Saturday, 1 October 2011

My early days

From the archive… a long post...

Because my mother wasn’t sure – well, no one really was – if I’d make it out of hospital, Mum kept a diary. I have it – and my Plunket book. Dealing with premature babies was difficult 40 years ago. Because of placenta previa, Mum had a caesarean section, and had been in hospital for weeks before my birth – keeping her away from her four older children (aged 10 to 15) and husband. A difficult time all around.

Anne arrived 5.35pm Friday. 4½lb in Prems. Respiratory trouble. Me in ward 8.30pm with drip and drain.
Day 1: Saturday
Quite a night. Worrying about babe. Went to see her. What a small wee bundle. Mum & Ray [my dad] and Chris [my brother] came up, said babe was much better. Will name her Anne. Such a small baby needs a small name.

Day 2: Sunday
A fit of the blues when writing to Gwen [my dad’s sister, in hospital recovering from a stroke]. Went and saw Anne, looking much better. Dad & Mum came up with flowers. Being optimistic and so am I.

Day 3: Monday
Slept well and out and about. Flowers from June and Harold [our neighbours]. They’re beautiful. [Doctor] Dempsey arrived at breakfast time. Put very well in his report and told me Anne’s much improved.  [Doctor] St John came late, he’s being a nuisance in Prems, keeping an eye on her. He’s very pleased with her progress.
Mum, Marie T [not sure who she is] and Ray here this arvo. Very good. Went down early evening to see Anne. She’s got such long legs and a little bottom. I wonder what it’ll be when she’s Beth & Kath’s ages [my oldest sisters, then 14 and 15]. Her progress has improved and her hair is still dark.
Rob came [my mum’s youngest brother] and Pete from Cubs [Mum was a Cub leader, Pete was Rob’s best mate], with chocs.

Day 4: Tuesday
Slept well again and Sister said that she’s made another improvement. Yay. Home Mon yay.
Coral [my mum’s sister] came with some skin perfume. Received quite a few cards and they’re lovely. Went to see Anne and the Sister let me hold her. She’s so small but I feel much better now. Going around with a “Cheshire Smile”. Hope to go down with Ray tonight.
Ray, Kath and Ellen [the sister up from me] came up and we went to down to Prems. Made Ray come in [my dad hated hospitals!] and he was thrilled at the improvement she’s made.
Saw the father of the very sick babe. He’s looking much better and the father was thrilled as there had been no hope for him the previous night. God keep him safe.

Day 5: Wednesday
Looks like being a beautiful day.
Lunch time: I’ve been down to see her and she’s still fine. I even touched her. She’s so soft and warm. Her hair is like the softest down. She wriggled and squirmed. Sister said that that was good. They’re turned every 15mins. The more they’re stimulated the better. Anne’s in the intensive care part of Prems and when she moves from there, she’s progressed. I’ll be happy when she’s in cooling off. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to feed her before I go, but you never know.
The baby over from her is very sick and not expected to last the day. I thought he was looking much improved last night but apparently there’s something else wrong with him. Thank you God for every day of my Anne’s life.
Mum, Ray’s Mum, Helen C [a family friend] and Aunty Dolly [my dad’s aunt] came today. Mum’s made a lovely nursery basket for Anne, full of goodies. I must be having a down day as I howled over them all. The Vicar came and I’m having communion tomorrow. He’s terrific, wish he was ours.  I’ll take Ray and Beth down to see Anne tomorrow night. Ray and Chris came. Oh I miss them all, I’ll be glad to get home.
Well the end of another day. Thank you Good Lord for Anne and help me make people understand how precious she is.

Day 6: Thursday
[Two of the mothers went home that day] I’ll be a bit lost now, but Mrs H is here and her little fellow is still going strong. Mrs B has had her twins, both girls, they’re lovely and fat. Mum, Beth, Moya and Lorrain {Mum can’t remember who these girls were] came this arvo. Mum gave me a flash compendium to write thank yous in, Moya bought me carnations (boy they are long), and a lovely card. Lorrain, tulips (they look as if they’re made of wax) and another lovely card. I’m feeling quite ruined. The windowsill looks lovely, all flowers and cards.
Had communion this morning. [The vicar] came down later to tell me that Mrs C has lost hers at last. I’m glad it’s all over for her. Must write to her.

Day7: Friday
Another not so good day. Just couldn’t be bothered doing anything. Went and saw Anne three times. I was allowed to hold her again tonight. Her head just fitted into my hand. She’s so soft and really quite lovely. Mum recons she looks like Beth did. Mr Hansen said that she looked a bit like me, so maybe she’s right. Mum, Gwen and Glennis [my dad’s niece] came today and I was thrilled to see them.
A young girl walked out of her today without the baby that she’d loved and fed for ten days. It’s for adoption. She said that it was her punishment for having her. What a cruel way to punish yourself for a crime that wasn’t entirely your fault. What were her parents thinking of?
Thank you Dear Lord for Anne’s first week of life. Her oxygen supply is down to 25%. It’s normal at 21%. Her chest doesn’t sink in at all now and today she had her first feed from a bottle. She gets tired so quickly that they can’t feed her that way too often. What steps forward now. Almost giant strides. I’m so thrilled and thank God every time I see her. She’s such a small, precious scrap of humanity. Well my dear, I’ll close until tomorrow. Keep fighting.

Day 8: Saturday
Rang Ray to tell him about Anne’s progress and he’s thrilled. Be up to see you tonight darling girl. Ellen’s got a hole in her head. She collected a window at school. Poor little thing, it’s not the same when Mum’s not there to help heal hurts. Went to see Anne after visiting and she’s still fine. She’s now 3lb 14oz, and 8oz loss. No wonder she looks so small and thin. I’m allowed to feed her tonight all being well. Ray and kids came up tonight, Mum & Val came up this arvo. They sort of tire you out when the hit you en masse. Fed Anne. What a small armful. She took just over ½ of her feed. That’s not bad. They had a little fellow of 1lb 3oz arrive. 26 weeks his mum was. They have a survival rate of 1 in 2000. Poor wee mite. Probably won’t be there tomorrow.

Day 9: Sunday
He wasn’t.
What a grey old day. Rain and blowy. 12noon. Have seen Anne and she’s been moved in room 10. Real progress. Next step’s a crib. Wonder how long that will take.
Sue and Coral [mum’s sisters] came up this arvo.
Hope to get down to see Anne but don’t know if I’ll be able to make it. Hope so. Ran out of reading matter and Ray’s late, hope he won’t be much longer. Getting quite weepy again. Feeling sorry for myself and that’s not good. Milk’s gone completely now and not tender any more so that’s one pain gone. It lasted exactly a week.
Well, Ray’s gone and I don’t think I’ll be going down. I should. I went down after some massive pain killers. She’d been fed and had hiccups. Poor little thing didn’t like the idea much. Still I heard her making a noise and that’s something. Goodnight precious little thing. See you tomorrow.

Day 10: Monday, Home. [It’s around this time Mum was told I’d live.]

Day 11: Tuesday. Rang Prems and 4lb 1oz.

Day 12: Wednesday. Saw her and she’s looking fine. Seems to be putting meat on her legs. Arms still skinny.

Day 13: Thursday. Rang and all’s well.

Day 14: Friday. Two weeks old. Pinched car and went to see you with Mum. You’re looking fine.

Day 15: Saturday. You’re young cousin’s arrived. Jodee Ann. Grow fast. You’re fine. 4lb 3oz and out of incubator into crib.

Day 16: Sunday. Oh you do look good in your crib. I could pinch you and bring you home now. Up to 60mls.

Day 17: Monday. All’s well. Keep it up.

Day 18: Tuesday. Went to work with Dad hoping to see you. Tomorrow.

Day 19: Wednesday.
Kath’s birthday so we all came in. Aren’t you lucky to be able to come out into the room off the nursery. Beth held you and was thrilled. So were the others as they all had a good look at you. Up to 75mls of milk. Boy you must be getting hungrier. I hope you’re growing. I even changed your pants. Hurry up home.

Day 20: Thursday. All’s well. Baby beautiful was the comment today.

3 weeks: Friday. Shawl finished. 4lb 12oz. What good progress. So keep up the good work.

Day 22: Saturday. Sister said that you’re only 4lb 6oz. Sounds more reasonable. Never mind. Keep it going.

The diary ends… so highlights from my Plunket book.

Age: 7 weeks 3 days. Weight: 6lb 4oz. Head: 13¾ inches. Chest: 12½ inches.
Milk: 20oz; water 10ozs; sugar 3 tablespoons. Orange juice ½-2 teaspoons in 2-6ozs cooled water.

Age: 8 weeks 3 days. Weight: 6lb 15oz
Large umbilical hernia. Doing well.

Age: 9 weeks 3 days. Weight: 7lb 3oz
Unsettled at times.

Age: 10 weeks 6 days. Weight: 8lb 8oz
Recent diarrhoea, treated by DR. Has seemed hungry. Milk 24 oz. Water 12 oz. Sugar 3 tablespoons.

Age: 12 weeks 6 days. Weight: 9lb 2oz. Length: 22¼ inches. Head 14½ inches. Chest: 14 inches.
Holds head well.

Milk 30oz. Water 10oz. Karitae 2½ tablespoons. 1-2 solids.

Age: 14 weeks 6 days. Weight: 10lb 1oz
Vocalises. Very contented. Not keen on solids.

Age: 16 weeks 6 days. Weight: 11lb 6oz
Been unwell, wasn’t drinking. Drinking 5 x 7oz now.

Age: 18 weeks 6 days. Weight: 12lb
Milk 34 oz. Water 6oz. Karitae 2½ tablespoons.

Weight bearing.

Having 3 hourly day feeds. Sleeping 12 hours at night.

Age: 21 weeks 6 days. Weight: 13lb 13 oz.
Half roll. 2nd triple 2nd polio – severe reaction.

Age: 25 weeks 6 days. Weight: 14lb 7oz. Length: 25 ½ inches. Head: 16¼ inches. Chest: 16 inches.
Sits short time. Rolls. Almost whole milk. Eating well.

Age: 29 weeks 6 days. Weight: 16½lb

Age: 35 weeks. Weight: 17lb
2 teeth. Convulsed with them, no fever. Content. Sits alone.

Age: 9 months. Weight: 17lb 6oz. Length: 27? inches. Head: 17 inches. Chest: 17¼ inches.
Crawls. Pulls up. Says a few words. Good appetite. 3 bottles. More variety in diet. Hearing tested.

Age: 10 months. Weight: 19lb 4oz.

Age: 1 year. Weight: 20½ lb. Length: 29½ inches. Head: 18¼ inches. Chest: 18¼ inches.
Walks round furniture. Has had rubella.

Age: 15 months. Weight: 21lb
10 teeth. Walked 14 months.

Age: 18 months. Weight: 22lb 2oz.
Poor appetite. Takes raw fruit. Sleeps well.

Age: 20 months. Weight: 23lb

Age: 2 years 3 months. Weight: 27½lb.

And that’s the end – my height and weight charts are fun, because I start off waaaay off the bottom of the charts!

The advice section is interesting, too.

Planning the day: Ask the Plunket nurse to help to work out a plan for the day which will enable you to care for your baby and manage the household chores. Feed baby three or four hourly during the day but arrange the last feed at night and the first in the morning to suit all concerned. Sit in a comfortable chair for nursing: relax and enjoy the feeding time.
Rest and Sleep: Make time for an afternoon rest – relax on a sofa or bed with feet up. Read, knit or have forty winks while baby is having his afternoon sleep. Adopt an early to bed policy.
Meals: Beside the main meal of the day have either fish, egg, liver, a cheese dish, bacon, ham, or some other protein for lunch or tea. Have some kind of milk pudding with fruit at dinner time and porridge and milk for breakfast is the weather is not too hot. Avoid rich fatty foods and go slow on sweets and chocolates. Drink a pint of milk daily in some for another and take a small glass of water each time you feed baby. Be generous with your allowance of fruit and vegetables.
Visitors: Discourage visitors until you have readjusted yourself to your extra responsibilities and baby is settled. An occasional call from an understanding friend or neighbour makes a welcome break which is refreshing and beneficial.
The Ex-baby: Bring him into the family picture as much as possible to help him adjust happily to a new situation.
Post-Natal Examination: Arrange for your medical check when baby is six weeks old.

Help your wife to adhere to her daily plan. Be punctual to meals. Get to know your baby and enjoy him. Changing napkins, tucking him down, bathing him at the week-ends, and bringing him to his mother to be fed in the evening or early morning provide opportunities for you to lend a helping hand and learn about your baby.
Your co-operation with the family shopping, the washing up and other household tasks will encourage your wife and lighten her work.
When baby is settled and his mother has regained her strength, try to arrange for a baby sitter occasionally so that you can take your wife out for an evening’s entertainment.

(The times suggested should be adjusted to suit the individual household)
6 a.m.  Change baby, feed him and put him to sleep.
9.30 a.m. Sunbath baby when he is old enough: then bath, feed, hold out, and put to sleep  outside in sheltered spot if possible, or on a balcony or verandah.
2 p.m. Change baby, feed, hold out, and put outside if possible.
4 p.m. Give fresh fruit juice. When he is older let him have a kicking period in crib or play-pen.
5-5.30 p.m. Wash face, hands and buttocks: change into night clothes. Feed, hold out and put to bed.
9-10 p.m. Change, feed, and tuck down for the night.
Sit baby up during and after feed to help him to expel wind.

1 comment:

  1. Whew, that was a gruelling journey, almost as worrying in the first 2 years as the time in hospital. Of course tears came to my eyes.


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