Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Children’s Hospital

Another meditation on the others-have-it-worse theme. Maja spent an extra week in the Children’s Hospital on the surgical ward, getting more antibiotics and proper treatment for her hand. Somehow she had graduated to being herself- Maja- rather than Twin Two, or Daughter Moore, which made me feel slightly better about the fact that she wasn’t home with us.

She shared the room with 3 other crib residents, as well as a newborn under a sunlamp whose chest heaved horrifyingly when he breathed, and who nobody ever visited.  In one corner was Oliwka, born with her intestines outside her stomach cavity. She had been there since she was born in October, and her parents said she would be there until at least February. They took shifts at her bedside, sometimes with a grandparent taking a turn. In the other corner was Ola, four days old,  who had had an operation on her liver. The third corner was inhabited by Czarek, who had been vomiting madly for several days and needed some attention to his bowel.

The room engendered a strange mix of privacy and intimacy amongst the inmates- everybody was preoccupied with their own child, but at the same time, aware of what was happening to all the other babies.  We were all on our first children, and talking to Oliwka’s mother, I commented that the first newborn I had ever touched had been my own. She said, “Me too.” Except that her own newborn was born with a raging infection and almost died, and spent the first days of her life  in a medically induced coma. My initial horror at having Maja in the hospital faded, as her hand healed and talk of skin grafts and surgical intervention petered out. Once again, it became obvious that we (she) had been comparatively lucky.




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Both our children were born with infections, and I ended up spending 10 days in hospital with both of them. Maja spent another week in a different hospital, getting treated for an injury to her hand where they  had inserted the catheter at the first hospital.

Being in hospital had both its good points and bad. Amongst the good was the feeling that I was not alone- pallid new mothers shuffled up and down the hallways with their babies, and my friend Aneta would come to visit from time to time with her new baby.  Marcin and the husband of the girl I shared the room with claimed that the babies had a special smell, which we didn’t notice because we inhaled it all day long. I asked what it smelled like, and Marcin said, ” A cross between a puppy and Parmesan.”

The down side was the nights. I gather that in other countries, there is the give-the-baby-back-when-it-gets- too -much option after a C-section. Here, unless they’re in intensive care, they’re all yours. I had them on Friday morning, Maja came out of intensive care on Saturday afternoon, and on Saturday night they were all mine to care for through the wee hours. For the next 10 days I hardly slept at night, on a constant round of feeding, putting to bed, changing nappies, repeat. Marcin came in the morning and stayed until around 9 in the evening, and then they were mine again. Every morning I felt a deep relief that they had survived another night of my care.

Outside there was a deep frost-across the street, the red brick of the Filters standing out against the snow; icicles on the lamp post in the carpark, straining slightly in the direction of the wind. In the silence of the early hours, the noises of the hospital were clearly audible- howls of distress from the birthing rooms, the clank of pipes, the flurry of footsteps outside the operating theatre. Taking Maja and Janek for their 6:00 antibiotics, I would run across other similarly haggard creatures, pushing their babies up and down the hallways in their dressing gown. It looked like a mental hospital where all the inmates happened to have newborns.

By the time we got discharged on Christmas Eve, I hadn’t been outside for almost 2 weeks. On the way home, Marcin took Maja to the children’s hospital to see someone about the wound on her hand, and they admitted her, ruining our Christmas Eve festivities because I was sitting in the kitchen crying.

Otherwise, the big surprise has been the ease of recovery from the C-section. After 3 days, I was off painkillers and could laugh. After 4 days I could cough in a genteel manner. After a week, when they took out my stitches, I had to try hard to remember that I had been operated on. I don’t know if I got lucky with my surgeon, or maybe with my healing capacity. But I actually started feeling quite wonderful after a few days, and realised how much strain the pregnancy had put on my organism.

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