Proof that prayers, positive thinking and love prevails - Zac came home on 20 February. For those of you that were keeping tabs, that was his actual due date!
December was hard. Leaving the hospital with my baby still there was far and away the most difficult thing I have ever done. Seeing his tiny body covered with medical equipment tore a hole in my heart. However, he was so tiny that I knew that the hosipital was only place that he could survive. Plus with Tristan and I as parents I knew his fighting spirit would kick in and he would be fine. So each day we would visit for a couple of hours, waiting with baited breath for that 15 minute window every 4 hours where we got to check his temperature, change his nappy and hold his hand while the nurses made their checks of his little body.
As December passed into January, Zac started to grow. He stopped looking like an alien as his checks and limbs started to fill out. We got to hold him almost everyday, and more and more medical equipment came off. By the time February rolled in, he was grunting and growling like other babies do. And we started to feed him.
Daddy had much better success rate than mummy did at getting Zac to eat. Since he was only breastfed once every 8-10 feeds, it was foreign to the little boy, so all he wanted to do was chomp. This did not impress me one bit!!!! However, Zac seemed to slowly get the hang of drinking breastmilk out of a bottle, and Daddy's pure stubbornness ensured that Zac would take at least half his feed out of the bottle when he was around.
But he wasn't (and still isn't) great at letting us know if he was hungry. So if he wasnt awake and seemingly hungry, his meal was pushed down his feeding tube. Zac, proving that he is a clever cookie, learnt that if he didn't want to take his bottle, or if it hurt too much to eat, he just needed to play possum (close his eyes and pretend to be asleep) and his meal would be tube fed to him. Yes, his little redheadedness learnt to be lazy from a very young age.
This seemed to be the longest chapter of our hospital stay. Some days he would eat. Some days he wouldn't. We learnt that we could keep feeding him even when he was playing possum. But only Tristan and his primary nurses had any luck with this. I contiuned to try unsuccessfully to breastfeed, and other nurses who had him irregularly didn't know to push him even though he seemed asleep. Then the evil reflux started, and all the hard work of the past few weeks came to a sudden stop. Zac was no longer interested to taking the bottle, and I stopped trying to breastfeed him in hopes that if I could just get him to eat by bottle we could take him home and I could teach him to breastfeed in the comfort of our own home.
After Tristan and my little get away to the mountains, we visited Zac before we went home. On a seemingly normal visit, the nurse told us that the doctors wanted to have a talk to us about our baby. They sat us down in a very serious manner and told us that they feared that Zac was developing an eating aversion due to his reflux and they wanted to try him on a formula. The formula would be thicker than breastmilk, would be more difficult for him to spit up, and would be more likely to stay in his belly and digest. At this point both Tristan and I were so desperate to have him home, that even though we both wanted him to be breastfed, we agreed to try anything that might speed him home to us.
So they started him on the magic formula. And before the day was out he was taking full feeds by bottle and a few days after that they started talking about him coming home!!! Sure, he would still play possum, and was only just making or just missing his quota, but he was eating!!! It was a miracle! Not only was there light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt like I could reach out and touch it.
The next few days are so clearly ingrained in my memory. Tristan worked that Sunday and I was taking an opportunity to have a bit of a sleep in (knowing that sleep would soon become a precious commodity) before I headed to the hospital. At 725 he called he to say that Zac would be coming home today and to get some sleep. Well of course I couldnt sleep anymore, so I bounced around the house making the final preparations to have my family all under the same roof for the night. Then at 930, just as I was about to leave to go into the hospital, Tristan rang back to say not today, but certainly tomorrow.
While disappointed, I understood that the doctors wanted to observe him for one more day, after all he hadn't been on the formula for 5 days yet. So I just spent the day with the nurse, receiving our last baby classes, getting lots of cuddles, and feeding my son. Life was almost perfect. That night Tristan and I said goodbye to our primary nurse who had become like family over the passed few months, and set home for our last night at home alone.
The next morning Tristan and I were both having a sleep in, both of us dreaming of that magic momment that we would bring Zac into his home, when I received a phone call from the hospital. Zac hadn't made his minimum feeds that night, and they wanted to keep him for a few days longer. I have no idea how, or even if, I kept a steady voice during that conversation, but I can remember wanting to cry my heart out when it was over. Today was the 20th of Feb - Zac's due date. I wanted him home more than I could ever say. It had been long enough.
As a girl, I dealt with this problem with tears. As a bloke, Tristan dealt with this as situation that needed to be resolved. I could see the anger and disappointment festering under the surface. I felt sorry for anyone who got in his way that day. They were never going to win.
We went straight to the hospital and spoke to the doctors. They were concerned that if Zac came home he may not eat enough, not gain any weight and end up needing to be readmitted to hospital. While appreciating their concern, we knew we could feed our son. We had spend hours and hours (and hours and hours) at the hospital feeding him. We knew that we could do it and we had the support of the nursing staff. But the doctor was holding to his position. So tearfully, and hugely disappointed, we set up for another day in the hospital. Tristan was determined to be at the hospital for as many feeds as possible and, if necessary, force feed Zac to ensure that he would meet his quotas.
An hour or so later, it was rounds. As the hospital we were at was a teaching hospital, rounds were overseen by an experienced (and generally very elderly) attending physican. When Zac's care came up, I turned my head. I just didn't want to hear anyone say Zac wasn't coming home again, but curiosity beat out denial. Each doctor argued their case. It was interesting to hear that there were two opposing camps: one in favour of letting us take Zac home, the other in favour of a more conservative path that would see him stay for a few more days until they were certain that he could eat enough regularly. The attending listened to both arguments and then spoke to us. He seemed to take us at our word that we could make Zac eat. But the pediatrician we choose seemed to sway him enough that he agreed to let us take him home as long as we saw the pediatrician three times a week. We didn't need to be told twice!
Two hours later we left the small room that had been the only place we could be a complete family for the last 82 days. It was very bitter sweet. The sweet outweighing the bitter 10:1 but the hospital had become an enourmous part of our lives. It was like an out of body experience leaving it for the last time with our precious cargo. I kept waiting to be told to put Zac back into his crib, or for the alarm to go off that we were stealing our baby. But I didn't. We just walked out, staring at our bundle of love.
The elevator doors closed on our exit that afternoon, ending an incredibly painful chapter in our lives that showed us that we had strength we didn't know we had. And even more importantly, renewing our faith that Tristan and I always have each other. The best part was that this chapter had a very happy ending.
So if you ever need proof that prayers, positive thinking and love can change the world, all you need to do is look at Zac. I do - everyday