about rather easily.
I had thirteen staples and several stitches in total. When the nurse removed the staples it was an excruciating ordeal. I was not given any extra pain medicine when they were taken out and it felt as if she ripped them out.
I also received the worst IV I ever had. The nurse who inserted it was cold and short with me. It was nothing more than a needle tapped to a cord. She pushed and poked my arm for several minutes and it took her multiple attempts to get it in the right spot.
During the time I was a patient, I spent the days at the hospital getting as much sleep possible and sitting beside Zackary’s incubator. I watched the nurses closely as they cared for him in an attempt to learn as much as I could about caring for a newborn.
When I stayed in my room I found it difficult to be there. It was hard to be in a room full of mothers who had their newborns at their bedsides while mine was not. Zackary was so far away down the hallway I couldn’t even hear him when he cried.
After the hospital released me I went right back to school. This was just over a week after he was born. Although being in school was difficult having just had major surgery, it was the only thing I had to keep my mind off how much I wanted to be with Zackary.
I tried my hardest to catch up on what I had missed and to prevent myself from falling behind anymore. It was hard to focus on the teacher and the lesson in front of me. The whispers about my missing round bulging stomach became hard to ignore. The ordeal left me exhausted.
While I was home, I spent hours pumping breast milk to freeze and take to the hospital. I still did not have my license and I relied on my family to drive me back and forth to London. For several weeks, my grandfather, my dad, my uncle, and my sister took turns driving me after school and on weekends.
Not long after the hospital released me, my whole family pitched in and gave us the opportunity to stay at a Ronald McDonald House near the hospital. Although it was nice to have a few days being close enough to my son to spend all my time at his side the experience was difficult.
The house provided no food, merely a room with a bed and access to kitchen appliances. Once, my son’s father and I had ventured down to the grocery store hoping to find some groceries and we became lost. The two of us spent several hours walking around a rough part of London trying to find our way.
After we stayed at the Ronald McDonald house, I continued to attend school during the day and go back and forth to London during the evenings. The days seemed a blur at this point and it was difficult for me to keep track of what day it was.
The fog I was in and the depression I suffered made staying on top of my school work difficult. At times, I considered not going to the hospital, but the guilt caused by the thought of this prevented me from staying home. I fought harder to keep my grades up and continued to see him every day.
Once the jaundice cleared up, and Zackary could eat on his own he was released from the NICU and moved to a less intense nursery. Then we finally got to hold him though we had to be careful of his monitors. A few close family members came to the hospital and held him for the first time.
Breastfeeding presented a large challenge. Mostly, he drank the breast milk which I pumped and brought to him. After every feeding, they weighed him to make sure he consumed enough. The nurse also weighed him before and after every diaper change.
After Zackary moved from the NICU I sensed the judgment of those around me. I would often catch people staring at me when I came to see him. Sometimes I caught people whispering about me and my young age.
The judgment was tough to deal with considering these people knew nothing about me but judged me anyway. These actions added to my fears about being a good mother and being able to offer a life for Zackary. Though I kept things bottled inside I would often cry myself to sleep at night.
A few weeks after he was born he ate with less difficulty and I tried again to breastfeed. I met with a lactation consultant hoping to improve my technique and make it easier for my son to get enough food.
Due to a mix of my inexperience and Zackary’s prematurity he had a hard time latching and therefore he did not get enough to eat. Mostly Zackary bottle-fed even with me present at the hospital. The thought of not being able to offer enough nourishment to my son caused an undeniable ache in my heart.
Many members of my family believed that breast milk to be far superior to formula. This caused me to feel like I let my son and my family down. Even though it was hard and often we weren’t successful I kept trying. The lactation consultant seemed confident we would get it if we continued to try.
Just over a month later the doctor talked about releasing him and I became overjoyed. I could not wait to bring him home. To this day, I still believe he should have come home before they let him. I fought hard to have him released as I knew in my heart he was ready.
Almost a month and a half after Zackary was born he was released from the London hospital and we brought him home. When I hauled the car seat up to his hospital room it was one of the best days of my life and the relief I experienced having him home was tremendous.