As little baby girl is trying to eat, her nurse comes by. She tells me that she is noticing that our baby is not eating fast enough. It’s apparently all about the window- the 30 minutes or less they get to eat. The reason their feeding time is limited is so that they don’t use up too much energy and so they stay warm. Here in the NICU they want babies to gain weight, (which happens when they preserve their energy, stay warm and eat their set amounts in the allotted number of minutes) instead of losing-which is after all the goal (gaining that is- not losing). Anyways, to prove her point, the nurse snatches the bottle out if my hand and while my baby is still in my arms-shoves it in her mouth.
Before I even have time to react my baby screams and cries frantically (yep, lungs work! No really, that is a real concern with preemies- NOT just a funny saying as a baby cries hard) and blood gushes out of her mouth.
The sight is so scary that I gasp and tears spring to my own eyes- what happened? What do I do, what do I do? How can I help my tiny infant? I can’t help giving the nurse a hateful glance as she scrambles to get some gauze to press against babies open mouth. “It’s just the cut frenulum” she exclaims but I can tell her voice is shaky, “it ripped a little…” My baby just had her tongue tied cut (the string that goes underneath the tongue was too tight making breastfeeding difficult-same issue with my son) a few days ago and this savage nurse just ripped it open. It’s scary when your tiny newborn bleeds, I don’t care who you are, you freak. I’m normally very laid back and I seldom question people but not when it comes to my kids- their safety-their wellbeing… always comes first and I get momma powers I never otherwise access.
“It doesn’t look like a “just” to me, it should NOT bleed like that” I pipe up, pretty loudly and with emphasis (totally out of character). “Well, she pushed her tongue up when I was just trying to show you how to feed her” the nurse clearly tries to defend herself but still lacks the tone of certainty and confidence. Now, preemies do this- they push their tongue up to the roof of their mouth-something they apparently do in the tummy all the time-but it’s not ideal for eating since by doing so there is now no access to the back of the mouth or the throat which is the preferred path of anything eatable (or drinkable in this specific case). This is fine in the tummy-the whole being feed through the umbilical cord and all-out of the tummy however; not so much. Full term babies adjust to their outside world faster and adapt to the whole “opening their mouth, tongue down thing” pretty much right away. In the NICU we are taught to look to see if the tongue is down and the pathway clear before shoving (or preferable gently putting) bottle or breast in baby’s mouth. So why didn’t this NICU nurse? You ask, which is the exact question on my mind. As the bleeding continues (hey, is this normal-even with the opening of the cut frenulum?) I start rambling about wanting to see Dr. White. I can see that the nurse clearly wants to shut that idea down (bad, bad idea…) because she steals the baby right out of mama bears arms, trying to soothe her while trying to convince me that it is nothing, that is doesn’t hurt (babies cry…) and that the bleeding is stopping. Every time she shows me the gauze to show me that the bleeding has stopped however, there is still blood on there. I only calm down when the bleed subsides but I’m still standing up trying to take my baby back with the conflicting thoughts “NICU nurse knows best” and “go with your mommy gut” as I’m trying to be mindful of all the cords and cables.
As the bleeding stops and my baby slowly settles down and eventually stops crying I become more and more convinced that even though the bleeding was excessive and scary- we all bleed a lot in our mouths and maybe it wasn’t the biggest deal (we obviously never want our children to be truly hurt and prefer the “nothing” version…) Was I maybe overreacting? After my own near death experience this morning (seriously) and going on very little sleep and with all this worry going on is quite possible. Maybe my mind made it scarier than it actually was. Now baby girl is sleeping peacefully in her clear plastic bed, the foot printed blanked wrapped around her tiny body tightly. I still make sure the nurse knows that that was traumatic (both for baby and I) even if I can’t make myself flat out blame or accuse her of anything. I also make clear that I want to talk to Doctor White. She jots that down (I presume) on a note pad, not really meeting my eyes. She seems relieved to be “dismissed” and scurries along.
Wow, this is a tough day so far. But all the worry, all the fear, the anxiety and nervousness AND lack of sleep is nothing compared to when we get to take our little daughter home…