Alaric Alexander John Powell
Samantha Michelle Fishburn and I went to high school together. We were in the same Maths and PDHPE classes together. We crossed paths regularly, saw each other every day, but we were never close, we were never friends. We both sat with different groups of girls, finding our place not only within the school walls but also in the larger sense. It were the days that we spent at Riverside Girls High School that set us up for everything that we had no idea was coming our way.
Since Hunter has been born, Sam has been one of our biggest cheerleaders. Everything that I have posted about Hunter and about motherhood, Sam has been right there, supporting us. When things have been tough, it has been her words that have really helped through. Being a mother has brought me so many beautiful thing apart from my incredible son, and one of them is definitely the new friendship that I have found with Sam. It has also confirmed why I continue to push forward with this site, this brand and the huge goals I have for it; there is nothing more important than having support, love and a community around you.
Samantha had a very different birth story to what I did, and it is the first time that I have really had an insight into what some families go through when welcoming their child into this world. Pete and I are grateful each and every day that Hunter was born without complication. He was healthy, happy and we were able to take him home the day after he was born. Though I feel lucky and honoured and so very thankful every day for Hunter’s health and wellbeing, before hearing Sam’s story I think I was naive about anything else outside of my own experience.
If there is only one post that you ever read on this site, let it be this one.
Thank you Sam for being so vulnerable, open, raw and honest; thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share your story here, today. Hunter and I think the world of you.
“It’s amazing how much one tiny human can teach you about yourself and about life in such a short space of time. When my waters broke at 32 weeks (conveniently in the hospital) and my 3rd and final bubba Alaric Alexander John was born, I don’t think it really set in how much of a profound effect he would have on my life. Alaric was born at 10:55pm on the 3rd of November, 2018. He was due on the 28th of December, 2018 I barely got to hold, let alone lay eyes on him until nearly two hours later. My first real glimpses of him were via text message from my husband who I had sent down to the NICU with Alaric. Whilst he was born a nice 5lb, he was actually quite a skinny little man with his little noodle arms and chicken legs. He didn’t have eyebrows or eyelashes but he did have an amazing head of hair. As every mum thinks of their child, to me, he was perfect. My first time seeing Alaric didn’t even feel real, it was hard to comprehend that a few hours ago I was at home pregnant with at least another five weeks of pregnancy left to go. But here he was.
I think the big thing people don’t understand about having a baby in NICU/SCN, is that even though you can’t physically do too much for them in terms of picking them up and cuddling and loving them, it is more of an emotional roller coaster. It is physically and mentally exhausting. IThe unknown is overwhelming. It is lonely.
I mean, I had so many people checking in and wanting updates and making sure I didn’t need anything. I had my mums group on facebook chatting away in our private group chat, but it was so hard to know what to say – you just dont want to talk to people after a while because honestly, unless you’ve been through this journey (and every prem journey is different), you can’t even begin to understand the emotions that the family is going through. I had no idea what to say about anything to anyone.
We were in our own little bubble; Alaric and I. Having a husband, a hoard of dogs and two kids already at home who needed me, my heart was always in two places. I missed my big kids, but they were okay. Their teachers at daycare were showering them in love and my husband was managing to hold down the fort, so I stayed with Alaric as much as I could.
The big thing though was milk.. despite being tiny, this bubba ATE. He was fed every three hours via tube for the first two weeks before he was truly trying to breastfeed. So, when I wasn’t sitting with Alaric or looking after myself or sleeping, I was pumping milk. For any of you needing to do this, a few key tips that helped me were:
1. A good TV series is a must! It kept me awake and made the time pass a hell of alot faster especially at 2am when I was playing the nodding dog game.
2. Water!! Lots of water – I swear I was part camel with the amount I was consuming.
3. SNACKS!! Nearly 6 months post partum and I still wake nearly every night at 3am and I’m starving!!! You are feeding a human being, you need to feed you too! Screw the diet! If you want pizza at 3am – EAT THE PIZZA!! My personal snack of choice was biscuits – oreos and 100s and 1000s biscuits specifically.
4. The amount you pump and produce is not an indicator of your supply – honestly every drop is awesome. So be it 1ml or 100ml, mama you are amazing.
I did have to supplement Alaric with formula for the first 48 hours as I was beyond exhausted and the lack of sleep combined with everything else, my boobs went on strike until I looked after me. From then on though, it was as my husband dubbed it “Bessie-the-Cow” time every 3 hours. I am very pro breastfeeding, but at the same time I also am in full support of ‘informed is best’. As long as you have the correct information for the different options that support your choice then no one should judge what you choose. All babies need to eat and as I’ve witnessed, breastfeeding isn’t always possible for everyone. We were allowed to cuddle Alaric once a day for a short period – prems often have trouble regulating and holding their body temperature, so you are encouraged to embrace kangaroo or skin to skin cuddles which also helps build a bond. I lived for these moments; just the peace and serenity, the amazing newborn smell – everything. I let my husband enjoy the first cuddle because he was on limited visiting time as the hospital was a 45 minute drive from home and his work schedule was jammed packed. But when my time came it was beyond worth the wait.
The hardest thing I ever had to do though, was go home empty handed.
Nine days as an inpatient at the hospital, I had stayed beyond my allowable days and since we were considered local (yep, 50km one way is local), it was time for me to head home and make the daily trek to see Alaric and drop milk off until a place at our local closer hospital became available now that he was older and more stable. I remember bawling my eyes out because as I was leaving the hospital there were other families wheeling their babies out of the ward and to their cars. I remember waving to my ward mate who was heading home with her third little girl as our cars crossed paths. It felt weird – I walked in pregnant and I was leaving not pregnant with no baby. I knew it wasnt forever but it was definitely one of the harder things I have ever had to do.
Despite not having a newborn at home, you don’t get alot of sleep as the parent of a prem – continually missing him, thinking and worrying about him and expressing milk, mixed in with the daily grind of being a mum and chief dog wrangler. I was relieved the day that we were transferred to a smaller nursery in our local hospital which was only 20 minutes from home. This meant that in the six hours between breastfeeds (we started at one breastfeed a day then gradually progressed to two tube feeds, to one suck feed to two suck feeds to a tube, to alternate feeds to all suck feeds) I was able to pop home, do housework and get groceries, whatever was needed. It also meant that I could go up to the hospital after dinner when the other kids were in bed. We managed to introduce some kind of balance and routine going where I didn’t feel like the entire burden was on my husband.
One of the many perks of this unit were that there were fewer nurses so you got to know them and they pretty much became your other family, the other mums that were there became your people and you’d make small talk and celebrate the successes no matter how small. I introduced the phrase of “think fat thoughts” when it came time for weigh-ins so we would be forever willing each baby to be just a bit heavier every weigh. I was blessed to make actual friends with two other mums in the nursery – one who was actually next to me in the bigger hospital with her twins and another whose little boy was born three days after Alaric. It was good because they had been living the same life so we were able to trade stories of bad food to embarrassing labour issues. It made the days much more enjoyable and we still talk and catch up now.
It’s just so amazing seeing how much they’ve all grown and changed. Miracle Babies Organisation also run local playgroups which we are a regular fixture of and it’s so amazing seeing so many little fighters flourishing. I always look forward to going because it’s a place where being a preemie is totally normal. The nurses in this unit encouraged us to be hands on and cuddle our babies and learn as much as we could so we were confident coming home. We were taught the daily supplement routine and how to give them pentavite (NOTE TO ANY FUTURE PREEMIE MUMS – PENTAVITE STINKS!! You will NEVER forget the smell) and we were given power to make decisions in regards to things like top-up feeds etc. They were really trying to give us our control and confidence back so we were ready to handle anything once we were discharged.
At 35+3 weeks, or 24 days old, the doctors discharged us from the hospital.
I burst into tears and continued to bawl for 20 minutes upon hearing this. He was tiny, only weighing about 500g heavier than his birth weight and I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was beyond terrified. I was used to big chunky babies, not this tiny human who pretty much fit in the palm of my hand. I really didn’t feel ready to leave the safety of the hospital and the nurses – hell, we had only become wire-free 24 hours earlier. I was scared of the outside world, its germs and the people. My nurse of the day, Kerrie, just kept handing me tissues telling me I could stay if I wanted, they weren’t kicking me out. I knew though that my kids wanted their baby brother to come home. My husband wanted more than a 50% wife, and I was over expressing and the constant travel. I wanted to be able to stay in my pyjamas all day and just cuddle my baby on my couch. So home we went..
The day after he was discharged we had his tounge tie revised and released and a general visit with the lactation consultant who was empowering and made me feel like I had a handle on this. Every day got a little easier, every day the anxiety lessened as Alaric continued to gain weight and grow. Oh and for any preemie mums – the explanation as to why your baby is so tiny despite their age becomes a second nature conversation as well as the comments about the chubby cheeks that most seem to get. I cannot go anywhere without soneone commenting about my little chubba bubba’s cheeks.
Alaric is, as of the 3rd of May, six months old or four months corrected. In the short six months of his life, he has been through more than most adults – CPAP, two rounds of phototherapy for jaundice, countless blood tests, lumbar puncture, two further hospital admissions – one for meningitis entrovirus and one for CMV -IVs/cannulas of varying natures, visits to various specialists including a paediatric Opthamologist in Sydney (we have a review in June to see if he needs glasses).
He loves bath time, his siblings and our big pointer, Romeo. Bibs are our fashion accessory with the continual reflux issues. We started in 00000 and now fit 000 and a few 00 pieces despite weighing nearly 8kg (no idea where it’s hiding). He has just started to roll and has the most amazing smile, it literally makes everything better no matter what. Me as a mum and as a person, I have grown and learnt so much about myself. I am consistent with my daily meds now, whereas before I could be a little sporadic. I know the routes to the hospitals like the back of my hand, more medical terminology than I’d like and I’ve learnt that even the smallest beings can teach you about strength and bravery, and that preemies are true superheroes. I’ve learnt patience and that babies (and kids) do everything in their own time and not before. I’ve learnt kindness, love and compassion from total strangers. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that I can handle more than I know and that I’m actually a strong person even when I feel completely broken.
To the mama sitting with their baby in the NICU/SCN – it does get better, you are amazing and you have been blessed with your own little superhero. It is okay to cry, even those big, heaving cries.
To the baby in the nursery – keep on fighting, you are loved more than you’ll ever know.