Friday, June 6, 2014

What's a Mother to Do?

Normally I take photos at births and write notes throughout the process. I think it is important to chronicle this important family event. I give them to my families and hope that they will treasure them forever. After two back-to-back high risk preemie births I felt these special stories needed to be shared. I had never experienced any births quite like these before. I learned an incredible amount and my hope in posting these stories is to educate future parents. Hopefully it will take some of the fear out of an incredibly fearful situation. 

Yesterday Ada Rose came into this world.
All 1 pound 10 ounces of feisty little girl.
Thank you to Ada's parents for allowing me to share a part of their birth story. 

When babies come unexpectedly in the middle of pregnancy it is quite challenging for everyone involved. Suddenly needing to have a surgery to save your little one's life is scary as hell. Being separated from your new child fills a mother with fear and grief in every fiber of her being. Not being able to put her baby to her breast is an additional sorrow. Keeping it together under these conditions is heroic.

So what's a mother to do? Like every other mother she is going to do the best she can for her baby at that moment on that day. In this situation nothing helps a mother more than getting her colostrum to her baby. And of course the colostrum is VERY helpful to the baby. The colostrum of the mother who just gave birth to a premature baby is designed specifically for them. It has a special balance of nutrients to help their brains and bodies continue to grow outside the womb.

Getting the colostrum out of mom and into a teeny weeny baby who can't suck, swallow and breath yet is quite a trick. So what's a mother to do? Pump! Ada's mama was pumping by the time Ada was 2 hours old. The nurse at Sierra Vista tracked down a hospital grade pump. She brought it to mom's bedside and showed her all about it. I talked to her about tricks to help her let down her breastmilk to a pump.  We had just gotten started when dad got the word he could come be with their daughter in the NICU. I told dad to take photos and send them to mom. 

Poor mom looked devastated after he left the room. Of course she wanted him to go be with Ada. Of course she wanted him to not to leave her yet. After all she just went through major abdominal surgery; a really scary experience. Of course she felt it was totally wrong for him to be the first to touch and see her. Of course she felt horribly guilty for all of these conflicting thoughts. So what's a mother to do? Pump out way more colostrum than anyone expected!

Many mothers of preemies are able to only produce a few drops the first day or so. Vickie, the lactation consultant who came in said, "every flood begins with just a few drops. Don't worry how much you get. Just keep at it and your body will eventually respond." Wise words from a woman who works with breastfeeding moms every day.

While mom was pumping dad sent photos and a video back to the room of precious baby Ada. The photos were hard for mom to see; all the tubes and wires. Seeing her wiggle in protest weighed heavy on a mom's heart. I pointed out her perfection. That her color being so pink was a good sign. It meant she could get the oxygen they were giving her into her lungs, into her blood and circulate it through her body. How much better that she was trying to push them away than lying there limp. What a strong little girl she created. 

So what's a mom to do? Why pump out 3 whole milliliters of colostrum. That's what! It wouldn't all fit into the teeny weeny syringe the nurse had brought. They had to go get a larger one. The nurse exclaimed. The lactation consultant exclaimed. The NICU nurse exclaimed. They said, "Why that's about a week's worth of food for such a tiny little person." Yippee!

Mom sent the milk down the hall to her baby. They carefully put some on a swab and ran it around inside her mouth. Now mom's immune system is protecting her baby even though they are apart. Her colostrum is stuffed full of antibodies which can help give her the best chance on life. Right now she is too young to be able to suck, swallow and digest breastmilk. That day is coming though. It is just around the corner. Not to worry, mom will be ready. At 24 hours from birth she pumped out this much liquid gold. Priceless!
so the flood begins...
Every day in the nicu is a scary, hopeful, exhausting roller coaster ride for a family. Neonatal Intensive Care Units across the country are filled with babies and families every day. Please take a moment to hold them in your heart.

Read Eleanor and Caroline's premature twins story


  1. I got the chills reading this, thank you Jennifer! Vickie helped me at Sierra Vista too with Johann! Like a breath of fresh air she gently blew into my room!

  2. Isn't she sweet!And so knowledgeable too. She is always so positive pointing out all the things the mom is doing right.