Mission: Night Feeds. Day 1.

Technically it’s day two, as it’s 04.30 on Thursday morning, but it’s our first night here in the children’s hospital.

Tonight is the first night I’ve been able to stay with Clara since I was staying on the ward myself in the women’s centre after her birth. I was discharged New Year’s Eve so it had been well over three weeks of travelling in at 6.30am and leaving after 9pm everyday. Its funny how easily something can become routine.

In one aspect, tonight has gone well. It’s 04.30 and I’ve already had two hours sleep. When I was with Clara overnight after she was born I was averaging 90 minutes sleep a night. Night 1 and a record broken already.

Earlier this evening we experienced another blockage – nothing was coming out of her jejunostomy pipe from her tummy. Slightly concerned, but not overly worried after the recent blockage, we decided to just keep an eye on it but make the doctors aware. At 3am, we were having a cuddle in the chair when Clara vomited a few tablespoons worth of tummy contents over me. As she’s only having 1.5ml of milk an hour it’s mainly yellow stomach bile still. A quick change of sleepsuit and she was settled again. Her tummy must have been so full from the blockage her milk had nowhere else to go. Luckily, minutes later, around 20ml of stomach waste passed into her jejunostomy bag meaning the blockage had now passed.

I’m staying awake at the moment to ensure there’s no repeat vomiting. A few days after she was born, Clara had her first billious vomit in the middle of the night. Lying on her back, it spewed out of her like a fountain, the volume incredible for a tiny person, filling her mouth quickly as it overflowed, the contents bright yellow. The midwives had told me to get some rest and try feeding her again in a couple hours. But I knew something wasn’t right and I stayed up. She was sick again 20 minutes later and this whole journey officially began. Whilst I don’t have those fears right now, I’m staying awake a little longer as a precaution. With less nurses on the ward, I’d be the first to know if she was choking.

Now, Clara is in such high spirits she’s decided to take up a sport. It’s a reversal of fetch in a way… I put her dummy in, I go to lie down, she spits it out and gets angry, I get up to put her dummy back in, I go lie down. Times that process by 10 and you’ll have re-lived my last ten minutes. I’ve given up on trying to sleep in the sofa, I’ll stick to the chair.

In 15 minutes, Clara is due her next dose of penicillin. Her NG tube has been removed this evening so everything is orally fed that’s not going via the central line in her leg. Poor Clara is desperate to be fed normally that she laps up the penicillin like it’s her last supper.

In an hour, Clara needs to be weighed. At 6am. You can tell night nurses are used to working their routine – what’s ‘normal’ can be forgotten, it’s about getting things accomplished in a shift. I can’t imagine a health visitor or midwife agreeing to visit you to weigh your baby at 6am. The hospital world is a world where patients are cases with tasks to be completed and boxes to be ticked before they can be discharged. It can easily be forgotten that patients are first and foremost human, with exciting milestones to reach before they can go home.

At 7am Clara is due her next feed and a nappy change, and I should express to keep my milk supply up as its so crucial to her.

Meanwhile, babies across the ward are crying with hunger, grizzling about a dirty nappy, or wanting a cuddle to start their day.

I’m not complaining – I feel very lucky I can even stay near my little girl. I feel even more lucky to still have her with me at all.

Sleep sounds boring anyway.

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