You could be the most prepared person in the world, but what they say is true; nothing prepares you for the events of parenthood. Getting thrown in the deep end or getting thrown under the bus (whichever you prefer), well, that’s parenthood. Or at least it was for us.
The first two weeks of Aubrey’s life were foggy now that I look back. Somehow being up 2-3 hourly of a night didn’t stop us during the day; we were out and about, cooking dinner and showering as per usual. This was a breeze! (Let’s all laugh). Then week three happened. Not only was Aubrey staying awake for longer (queue wtf do I do with her?) but she’d started profusely vomiting after every meal. Local Doctors dismissed me a few times just telling me I was a first time Mum & that I wasn’t burping her long enough (because the 1 hour we were doing wasn’t long enough apparently). On the fourth consecutive day of this, I called Steve not long after he’d left for work and said “if she vomits after her next feed I’m taking her to the hospital.”. Steve became flustered by the thought of leaving work due to mounting pressure to complete tasks he’d had waiting and initially I think he thought I might of been overreacting too.
We presented at the closest hospital and were “monitored” for a few hours. By monitored I mean they gave us a bed for a few hours then said we could go without doing any observations other than temperature checks. “But she can’t keep anything down, how are we meant to feed her?” Steve protested. So they finally sat with us and made us force feed her. With every 20mls we were forced to give her she’d bring that back up and stomach bile. Hearing her scream from the other end of the ward as my Husband, Doctors and Nurses pinned her down to continually try insert a cannula into her poor little hand and a nasal-gastric tube still haunts me to this day. Eventually they decided they didn’t have the facilities and told us we needed a transfer. After another couple of hours they told us they couldn’t gaurantee a transfer and asked if we could transfer her ourselves. By this point Aubrey was profusely vomiting, even without being fed. Her eyes were rimmed with purple and she was becoming lethargic. We made the decision to transfer her ourselves.
I still remember the anxiety and desperation I had putting her back into my car and driving her to the nearest hospital with the facilities needed, 35 minutes away from the hospital we were already at. She was vomiting on herself, trying to pull out her nasal tube and crying hysterically with Steve trying to console her in the meantime. I hurried, I stupidly sped. I was sick to the bottom of my stomach wondering why these bad things continually strike my family, I wanted the guarantee that my now pale and lethargic Daughter was going to be okay, I wanted to know what was happening and how I could take away her pain. When we arrived at the hospital I pulled up, grabbed Aubrey out and Steve went and parked the car. I rushed into emergency and was directed to the children’s ward where I would be none the wiser that we’d end up in hospital for 6 days and that my girl would need surgery.
Having finally inserted a cannula in my poor baby’s hand and with fluid intake into her system the doctors tried to feed Aubrey through her nasal tube, thinking she had a virus. Wrong. She vomited it all up and they then decided to use the nasal tube to drain her stomach instead (which involved them having to put it further down into her stomach – a process I’ll never forget) as she was tuckered out from all the vomiting. I panicked as soon as I saw the black, tar like substances coming out of her tube. I yelled out to the Nurses and they confirmed that it was Aubrey’s feces; with that discovery the children’s Specialist on duty asked for an X-ray to see if anything in Aubrey’s stomach may be enlarged or present a blockage. At 2am the following morning I helped the Nurses prep Aubrey for an X-ray. A few hours later it was confirmed her stomach and intestines were inflamed and there may be a blockage but we’d need an ultrasound to be sure. We were first up at 8am for an ultrasound, the technician said to us “it’s not my place to say but your little girl definitely has Pyloric Stenosis”.
Unfortunately, this was a term we’d heard before. Common mostly in first borns and predominately males, my Husbands Brother had the same surgery at almost the same gestation. Family history for you right there. I Googled to see what was involved in the surgery (nothing like Dr Google to get your anxiety going) and learned that there is a flap of skin from the stomach to the intestines that lets food pass, Aubrey’s muscle was so thick it was unable to open to let past any milk she was having which leads to profuse vomiting, severe dehydration and in some cases even death.
By this point Aubrey had gone well over 30 hours with no food. She was waking only to scream of hunger until she passed out from being so tired. Steve and I took shifts of holding her for comfort, what else could we do? Her temperature had been sitting at 39+ for the two days it took them to get a diagnosis as the first day at the hospital they did multiple tests to rule out any kind of infection or virus. Following on from the ultrasound we had the Surgeon visit us and let us know what would be happening, we were told on the third day of our hospital stay that Aubrey would be having her surgery at 5pm (queue disaster #6189 for our family).
At around 2pm one of the Nurses came in, “I’m not sure if you’ve seen it on the news or not already but we’ve had a gas leak in the operating theaters upstairs and therefore we’ll have to push back Aubrey’s surgery until tomorrow. The entire floor and staff have been evacuated”. I asked her if they were having the gas leak checked and cleared, she confirmed they currently had people on the floor above us doing the testing. I was at my wits end, first I’d been dismissed by Doctors then at the first hospital. Now this. “I don’t care what you have to do, whether you call an ambulance or you request a helicopter. Find someone to do this surgery, I’m not waiting another day, I’m not letting her go through this another night. You find me another hospital and another Surgeon, now.”. “I’ll see what I can do but I’ll have to speak with the Specialists and Surgeon, not many people can do that operations on babies”. “Do what you have to but she is not waiting another day.” I said firmly. Steve watched on with (I think?) pride and disbelief. At 4pm the same Nurse came in, she’d advised they’d cleared the leak and Aubrey’s surgery would go ahead. The only surgery that night as they’d shut down their emergency ward and rescheduled the rest of their procedures. I felt powerful in that moment, that advocating for my Daughter had finally lead to something.
Only one parent could go with Aubrey up until they took her into theatre so I gowned up and went up there with her. I remember telling her that her Sissy is right there with her, that Mummy & Daddy will see her when she wakes up from her nice, good sleep and how much we all loved her. I cried the entire way back to our room, I was so scared. Steve and I sat for about an hour and a half, silent. Waiting. Watching the clock. The slowest moments of my life happened in that time, every second filled with agony. The Nurse came in and said Aubrey was in recovery and we could go up and see her, I left Steve in a cloud of my dust as I ran to recovery.
I walked into an empty recovery ward and walked around the corridor to be greeted by the two most upbeat and friendly Nurses. I heard them excitedly talking about how they could leave after Aubrey went back to the ward as I walked up. They had the smallest oxygen mask over Aubrey’s face as she went in and out of consciousness, the tiniest and wimpiest of cries for the few seconds she came too. I was so worried about hurting Aubrey, she’d just had stomach surgery and all I wanted to do was cuddle her. She wasn’t able to go back to the ward without eating first so we sat there for about an hour feeding her slowly and ensuring she didn’t vomit it all back up. The Nurses assured me to handle Aubrey as I always have and that it wouldn’t hurt her and they showed us the souvenirs they’d kept from Aubrey’s surgery for us (the tube that kept her throat open and oxygen mask) and asked if one of us had our phones so they could capture the moment. After Aubrey fed and held a sufficient amount down we were back in the children’s ward.
For the following 3 days we were monitored, Aubrey was weighed daily and we kept track of all her vomiting. The surgery isn’t an immediate fix and on a severely empty stomach she had to build up a tolerance to food again but by day 3 post procedure they were ready to let us go home. It was like having a newborn again, being thrown in that deep end. 4 weeks post surgery and Aubrey was back to her usual self, she still spat up but was no longer vomiting. We were on the right track.
Now Aubrey’s a beaming, chunky & healthy 9 month old. I’m so thankful that I trusted my Mummas intuition as I don’t even want to think where we’d be if I’d kept listening to dismissive GP’s.