“49 days old and Oaklee took her first bottle today. Well… she took half of a bottle, but that’s better than we expected and it’s certainly better than not trying!”
Nine days CPAP-less, Oaklee finally hit all of her marks to try feeding. She woke up before her usual feeding time (indicating she may be hungry as she slept more often than not), took her pacifier (indicating her natural instinct to suck when hungry) and, what was huge, her respiratory rate was within a reasonable range.
I’d previously asked a nurse to note on Oaklee’s chart that I wanted to try breastfeeding at her first feeding. In an ideal situation, Oaklee’s first feeding wouldn’t come from a bottle… or from a gavage or compressed or from an IV, but we were far past our abilities to skip those. Then on the 17th, Oaklee’s older, male nurse walked over to her isolette area where I was holding her and plopped a bottle on the counter without saying anything.
Apparently, this nurse had missed my note. However, I was not comfortable breastfeeding for my first time ever in front of an old, male nurse anyway. To be honest, I wasn’t even certain the bottle was meant for Oaklee since he didn’t say anything to me.
The bottle sat for 10 minutes before I asked, “Am I supposed to give that to her?”
He responded with a nonchalant, “Yes.”
I grabbed the bottle and looked at my baby with hesitation. I’d been practicing giving babies bottles since I was old enough to pick up a baby doll. I’d babysat hundreds of times. I volunteered in our church’s nursery for years. But when I looked at my tiny, premature baby who was 49 days old and had never even seen a bottle, I questioned whether there was anything special I was meant to do.
We’d been warned of the dangers of improper bottle feeding (which most often meant feeding while the baby’s tachypnic – the very reason Oaklee had been off the CPAP for 9 days before being able to take a bottle). If she aspirated, she could contract a respiratory infection, which could set her back dramatically given her start.
I asked Oaklee’s nurse, “Is there anything special I need to know or do I just… give it to her?”
He shrugged and responded, “Yeah, just give it to her,” and continued plugging away on his computer, paying no attention to me or Oaklee.
So I gave Oaklee her very first bottle. I did it just like I’d practiced with my baby dolls 25 years ago. She took half of it, which was great for a baby whose food has always just magically appeared in her belly. But over the course of the next couple of days, we would learn Oaklee had struggled with that first bottle. They put her back on the full gavage road and kept asking us to be there at certain times so we could chat with Occupational Therapy (OT) about feedings before being given the green light to feed again.
This is when we went from sick of being in the hospital to bloody pissed off that we could not take our baby home.
I had asked my nurse if there were anything special I was supposed to do. His answer was no, and then every other nurse I had afterward told me I had to wait until we chatted with OT to learn how to give a bottle to a preemie before we could try again. Not only was this a setback for Oaklee, but the nurse set me up to be the instigator of the setback by not appropriately equipping me to do the task at hand. Had I majorly messed up that bottle, Oaklee could have been intubated again on my account… again.
So for the next couple of days, I showed up at Oaklee’s isolette at nurse-appointed times, coming earlier or staying later than normal, being promised OT had a specific time they were planning on meeting with Oaklee and me, yet for days, they did not show.
Rollercoaster two, the feeding battle, was off to an incredibly slow start, and we were all but belligerent with the process.
We realized quickly the right hand often did not know what the left hand was doing. There were technicalities some nurses treated with high regard, while others flippantly blew them off. Both my husband and myself are not quick to complain, but 84 days deep in the hospital world, it felt like we were making a stop each night to chat with the Charge Nurse.
“Please give us this nurse again, please don’t let this nurse have Oaklee again, this nurse said Oaklee could wear clothes, this nurse said she couldn’t, this nurse said she could feed, this nurse said she couldn’t, this nurse starts Oaklee’s Care Times a half hour late…”
It was our 50th day of parenthood and we had already learned, by substantial means, that we needed to be advocates for our child who could not speak for herself.
Frankly, Rollercoaster Two, and all the baggage that came with it, was a bitch.
On the 19th, I wrote,
“All-in-all, we’re sick of being here… By the time we take her home, she’ll be months old. A part of me feels like these first months are being stolen from us, like we’re missing out on things because she’s not at home, like these first couple of months don’t even count, except they do. When we take her home, it won’t be a year until her first birthday, it’ll be more like 9 months…”
Oscillator –> Ventilator –> CPAP –> Feeder Grower –> CPAP –> Nasal Cannula
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: Almost 5 lb (8/13/17)
Gestational Age: 34 weeks, 5 days
Days in the hospital: 50
Sets of visitors to see Oaklee: 42
Days on High Frequency Oscillator: 2
Days on Ventilator: 1
Days on CPAP: 35
Days on Nasal Cannula: 9