Being a new mum was overwhelming at first. I can’t imagine anyone thinking otherwise as they hold, for the first time, the tiny person they’ve just spent the last nine months creating. Because of the method of my delivery, I didn’t have the use of my legs for quite a while afterward. Lots of time to cuddle with my perfect bundle of joy and debate about who he looked like.
In our case, this was a very short debate: he couldn’t possibly look any more like my husband than he does.
But as I held him and slept beside him through his first night, we began to notice a few things that weren’t quite right – the most telling one being that we couldn’t really wake him up, and he wasn’t all that hungry when we did. Blood work done the next day confirmed the reason why: our little bundle had jaundice. High levels of bilirubin in his system was making him tired, and because he was so tired he didn’t have the energy to eat. Now, there are a bunch of babies born every day that develop jaundice, but in our case it was a bit more serious. My munchkin was operating in the “very high” range of bilirubins per blood unit – there is no higher on the scale that you can go. And because he is a different blood type than I am, he also lacked that basic genetic immunity which meant that his red blood cells were working overtime.
Luckily, the way they treat neonatal jaundice is by phototherapy. He was placed in a bassinet under a UV light and a heater. He got to wear a sunshade to protect his eyes, and he was kept at a warm 36.5C. We got to have the whole unit in our room with us so we could take him out to feed him when he needed it, and bond with him as much as possible during his first days.
|This is the phototherapy set-up for newborns, where Grunt spent his first few days “tanning”|
I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard. He did not like being on his back all splayed out at first, but we couldn’t keep holding him like he wanted – it would have made treatment impossible. I cried a lot while he cried, and MiniSir did his best to keep us both calm. He did finally get used to being under the lamp, and it really helped when one of the nurses made him a little nest of blankets so he felt more secure. Over the next few days his colour improved, and when they had evidence that the bilirubin levels in his blood were dropping, they let us bring him home.
By this point the changes in him where undeniable. He was sleeping soundly, and eating so much that we had to start supplementing with formula, something that we have continued to do ever since to make sure he’s on the right track for growth. He’ll never been a big kid – MiniSir and I are not giants – but at his two week check-up the doctor confirmed he had gained back and surpassed his birth weight, and I breathed a sigh of relief. His hair gets more red and gingery every day, and his eyes have stayed a stormy grey, but one thing is clear: the yellow skin colour is gone for good.