Premature Babies Need Tender Loving Care
IT WAS three o’clock Sunday morning. As to what triggered a premature labor, I don’t know. But I suspect I may have been doing too much entertaining. Whatever the reason, my little son was on his way a month too early.
The labor was long and erratic. All day Sunday and all Sunday night, I labored without delivering. Many times the baby’s head would be visible to the midwife on one contraction (crowning, it is called) only to disappear completely out of reach on the next one. At four o’clock Monday morning, 25 hours from the start of labor, the midwife determined from listening to the baby’s heartbeat that the baby was in distress. She gave me oxygen and brought me to the hospital at once. Three hours later, Danny was born.
My husband, Bill, and I could see he was having a hard time breathing, since his lungs were not working well. They let us hold him for a few seconds, and during that time, Bill and I noticed that his breathing came easier as we held him and talked to him. When the hospital staff said he had to be put into the incubator, I was in no frame of mind to argue after such a long, confusing labor.
At 9:30 a.m. the pediatrician came to see me. He said that he had checked the baby and he seemed to be doing all right; the doctor would have him brought in so I could nurse him. But the baby didn’t come. Ten o’clock, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, and still no Danny. Finally, just past noon, a nurse came from the nursery and made the startling announcement: “Your baby is retracting and flaring, and he had to be moved to an isolette!” On that note and with no further explanation, she left.
You can imagine what that did to my already shaky emotional state. Since I didn’t know what “retracting and flaring” meant, I called the midwife and asked her if it was serious. “Yes,” she said, “it’s very serious. That’s what they worry about with premature babies.”
“What do you mean?” I asked: “Could he die?”
“It’s possible,” she said. She told me I should insist on seeing him.
The nurses told me I couldn’t see him until the doctor had checked him out. At that point I started crying hysterically and caused quite a commotion. “He’s my baby and he’s going to die and I can’t even hold him!” They responded quickly by bringing me down to him. Even though I couldn’t hold him, there was a small opening on the side of the isolette, or incubator, where I could put my hand through and touch him.
Danny was a sad sight. His stomach muscles were still heaving from trying to breathe the wrong way and his nostrils were spread wide open because he just wasn’t getting enough oxygen. (Hence the expression retracting of the sternum and flaring of the nostrils.) His hands and feet were dark from lack of oxygen.
I put my hand in and started to massage him gently from head to toe and to tell him how much I loved him. I told him all about his daddy and his brother, Timmy, and his whole family and how much we all loved him and wanted him to come home. He was very intent on listening to my voice, and the massage helped calm him. No one has to convince me that love works wonders. I saw it for myself that very day. Within a half hour, his breathing was completely normal, and his hands and feet were rosy pink.
The nurse on duty said: “I can’t believe it! Look at him! He’s breathing so well, and look at his hands and feet!” She took him out and gave him to me without waiting for the doctor’s permission.
The crisis was over. Danny was safe. That was more than seven years ago. To this day, Danny loves to hear the story of his experience, and he likes for me to tell others about it.—As told by Mary Jane Triggs.