The First Week: Nightmares & NICU

The first week is all about survival.

That’s what I was told.

In Caelen’s case, it was literal.

After his birth, we spent a glorious (not) twelve hours at the hospital before we were discharged to go to a birthing unit or go home. I chose to stay in town because I (and my mum) was tired and I wanted to get to know my baby before we were hours away from a major city (aka hospital). We gathered our things and trudged (in my case – waddled) down to the car and headed off.

Feed, poop, sleep, feed. Again.

We kept that routine for twelve hours and things seemed to be going well. He was doing all the things he was supposed to be doing.

Until he started crying. And crying. And crying.

And feeding. And feeding. And feeding.

The screaming was the worst. It was absolutely uncontrollable, and he was inconsolable.

It was at this point when my mum and I started to think that something was wrong.

This was not normal newborn crying and adjusting to the world outside of a squishy, soft body (which is still mildly squishy and soft). It was a scream that told you there was something wrong and you had to fix it. Now.

I was exhausted. My mum was exhausted.

We asked for formula…and were promptly denied because they didn’t give formula unless there was a medical reason. Instead, they came and watched me latch a screaming, flailing child to my boob while tears also built up in my own eyes. My child was hurting and I couldn’t fix it. I thought I had broken him and I hadn’t even had him for a full day. The midwife ended up getting a syringe and ‘expressing’ (aka milking me) to get colostrum for Caelen. It worked. Hallelujah.

It was at this point when Caelen got tired and we all slept for a while.

The next day was okay.

He was still screaming, but he seemed to be running out of energy quicker than before. The feed, poop, sleep, feed routine kept going. Until the night.

When he screamed. Uncontrollably. Inconsolably. Even the midwives couldn’t get him to calm down at this point.

We asked for formula. Again.

And were denied. Again.

My independent midwife came for a visit the next day and she was concerned. Very concerned.

His reflexes were fine, but his arms were shaking uncontrollably. She ordered a blood sugar test. He failed. We waited half an hour and it was repeated. It clotted. He screamed. I cried. It was repeated again. He failed. Again. He failed worse than the first time.

He failed so badly that an ambulance was called.

‘Standard procedure’ was what we were told.

I remember the intensive care staff remarking that it was almost a code blue on arrival. I don’t know about you, but no one wants to hear those words. Especially about their son who is two days old. And back in hospital. In the newborn intensive care ward.


We shouldn’t be here. I don’t want to be here. We shouldn’t be here.

The staff moved quickly and ran a tube down to his stomach and hooked him up to monitors. Formula was instantly pumped through that tube and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was going to be okay. He was going to be okay. We were hours from leaving the city before my midwife came for a visit. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if she hadn’t made it. I’m sure all of you have heard about the story on the Fed Is Best Foundation website.

I would be writing a very similar story if it wasn’t for my midwife.

Life in the intensive card ward is…intense. Crazy. Routine.

I was either pumping, feeding Caelen, looking after him, staring at him, or sleeping. We were on a strict three-hour schedule. I had to get up and go down the hall to feed him (either through a drip tube or from my boob) then do all his cares and give him a quick cuddle before going back to my room to eat and pump. Sounds pretty simple, right?

Altogether, it probably took an hour and a half to do the full routine, and that was with my mother (or the nurses) helping me. That left me an hour and a half to do what I wanted, which was sleep.

My first week as a new mother was nothing like I had expected.

Luckily for us, the dehydration was caught ‘early enough’ and the hospital was able to turn it around in a matter of hours. He stayed in the intensive part of intensive care (with all the incubators and serious machinery) for the first night and most of Tuesday. We got told that he was being moved to a different level nursery (good news) on Tuesday evening and if it went well, he would be moved to my bedroom on the ward. It went well.  He got to stay with me for Wednesday and Thursday night and we were discharged on Friday morning.

Taking him home was the best feeling in the whole world. I can’t quite find the words.

Part of me is still in disbelief as I write this.

My son, who I waited months for, almost died in a matter of days.

After the hospital said he would be safer on the outside. In the real world.

I would just like to mention that Caelen is 100% okay now and has made a complete recovery from his little stint in hospital. He’s a very happy, very healthy seven week old baby boy. He did give me the fright of my life and I think I aged a million years, but I guess I have to be prepared for those moments.

I’m part of a baby/pregnancy group on Facebook and a woman made a comment that ‘got my back up’ – so to speak. She mentioned giving her baby formula and that she was officially a ‘bad mom’. I’m not saying this to bad mouth her on the internet, but to highlight just how serious or brainwashed people are when it comes to breastfeeding. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. That’s it. It isn’t your fault and it isn’t your baby’s fault. My son would have died if he wasn’t given formula, so I don’t think anyone is a bad parent if they decide to give their child formula either.

After all, fed is best.


8 thoughts on “The First Week: Nightmares & NICU

  1. I got so mad whilst reading this! Damn, I know that breastfeeding is essential and all but if they won’t give you formula they should keep way closer look how everything is working and if anything is working.
    I remember when I was at the hospital, with the baby that was screaming like a maniac for his hunger & at the second time I asked for a formula I didn’t ask anymore. I told the midwife to bring it to me. I was like, this thing is going to die if it’s not fed, oh right how I’m I supposed to know as a new mom, I just knew it and now when thinking about it I didn’t even ask then 😀 it was more like a command 😀
    I’m so happy to hear that everything turned out okay for you guys ❤


  2. Oh dear, I’m glad both you and Caelen are both fine! I’m not a mother, but I see a lot of those facebook groups on my feed thanks to friends liking/commenting on them and there is so much ignorance on there sometimes! (I feel like smacking my head on the desk and I’m not even a part of that ‘world’ haha!) Those saying that people are bad mothers for using formula or whatever else wouldn’t think twice if their baby was put in that situation!


  3. This is terrifying….I couldn’t imagine going through this, and I DID have a NICU baby. I attempted to nurse my daughter, and did for a total of 6 weeks but it was hurting her more than helping (acid reflux, an allergy to something I was eating and I was BARELY eating due to PPA – Postpartum Anxiety) so we switched to formula at 6 weeks. It took a little time but we have her on formula she likes and she’s the happiest kiddo! That first week in the NICU….was torture. Then those first few weeks home were….torture. lol But, now I can say we are doing much better, and it’s true what they say: it comes naturally after some time.


  4. Believe it or not, at 52 years old, I’m on baby formula. Yup. That’s my nutrition. Sometimes, the “experts” go too far. I man, my goodness, it took a midwife to figure it all out. You and your mum were on the right track. A mother just knows sometimes. You weren’t asking for arsenic, just formula. I’m wondering, how is it even legal for a hospital to deny a parent’s request. That’s one of the things that don’t sit well with me.

    I wrote about my malnutrition and its cause in several blog posts. No, I’m not emaciated, but I am medically malnourished.

    I’m so happy your baby is ok. I hope that center reevaluates it’s policies. If a parent asks for formula, it should be given. It’s the parent’s choice how they want to feed their child, no one else should be telling a parent what to do.

    BTW, my kids were also given formula.


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