When Ruby was three days old, I couldn’t wake her up to eat. She was still eating every two hours at that point, but that evening I couldn’t get her to open her eyes or latch on. My milk had come that afternoon and I was engorged. After an hour or two of trying to get her to latch on, I pumped and my mom tried to give her a bottle. Another hour or two later, Ruby had eaten less than an ounce and we still couldn’t get her to wake up.
I decided to take her to the hospital. It had been six hours since she had woken up to eat.
Kyle gave her a blessing, we drove to Phoenix Children’s in the middle of the night and she was admitted to the ER. She was severely dehydrated and the nurses there spent the better part of an hour trying to put an IV into her. She was so dehydrated that her tiny blood vessels couldn’t accept the IV very well. When they finally got the IV in, she was admitted to the NICU because the doctors weren’t sure what had caused the dehydration. Evidently in babies dehydration can be indicative of many things–from something as simple as not having had enough milk to something as drastic as an infection. They wanted to monitor her, the fluid from her spinal tap, and her blood cultures for two days to be sure that she didn’t have an infection.
I was a mess. I was three days postpartum, sore, engorged, and afraid for my baby girl.
After two harrowing days in the hospital, she was cleared and we were sent home. It seemed that although she had lost a normal amount of weight in the few days since her birth that she hadn’t been latching or eating well, and her trouble breastfeeding had made her dehydrated. Breastfeeding continued to be a struggle for me for the next few weeks.
I had a conversation with Kyle, and later one with my obstetrician about everything related to taking Ruby to the hospital. They both wondered if I felt like it was my fault that she ended up in the hospital, and if I had guilt over it.
In some ways maybe it could be construed as my fault. If I had been more aware that she wasn’t feeding well, if I’d kept better track of how many wet diapers she was having, if, if, if.
But at the end of the day–and this is what I told both of them–I did the very best I could. I had never breastfed before. I had never had a baby before. I didn’t know that things weren’t peachy. We’d had a pediatrician’s appointment the afternoon before we took Ruby into the hospital and he hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary with her. I trusted him–he was a good doctor. When something went wrong, Kyle, Mom and I tired and fix it and when we couldn’t fix it we took her to the hospital.
I don’t like the blame game.
If I sat around blaming myself for the fact that Ruby was in the NICU for two days, I’d be heaping a lot of pain and guilt on myself that has no purpose, and would only add to my misery. For my next baby I’ll know better what breastfeeding looks like and I’ll be better able to tell if he or she isn’t feeding well. But with Ruby, I just didn’t know. Breastfeeding is something you learn from experience, not out of a book or a film.
Maybe it would have been more “ideal” if Ruby had never had to go to the hospital in the first place. But to be honest, I’m more glad that there was a hospital to go to. I don’t think that with the knowledge I had then that I could have identified that something was wrong. When I was able to see a problem, I had a place to go to fix it. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for that.
I don’t need to feel bad about that experience. I will not add pain and grief to my plate for a situation that wasn’t readily preventable, especially considering that I acted well. Just because the outcome wasn’t the best possible of all outcomes doesn’t mean that it was a poor one. I did the best that I was able, made the best choices I knew how to make, and I am satisfied with that. I hold myself to no higher standard.