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Mommy of the month. Annerie - Melissa Swart
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Mommy of the month. Annerie

On the 18th of May ’17, our little lady turned one.
I can hardly believe it’s been a year… and hey, we’re all still alive, sanity in check (mostly :)).
And yes, like most parents our first year was full of all that makes a story great… bubbles of laughter , projectile poop (& vomit… & pee ??‍♀) , nights sleeping through followed by months of not sleeping at all, hugs and kisses , screaming tantrums (parents included), horrible medicine & reflux, bath time fun, and lots & lots of nappies!
But our story didn’t start like most parents… we fall among the 14% of parents in South Africa who had a #prembaby , #preemie , #premmiracle … born prematurely.
Up until the moment it happened I had no idea what that truly meant or what the consequences was… And was utterly unprepared (which if you knew me, was not normal).
Ours is definitely not the most hectic or horrific story out there… the world is full op parents and babies struggling with things that are unimaginable… who perseveres through the storm in spite of their tragic circumstances..
But.
Storms come in different shapes and sizes… scars are scars no matter the cause… and they are worth talking about, because they inspire and bring hope.
And so, I want to use this platform to not only share our story, but to reflect and celebrate how far we’ve come and hopefully encourage you to celebrate and share your own beautiful story!

I was just about 32weeks and so excited to really see my bump grow.
I was working full steam at this point and had planned to finish everything smoothly before becoming a full-time-mom on the 6th of July. Her room wasn’t done… my bag wasn’t packed… and I started getting (what I thought was) braxton hicks contractions over the weekend.
By a miracle I managed to get an appointment with my Gynea for that Monday afternoon, just to quiet my concerned hubby and families voices. I didn’t even bother packing up my laptop or tiding my desk… I still had meetings and people to counsel later that day.
And then the utter shock …
“My dear, you are 3cm dilated ”
“Uhm … what does that mean…” is all I could think of to say.
“That means… we are going to admit you to hospital, and try and keep your baby inside as long as possible”
I couldn’t breathe… I couldn’t think… I felt ice old… and just burst into tears! It was such an utter shock to my reality…
We had not even discussed the “birth plan” or what my desire was in terms of meds etc… all that, was now utterly unimportant… you see, what I didn’t fully understand at the time was that they were trying to keep her inside for longer to give her a better chance of survival… for her lungs to develop a little bit more… in fact, I didn’t understand or comprehend anything that was about to happen… my mind was in shock… and even though the Gynea and incredible nurses kept us informed at all times… I felt lost and overwhelmed.
And so there we were, in hospital… my hubby looking just as bewildered and concerned as I was… one hand clutching mine… the other WhatsApp ‘ing our closest friends and family… me on a drip… praying that for some reason she might just decide to stay put after all…
There was another lady in the room with me… and as most of you moms know, you quickly become allies in the maternity ward, only another preggy mom can truly understand how it feels to lie there… waiting…. waiting. We kept each other company late into the night (this would be the start of encountering many women whose stories were much more intense / scary / life threatening / inspiring than mine, truly needed during it all!) … they (because our husbands are just as much apart of the journey) had been in and out of hospital for months, and so she was a wonderful source of support in my moments of fear .

 

That night I slept for an hour at most due to the adrenaline in the meds they had given me.
The next day felt like an endless blur…. I was being monitored constantly…. the sound of that darn heart monitor will stay with me forever

In between I was making calls and “handing over” work… all the while hoping it was all a dream…
But that night… after sleeping for about an hour… I woke up realising my water had broke…. terrified I called for the nurse who brought me those horrible hospital pads and started monitoring the baby… and even though her poker face was impressively good, I could read the signs like a book… and so… up to the delivery ward I went… where the Gynea announced,
“I think it’s about time you call your hubby. Seems this little one is determined to come. Mind of her own, hey!” , and how accurately those words describe her to this day

My poor hubby (who had also not slept and had just gotten into bed) got the phone call… I had stayed strong up until that moment… but hearing my best friends voice sent the tears flowing down my cheeks…
Ready or not…
Planned or not…
We were about to become parents!
{By another miracle, due to my baby shower that was meant to take place that coming Saturday, some of my family was already on there way to Cape Town! }
Within half an hour, I went from being 3cm dilated to 8cm…
And honestly, as most of you know, it felt like a “woestyn van pyn” , wave after wave crashing down, and I could literally feel she was on her way… at the same time, my husband was patiently trying to get an answer out of me: epidural or not? The window was about to close and I had to think fast… somehow, I still don’t know how, I made the rational decision to go for it because by this time, I had about two hours of sleep in two days… and I was using up every last bit of energy to control the pain… I rather wanted to save my energy for labour.
From here on… I can only remember bits and pieces… hubby had to help me fill in the blanks (apparently I apologised allot ?)
According to him, that Anaesthetist was like superman, in and out before we knew what was happening… I do remember suddenly feeling a great relief… and looking up into allot of smiling faces all around.. asking:
“when did you all get here??”

{Here I want to make special mention of the head nurse, Cathy… wow… she has worked in that hospital for over thirty years and had such a serving heart! She was like a mom to me.. by my side… coaching me through it all… massaging my back… encouraging and guiding my hubby as needed… I felt safe and overwhelmingly grateful that she was on duty that night! }
Only a couple minutes later, with allot of encouragement and help… I saw the most beautiful mop of dark hair followed by a tiny body… but there was no sound…. my husband followed the paediatrician across the room and watched helplessly as she started resuscitating our little girl… all the while glancing my way as the Gynea sowed me back together… afterwards he confessed it was one of the most heart wrenching & terrifying moments of his life… watching his two girls and not being able to do a thing other than pray for us….
Finally, I heard a loud cry… she’s ok!! I watched my husband grab Cathy in a big bear hug, tears rolling down his cheeks… he and the paediatrician walked over to me with our little girl swaddled in arm….
She held her in front of my face, telling me to kiss her…. such a surreal blur of a memory… I kissed her quickly…
and then… another moment I had no idea was coming as a new parent to a preemie…. she got whisked away in a flash….
no cuddling…
No moment of motherly bonding …
No staring at every little part of her perfectly formed body…
You see, they had to get her on a drip… heart monitor… oxygen machine… feeding tube… in an incubator… all to ensure she lives….
And so, I could only watch on as my husband followed her to the ICU… the room suddenly quiet… and my heart in my throat…
* Sophia Paige Logan
* Born at 07:31, 18 May, 33wks
* Weighing 1.8kg
#premmiracle #preemie #prembaby

Only a couple minutes later, with allot of encouragement and help... I saw the most beautiful mop of dark hair followed by a tiny body... but there was no sound....

Late that night… I would see Sophia for the first time… lying in an incubator… a tiny frame… her little hand clutched my sanitised finger… my heart thumped loudly… and as I looked around the ICU… the reality of it all sank in… I saw nurses fixing and adjusting more tubes than I could count… babies on heart monitors, lung machines, drips…. tired parents kangaroo-ing tiny frames… some had been there for weeks… some were literally fighting to stay alive…. some baring scars of operations done on the heart / brain…
and I thanked God… all of this was a miracle… as bad as our situation felt… it could have been so much worse…
each of these little preemies were a miracle story and their parents the true unsung heroes in that room…
It would be over 48hrs before we were allowed to hold her for the first time…
Going home without Sophia was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do… one of the preemie-moms told me “you are gonna feel jealous of every mom taking her baby home… it’s ok… allow the mourning… it’s all part of it”
And she was right.
The news that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed for some time also added to heightened emotions… preemies can’t suck just yet, it’s something they must learn, and so via a breast pump and a feeding tube we spent hours driving back and forth , providing her with milk…
I cried myself asleep allot during that time… feeling such a sense of loss… not having her inside of me… not having her in my arms… it was heart breaking… and I felt angry and disappointed… every time I saw moms with babies I had to swallow the giant lump in my throat… the time I spent with her in hospital was so confusing… every moment I got to hold her, was spent studying every feature… soaking in all that I could…
but then I had to give her back at the end of the day…
I will never forget those nights driving home alone… crying my heart out to God… and then after feeling like I had no tears left… faith would rise up from within… peace and comfort washing over me… strength to keep going!
In order for Sophia to come home, she had to accomplish three things:
She had to be able to drink from a bottle / breast
Her weight needed to be 2.5kg or more
She had to be able to regulate her own body temperature
And as simple as these things sounded, it took an enormous amount of energy from her, affecting each accomplishment directly.
So we prayed and hoped for what we couldn’t see…
Having solid support around you as preemie parents is vital… and we had plenty!
Our family and close friends were just incredible… providing comfort and love in the form of prayers, food, gifts, messages, a listening ear, the most special and beautiful baby-shower ever… it was overwhelmingly precious and humbling to receive so much love…
And of course the wonderful staff at Chistiaan Barnard Hospital… we would not have survived if it was not for their caring hearts and incredible work ethic…
They became like a second family… not just looking after our most precious possession 24/7 , but looking after us as well… I remember days spent sitting their for hours, soph against my chest.. and a nurse would bring me tea or water… open my lunch to make sure I ate…. listening to me as I cried… teaching me how to check her temperature or change her nappy… all the while ensuring us that Soph was a fighter and would be ok… it wasn’t just work for them… they truly loved their job!
After a week in ICU she was moved to the Neonatal Unit…
our daily routine became quite predictable… my husband would go in early before work for a quick cuddle and some kangaroo time, dropping off a batch of milk… I would then arrive at about 10h… and proceed to hold her as long as my bum could handle sitting for that long… hubby would then join us after work… and around 19h we would head home…. alone…
Every bit of progress was met with joy and celebration… because each tiny accomplishment meant a step closer to home:
The feeding tube running down her mouth moved to her nose…
Gaining a gram or more each morning…
Every bit of extra milk she was able to hold down…
Regulating her own body temperature meant graduating from the incubator into a cot…
which meant wearing preemie-clothes for the first time and even though she was drowning in them, it was a huge accomplishment!

The day she started sucking a preemie dummy was incredible… because that meant she was ready to try bottle feeding!
I remember so vividly how the nurse tried to manage our expectations… explaining that most preemies never get it right the first time and that we must not feel let down if she couldn’t do it…
But to her surprise and our delight, Sophia drank from that bottle like her life depended on it.
During all of this, I was still recovering from labour… my mom had stayed behind to help me with daily chores and finishing her room… I dehydrated twice and was trying to cope with a rollercoaster of emotions due to our strange situation and unsettling hormones…
our marriage had lots of ups and downs… sometimes we were able to laugh through it all… and sometimes we fought constantly… we talked and cried allot… each trying to support the other… but every time we were with her… it all felt worth it… because our rock was still God… if it wasn’t for Him, we never would have survived… His presence and love for us was never more real than during that time…
And my husband… he is the best person I know… solid, loving, serving, kind, faithful and stronger than I knew… seeing her in his arms melted my heart every day.

unnamed-5

But then one morning, I arrived to find our little girl with no tube on her face… it was the first time we could see her beautiful features without any sticker or tube blocking the way… and we pretty much freaked out… this was a huge leap, she was thus fully capable of drinking on her own!
But the best news that morning… was that it meant she was ready to start breastfeeding every alternate feed (we had tried it before, more for bonding then anything else, but the main concern was to make sure she ate enough to ensure she gained weight quickly, and the breastfeeding combined with bottle feeding was too tiring and difficult to manage).
I cannot explain to you the joy that filled every part of my being the moment they gave her to me… and in true form, she latched on with all the fighting determination we had seen over the last couple of weeks. The nurses were applauding and congratulating us, all the while assisting me as needed to make sure she latched correctly.

For the first time I truly felt like a real genuine mother… no tube… no checking the time… no measuring each drop… just us… I didn’t want to let go… and so the nurses left us, and soph just fell asleep right there on my chest… and when my husband and mom joined us, we all shared tears of joy!
Our journey in the hospital was clearly coming to an end, and every morning we held our breath as they weighed her… hoping for good news…
It really tests your patience and thankfulness when moms and babies around you get to go home and you can’t… such a catch22 emotion hung in the Neonatal ward among all of us… right or not! We would celebrate each other’s victories and share in our fears… but deep down we all hoped we would be those lucky parents that got to take our baby home with us… and that’s ok… it’s all part of it.

That last week was especially terrifying… here we were … possibly going home… and I remember having a conversation with two moms there… as excited as we were to go home… we were all scared to death… because what if our babies didn’t eat enough once home… what if they lost weight… what if they got sick… that meant they would have to come back… the thought unbearable…
and so that night my hubby and I prayed together against every last fear… resting in the fact that God was with us… allowing His perfect love to comfort us…
The next day we received the news that she would be released on Monday morning and I spent those last days speaking hope and comfort into the hearts of the moms staying behind…
That Sunday night, I checked into a room in the maternity ward…. WITH Sophia

We were about to spend our first night together (a nurse was assigned to assist us during the night as needed)… this was the final leap… to make sure this mama knew how to properly take care of a 2.5kg Prem-baby… no pressure ??‍♀
Oh man, if I slept two hours it was allot.

… every little noise… every movement got me up, checking if she was still breathing… still had her blankets tucked in properly … and we were on a hospital schedule… every three hours:
Change nappy
Sanitise hands
Check her temperature
Feed her
Burp her
… it was special ?
But having her next to me that night felt like a dream come true!
And when her daddy came to pick us up the next day, we couldn’t WAIT to take our baby home, FINALLY

It was a true Cape Town winters day… icy cold with the constant sound of a gentle rain… we spent the first day snuggled up together in her room… not wanting to leave her for a second… a month and a bit in hospital had come to an end… and we felt grateful and overjoyed to finally start living as a family without a hospital checklist to worry about… it was incredible!

Our little lady has just turned one… weighing 8.8kg… perfectly healthy… eating well & allot… strong willed & feisty… cute as a button with a laugh that sounds like bubbles… adores people… musical… intelligent… funny… beautiful… testing us on a daily basis… affectionate…
And just like all first time parents, this first year was crazy crazy hard

but oh so rewarding…
We stand in awe… God is in the details… He knows the plans He has for us… all He requires from us is our faith… and our love…
I pray we will always remember how all of this shaped our hearts and drew us closer to Him…
and I truly hope that in some small way… you, reading this… found hope and courage to persevere through your own storm… and to share your story, for every scar is beautiful… it is a testimony worth sharing!

3 Comments

  • Meraai Krüger Helm

    26.06.2017 at 08:50 Reply

    Thank you Thank you Thank you ? for sharing! So inspiring and will definitely share our journey as well!
    We have 9 month old boy girl twins, born 34 weeks gestation after a 9 week placenta leek! They were born via c-section after my water broke; weighing 1.95 & 1.76!
    Our stories are frightingly similar, I felt like I Took that journey with you as our Preemie experience was alike.
    Be blessed & thanks ?? for the inspiration in this!
    X

  • Tanya Vosloo

    26.06.2017 at 09:29 Reply

    Stunning story!! High 5 mamma!!

  • tadalafil

    02.05.2018 at 14:22 Reply

    Valuable knowledge. Many thanks!

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