Joy and Sorrow

 
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Whilst our baby was in the ICU and still in the first hours after birth I remember two midwives trying to hand express colostrum (milk of the first three days before breast milk arrives) to take in a syringe to our baby but none would come. It is vital nutrients for a baby. Someone came into the room I remember and said of me, she's in distress so she won't be producing any oxytocin, this won't work. Kev also asked me if we could name our child and I kept saying I wanted to see her so I could be sure. He wanted a name for her as she was just called "baby" in the ICU. We had thought of names like Brooke or Inesa and I just wanted to be sure. But then we just said, OK, yes let's go with Coraline, which had come to us over the past week. Kevin then asked to see the paediatrician as he could not believe what she had said to me, and said "don't say anything to her without me in future, I need to be there to filter it for her". Our baby had a little scrap of blanket with her in the ICU and meanwhile I had a matching one. These were swapped between us so that she had my scent with her. She was very calm in the ICU, and has been calm ever after. In the 24 hours to come that little scrap of material felt so poignant. She had this, but she should have had me. We were so proud of her going off there and battling on her own, but with an amazing, committed dad by her side every step of the way.

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Here is Coraline with her dad in the ICU. I meanwhile was in a river of tears which lasted a number of days. I found it hard to speak and catch my breath over those days. Every midwife who entered our room (many) conversed with a face strewn with rolling tears. That first night, back in our room, with Kev sleeping on the floor, I remember declaring grandly, "I will never look at life in the same way again". I think I felt the profound deadening shock I had felt would be a kind of backdrop to anything I ever experienced. But, as I said, it was the effects of the operation and hormones and tears which were a veil through which I was seeing or not seeing as it were. Little did I know that I would be living this phrase in quite the opposite way days later. Little did I know that we would read Khalil Gibran's passage from the Prophet "On Joy and Sorrow" in that same hospital room days later and that it would ring so true: "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears."

Coraline's initial tests in the ICU were blood tests, an ECG to check her heart as they suspected a heart murmur (which would lead to a trip to the Evalina Children's Hospital for her two days after birth, with Kevin and an ICU nurse in a van, for an echo ultrasound which confirmed she has two holes in the heart and will likely require surgery on these at three months unless they close on their own). We learned that holes in the heart often go together with Down's Syndrome. They also checked her sucking reflex (often poor in Down's Syndrome babies), her hips as she had been breech and her breathing. Her bloods came back to say that she had a very high haemoglobin count. The haematocrit (volume percentage of red blood cells in the count) was very high which could possibly lead to a clot or blockage. So she had a 24 hour diffusion and at the same time a glucose IV drip for 48 hours. Quite a bit for Age zero, but those young shoulders were up to it! She was so calm. I was still numb from the anaesthetic of the operation the first night so was bed bound and couldn't move my legs at all. I had to sleep face up as I couldn't turn and had a catheter. I remember Kevin scampering off in his slippers from our hospital room to read her a story and leaping up at 5am "I'm going to see Coraline"