To read Part 1 click https://jaznajalil.com/2014/07/09/ma-wednesday-giving-birth-in-qatar/
Calm before the storm….
J is finally taken to her room at midnight. As they wheel her across the corridors, she cranes her neck to look at the miracle beside her. Nestled amongst generic hospital blankets, the lil one looks spectacular. Tiny eyes scrunched up, angelic face making undecipherable expressions and perfect lips meeting and parting involuntarily. J finds it hard not to stare. She wishes they would place the little one next to her. She cannot stand the distance.
The nurses settle J into her modestly-sized but clean room. They are all kind and helpful. They do a final check on her, give her some instructions…hand her the all important “bell” and then leave the room.
She is told that Mr H is on his way to visit her, and that he cannot stay for the night. J can’t wait for Mr H to hold the little one …..
Mr H comes in with relief and delight writ all over his tired face. J realizes then that it must have been hard for him. She realises how difficult it must have been to see her in pain. How worrying to know that he is responsible for both J and the little one. How anxious he must be knowing he is in charge …completely….until J recovers….and all this time, all J thought of was herself and her pain… Isn’t it much harder to watch from the side-lines?
Must be all the hormones….J loses it….
The future “Inseperables” meet….
Father and daughter meet for the first time. A bond is forged. For life.
They look so alike. The eyes. The lips. The long, spidery fingers…..
Mr H is almost choked with emotion….Words don’t form… But words aren’t necessary….. Mr H gazes into the beatific face …. Seemingly etching every contour and nuance of the little face into his conscience….
The little one is fast asleep….peaceful….content…..just a couple of hours old and already the centre of Mr H and J’s universe….
A nurse interrupts the magical moment, apologises but requests Mr H to leave…. He does….with reluctance…
Wishes both his ladies good night and leaves with a heavy heart…
The trouble starts….
Many a time disaster does not strike at once. … It is a process….There is no exact moment to pin-point and say- “that’s when it all came crashing down”…
Sometimes, you don’t realise the trouble your are in, until much later. You enter a maze of ill-fate and keep going on, without realising how lost and deep- in you are.
You don’t fall into a blazing fire…… and burn quickly….
You step into a quagmire…. And you sink….Slowly….
That is exactly how things panned out for the H family.
A couple of hours after Mr H leaves, another nurse comes in to do some routine blood work. She does a customary “Bilichek” (a transcutaneous method of checking the bilirubin level) on lil’ Z. She comes back a little while later, and says the values are high and that they need to do a blood test to be sure….
They wheel Z away…. For the first time….
J is too tired to ask any questions, she is not concerned yet. She just wants Z to be back beside her….
The little one is wheeled back in after about 20 minutes….with her tiny hand plastered…. J winces…She is a surgeon herself and has pricked and cut scores of patients but the little one being hurt is unimaginable….
Little does she know, that the plaster becomes the one constant in her life for the next few weeks…
Things go downhill….
The morning brings with it a concoction of fatigue, confusion, anxiety and helplessness. …
First an OB/ GYN comes in (one J has never met), leafs through J’s case sheets and declares she can be discharged. Since J was on her feet and using the bathroom by then, maybe a physical exam was deemed unnecessary…. Or maybe the good doctor had x-ray vision….
The paediatrician walks in next. He is concerned…..Lil Z has jaundice and her bilirubin levels are high enough to cause alarm….They were going to start phototherapy immediately….
At this point many might confuse Z’s jaundice with the mundane, garden-variety “new baby jaundice”…. The elders will say….Oh! don’t worry just toast her in the sun for a couple of days and she’ll be fine…..
J wishes it were the case.
Nope…. this was something different. The “garden- variety” jaundice doesn’t manifest in the first 24 hours. It is mainly caused due to the inability of the tiny, immature liver to clear normal waste products derived from the breaking down of blood cells….
But lil’ Z had ABO incompatibility induced jaundice- a severe form at that….her blood cells were being killed by her own mum’s antibodies….and her liver is not able to cope….
So, lil Z is yellow…….very yellow and ill….J’s perfect lil miracle faces her first challenge on her very first day in this world….
The box and the eye- patch
The nurses set up the incubator and the phototherapy unit in J’s room. Strip Z to her diaper, put the eye- protector/shield on and put her into “the-box”…
Z hates the box from the very first moment….She is cold and uncomfortable….She flails her tiddly limbs and screams….. Cries till her breath catches….
All the while J watches on…helplessly…. She is in the room all the time….living her worst nightmare….
In protest to being put in the box, Lil’ Z refuses to nurse, she is dehydrated and it only makes her condition worse…
Prick after prick, blood test after blood test – to monitor her bilirubin and haemoglobin levels, to be certain her tiny body is not hiding any other diseases…. To check her liver….her heart….
Everytime she is wheeled out for tests, the little one comes back tired and asleep…. Not interested in feeding… Probably sick from all the poking and prodding….swaddling and changing….
The nursing staff are sympathetic…but there is nothing they can do to help….
Samples are taken every 6 hours sometimes four, the levels barely fall….
The phototherapy seems to be barely working…
A grim doctor comes in the next evening and tells J, they might have to look at more aggressive treatment options if the levels don’t start falling….
It’s a slippery slope …
The levels don’t fall…. Lil Z’s hands are all “pricked- out”…. No more veins left there…The nurses move on to her feet…
J is distraught, Mr H is helpless….
J has to wall off every ache and pain in her body, ignore the soreness, bottle-up the discomfort….will her body and mind to forget that she has given birth just 3 days ago….
She has to focus entirely on keeping the lil one fed, clean and alive….that is all she can do…. She cannot hold or comfort the little one…. “The box” is Z’s home…and possibly her saviour….
The anguish of not being able to hold your wailing 1 day old is hard to describe…..
What should have been…and what is….
J gets a total of zero hours of sleep in the first 48 hours post -partum…. It takes its toll….
Add a sick baby to the mix and it’s a recipe for moodiness, tears, arguments…
What should have been one of the best week’s of their lives…turns into a living nightmare for the H family….
What should have been a time for celebration and joy, turns into despair and frustration…
Thank you Lord….turns to Why Lord, why?
Mr H and J have had several friends and relatives close to their age become parents. They have sent congratulatory messages and bought baby gifts. They have seen the joy on the faces of these new parents….
They waited with eager anticipation to feel the same joy…. It came….but lasted only for a few hours….
They feel for all those parents who have tiny, ill, suffering babies….
They feel for couples who almost became parents but went back home without a child…..
Couples who never had a chance to even become “almost- parents”….
The cookie crumbles….
J always thought of herself as a tough- cookie. But motherhood cracked her wide open. She even lost some pieces of herself in the process……
The confident becomes the doubtful, the tough becomes debile, the vain becomes fearful….
A child is definitely a chink in the armour. It makes you vulnerable. Vulnerable to worry and despair….
The cloak of invincibility is ripped off you….
Mr H is usually the rock- unfazed, steadfast, unwavering…. No more….
They go from carefree lovers to care-worn parents….
Can they go home?
Almost a week after Z is born, the bilirubin starts to show some significant changes. The H family is finally given some good news. If Lil’ Z continues to battle the way she is, they could take her home…
So they wait, for the next morning’s blood tests….
Do they get to go home ? Or, is there another twist in the tale?
What do you think, folks?
Till next time…
*Notes for Mum’s-to-be (delivering at Hamad Women’s Hospital):-
- Rooms are on a twin- sharing basis with adequate privacy. I’m told separate “special” suites are available but are always pre-booked.
- The bathroom is spacious and clean. Cleaning staff come in about three times a day.
- The nursing staff are helpful and efficient.
- You can change into your own clothes and use your own “essentials” the next day onwards. The hospital does provide diapers, but I started using the ones I brought from the second day onwards.
- Bedding and blankets for the mum are adequate. But do pack blankets and swaddles for the little one. A cap as well
- Do carry clothes for the baby. Will be needing them the next day onwards.
- Food for the patient is provided for. 3 meals plus 2 snacks/ tea. Breakfast at 6 am. Tea/ snack at about 9:30 am. Lunch at 11:30 am. Another snack at around 3 pm. Dinner at 6:30 ish. Usually one more snack/milk/ yogurt at 9 pm.
- If you have someone staying with you, food can be a problem. Visiting the cafeteria at the ground floor can be a chore.
- Overall care is good. All the routine tests and vaccinations are administered as per protocol. Pain management is satisfactory.
- Care from the doctors could have been better.
- If you have a normal delivery with no complications, expect discharge within 24 hours. There are no follow up appointments for the mother.
- You receive the vaccination card, birth notification and medical certificate (if the mother works) on discharge
- You can apply for the birth certificate at the time of discharge.
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