I didn’t go into too much detail about this at the time but when Imogen was 5 days old she was re-admitted to hospital as she wasn’t progressing as well as she should be. She had lost too much weight (sometimes called “failure to thrive”) and had picked up an infection too. I wondered if writing it down would be helpful for others (I know a handful of mums in my circle that have been through it too so it’s not unusual) plus its quite cathartic for me to write it down. I couldn’t watch the Chelsea Garden Show this year without having flashbacks to watching it in hospital last year and shuddering.
Imogen had been super sleepy since birth (despite a drug-free and not traumatic birth). She wasn’t great at feeding and would latch on for just a few minutes during the day before falling asleep. At night times she was very upset and wouldn’t settle, I guess she was hungry. When she was 3 days old we were becoming more worried about this and began to give her bits of formula too using a syringe. At the 5 day old midwife visit we found out she had lost too much weight (defined as losing over 10% of her birth weight). The midwife put her on her a Feeding Plan which involved feeding her every 3 hours (day and night), trying to breastfeed then topping up with 50ml of formula milk.
But by that evening, she had already missed 2 feeds when we weren’t able to keep her awake long enough and it was becoming harder to wake her full stop. So we arranged for Seren to go to her grandparents’ for the night and took Imogen over to A&E.
At the check-in desk, the receptionist called for a children’s nurse to come and see us straight away. The nurse took one look at Imogen and picked her up and ran with her back to a consulting room, telling one of us (me) to come with her and for Andy to finish checking us in at reception. The nurse had to chuck out another patient (apparently he was nearly ready to go anyway) from a room to get Imogen on to an oxygen monitor. The nurse had been worried that she was a bit blue around her mouth, but fortunately her oxygen levels were fine. Imogen had a series of other tests for the next 4 hours, blood tests, heart rate tests, a chest x-ray. There was no indication of anything serious but her infection markers were raised and the paediatrician agreed that there was something “not quite right”. They wanted to do a lumbar puncture to check for meningitis but the blood test indicated that her blood wasn’t clotting well enough yet (normal in newborn babies, that is why they are given Vitamin K injections straight after birth) to carry out this procedure. She was to have a 48 hour course of IV antibiotics and a canula was inserted into her hand for this. She (and I) would need to stay in hospital for this and Imogen would be monitored and at some point given the lumbar puncture too. I was absolutely distraught by this point and the whole experience was very surreal.
We continued to try to feed her when we were in A&E, a nurse bought us formula to use. At about 11pm I asked if I could express milk and I was shown up to the ward where a breast pump, steriliser and bottles were available. As Imogen had been out of hospital since birth, she was re-admitted on to the Children’s Ward not the maternity unit. Fortunately we were able to have a private room as Imogen was at risk of infecting the other children! I was really grateful for the privacy what with expressing milk and trying to establish breastfeeding too. As Imogen had a newborn crib, I was able to have the bed in the room (Andy went home for the nights) though sleep didn’t really happen as I had to feed Imogen every 3 hours and express milk before that plus Imogen’s oxygen monitor bleeped constantly as it kept falling off.
She still wasn’t really feeding though and by morning a decision was made to insert a feeding tube, which though hard to see her with, I was grateful for, as it meant she would absolutely be getting the nutrition she needed. I was still to try to feed her (64 ml of expressed milk and / or formula every 3 hours) but anything she didn’t take voluntarily was put down her feeding tube. My day was taken up with expressing milk, sterilising bottles and trying to feed her. The paediatricians continued to test her blood for clotting every 12 hours with a view to doing the lumbar puncture. It was pretty difficult to get blood from her, finding a vein in a newborn baby is tough (and I couldn’t watch them do it). She was still on the IV antibiotics and had the continually bleeping oxygen monitor round her ankle. Andy had come back in the morning with some toiletries and spare clothes for me and the hospital were feeding me on the basis that I was breastfeeding the patient! On that note, it’s quite odd being re-admitted having just been in hospital to give birth and the patient is the baby, not you. None of the staff asked or knew my name in the 3 days we were there, I was just “mummy”.
That night, one of the nurses was able to do the 1am feed which meant I slept from 10.30pm to around 3.30am which was wonderful! By the next morning, I was feeling better and more positive as I have to say I’d been an absolute wreck for the previous couple of days – post-birth hormones, feeling guilty and worried about Imogen being in hospital, feeling guilty about being apart from Seren and just wanting us all to be at home together. Imogen was feeling better too – she was much more alert, her infection markers had come down and she was putting on weight (we even had to save all her dirty nappies for them to be weighed too!). The consultants decided to forego the lumbar puncture (her blood still wasn’t clotting well enough anyway) and she was feeding much better too so we could take out the feeding tube. We were able to take off the beeping oxygen monitor too.
The paediatrician and nurses didn’t care whether I was formula or breastfeeding Imogen as long as she was feeding and putting on weight. I was quite determined to continue trying to breastfeed and they called a midwife over from the maternity unit to help me. The paediatrician actually said that she thought I needed to relax, to go home and have a glass of wine and then try to feed her!
After 48 hours, her canula was removed too and the next morning she was discharged! It was so lovely to get home though I have to say, I felt pretty shell shocked for the next week or so. Once at home, we were back under the care of the community midwives and then the health visitors. Imogen had another blood test when she was 6 weeks old and her blood was by then clotting as it should be. She didn’t breastfeed properly until she was about 8 weeks old and we continued to mix feed until she was 9 months old. She continued to put on weight though did slip down the centiles until she was around 3 months old (this is normal) and became established on the 50th centile where she still is.
A happy ending (and well done if you’ve got this far, this is my longest post ever!).
Imogen’s birth story + Imogen at 1 month