Week 1 & 2 – Jaundice

Week 1 of motherhood is known to be the toughest one yet for any new mothers, what with all the new things and fatigue to face. Having read up so much has not prepared me much for what reality brings. I returned home on the day of my delivery without a confinement lady, as she had to travel from Setiawan by bus, I had earlier booked her for Feb 6 only. Thank God for John’s sister, Rita who just came back from Sarikei on that day the night before, and she came to help with the cooking and all that. I started breastfeeding Josiah from the hospital itself, and though it isn’t easy, I continued to do it exclusively on the first two days.

On the 2nd day morning, the nurse from the Klinik Kesihatan came. Do you know that the government clinic provide house calls everyday for at least 2 weeks if you register with them? It is pretty neat. The nurse checked me and the baby and found that he was starting to get yellow. Jaundice! As much as I thought I was prepared for it, I wasn’t, in the days that followed, jaundice really made me crazy. The nurse thinks it’s only mild, and just asked us to monitor.

That evening itself, John’s sister, Dr. Gracia came to visit. Immediately she saw the jaundice and was really worried. She wanted us to admit him to the hospital for blood test as soon as possible. I was extremely reluctant to have to send baby to the hospital again, so we waited until night, and Josiah was crying uncontrollably by then due to being hungry. My colostrum it seemed was not enough, and I was starting to develop sore nipples, maybe to the wrong way of latching. We did not have any formula milk on standby either, so he cried and cried and refused any other comfort. It was then Gracia came knocking and said she would bring him to the hospital herself, being a doc, she has the authority to use the lab in Kajang hospital and test the blood. So I agreed and let her take him, heartbreaking as it was, so soon I had to part with him. I didn’t follow them to the hospital that night as I was totally fatigued, I thought maybe it was nothing and he would be home immediately.

Unfortunately, my worst nightmares were just beginning. He was admitted that night with a level of 13mg/dl, it wasn’t all that high, but Gracia thought it was best to get treatment early. So the next morning, I went to the ward and got myself a bed. I thought Kajang hospital being so near meant I could come home and bath and rest anytime, but I was wrong. The nurses discouraged me from even leaving the premises of the hospital as long as Josiah is in there, I must be there 24 hours to be by his side, plus they mentioned if we go in and out we will bring in germs and all that.

Kajang hospital seemed a far cry from Putrajaya hospital in terms of facilities. The ward I was in was called SCN, for room in with babies, and the beds are all different, and the side tables are rusty, there were no curtains and no doors, no privacy in any way. Water was freezing cold at all times, mosquitoes can be seen flying around. Food were served in metal trays ala prison style, and no fork and spoon nor cups are provided, bring your own they say.

So while there, I waited for a few hours, before they bring Josiah to me.
It was really heartbreaking to see him the fact that he spent one whole night at the hospital alone. When they brought him, he was already off phototherapy. Apparently, his bilirubin level had dropped a bit and the doc ordered to off the lights. So, for one whole day there was no treatment for him. All I did was watch him sleep, change diapers, nurse him. The nurses also found that I needed to supplement formula for him in 60 ml for every 3 hours and continue to nurse on demand in between. They also had a Medela breast pump for us to pump every now and then, I tried it but to no avail. Couldn’t even get 10ml at any one time.

I had a rough time at the hospital, having to heal from aches and wounds at the same time having no time to even lie down. I must admit I took to self pity during that one day, and nearly had depression. I thought I could go home the next day, unfortunately the bilirubin shot up the next day, and it was another day of phototherapy.

I felt really helpless as I watched Josiah bake in the hot UV light, it was not easy. The only thing that sustained me at all was Christ that lives in me, I spent most of my waking moments praying for the little man and quoting whatever scripture I had byheart. Being in a ward of over 20 crying screaming babies, Josiah didn’t really have a great sleep either. He would wake up every few minutes and cry his lungs out. Sometimes, the nurses will come and help me feed him with the syringe, and sometimes they’d show me how to pat him to sleep. Still it was a mentally and physically, and emotionally trying time.

By the third day, I began to be more positive about things. I began to see the whole experience as something like a boot camp to learn all there is to learn about caring for your own newborn. At the hospital, I learned how to nurse and breastfeed, how to change diapers, how to feed with the syringe, when to do it etc. Had I stayed at home, I probably left most of it to my confinement lady. It was also an eye opener to see what other mothers had to go through, there was a young mother, only 20 years old , who had a premature baby at only 1.3kg. She was staying there for her 10th day and told me how worried she was as her baby was losing weight daily. I could not believe how they remain strong in such conditions. The doctors and nurses were all very nice too, and even the guard at the door was very friendly. The experience there certainly took away my misconceptions about government hospitals.

I also learned that being a Jaundice baby, Josiah might tend to sleep long hours without demanding a feed, so I have to wake him up every couple of hours to make sure he feeds so that he can pass the bilirubin faster through his stools. By the 3rd day, his stools were turning green, a sign of the myconium slowly finishing, and he was having very frequent diaper changes, another good sign. We were discharged by the third day afternoon, and both of us heaved a huge sigh of relief and praise to God.

Once at home, it seemed like he knew he came back home, as he immediately was able to sleep well and feed well, and not cry uncontrollably like at the hospital.

The nurses continued to come in the next few days to monitor his jaundice. We were then asked to take blood tests at the Klinik Kesihatan on alternate days. So we took one on Day 8 and the level dropped to 10.8. Then, on Day 10 the nurses came to weigh him and praise God his weight had risen to 3.5Kg. That’s like and increment 50g a day. On Day 11, we took another blood test, but it had risen to 11.3. So on Day 14 later we have to take another blood test, so praying that it will go down below 10 this time.

The doctor said if it become prolonged, meaning past 2 weeks, we might need a specialist! Wow, I really pray that he will be ok soon.

Today is Day 12, and I’m beginning to get the hang of things, waking up every 2.5 hours to feed in the night, having short naps whenever I can, it’s just not as helpless as it was in the first week. This is just the beginning!

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