As of this week I’ve reached full term (37 weeks) which is a great answer to prayer as Baby Cameron is now big enough to arrive safely when he or she is ready!
And as we get closer to my due date I’ve finally packed my hospital bag, started organising the baby’s room and spent lots of time collecting a plethora of baby gear.
Preparing for a baby is a time of great joy, excitement and wonder for new parents. And we’re no different. We’re so looking forward to the arrival of our new, precious family member – our child who we can’t wait to cuddle, care for and watch grow up.
But we also know our experience is going to be different to most other families. So today I want to share a bit about how we are preparing for hospital, answering some “frequently asked questions”.
After receiving the diagnosis last November we booked in to meet our new specialist team from the Westmead Public and Children’s Hospitals. I have an obstetrician who only sees high risk mums and babies along with a high risk midwife. The baby also has a cardiologist from the Heart Centre for Children who has monitored its progress in utero. And once the baby is born we’ll add a paediatrician, cardiothoracic surgeon, neonatologist, lactation specialist, social worker and other nursing and support staff to that list.
As you can imagine, seeing all of those people could become overwhelming very quickly! But we’ve found that the staff at Westmead have been excellent at looking after us and preparing us for the weeks and months to come.
One thing that has been consistent across all the medical staff we’ve met is the focus on having a normal pregnancy. As our cardiologist said “you’re preparing to raise a baby that has a heart problem, not a giant heart with a small baby attached”. The temptation is to get so preoccupied with the baby’s heart condition that I forget about all everything else associated bringing a child into the world.
So as we prepare for the baby’s arrival we’ve been doing everything normally – including praying and reading about how we can be Godly parents raising our child to know Jesus.
One thing that has surprised me is that the doctors are happy for me to have the baby naturally, when I expected our situation might mean a scheduled Caesarean. I think this is linked to preparing normally and because we’re at a hospital who look after sick babies all the time they will be ready for me whenever things happen.
There will be a lot of monitoring on me and the baby throughout labour, so they can keep an eye on the baby and make sure it doesn’t get distressed. The aim is to have the baby as happy and strong as possible so that it’s ready for what lies ahead – so we’re open to whatever intervention is needed to make that happen, but I will be aiming to give birth naturally.
Our baby will most probably need a ventilator to help it breathe as soon as it’s born. It will then need to have some scans and tests to work out if it needs surgery straight away or within a couple of days. To make that happen it will have what’s called an expedited transfer from birth at Westmead Public Hospital (WPH) to the Westmead Children’s Hospital (WCH, which doesn’t have a maternity ward). It’s about a 10 minute walk through internal corridors between the two hospitals.
So our expectation is that I will be able to have a cuddle with the baby after it’s born, and then it will be transferred to WCH on the ventilator machine with Gus by its side. I will remain at WPH for all the usual post birth stuff and to rest. During that time my sister Kate will be keeping me company as I’m sure it will be heart wrenching to see Gus and our little one go. The usual practice for mums in my situation is that they get to visit their baby at least once a day by being wheeled in a wheelchair down to WCH.
That is another incentive to me for having a natural birth, as it will mean I’m able to get up and move about much quicker than if I have a c-section.
Usually mums stay in WPH for 2 or 3 nights after their baby’s are born. If all goes to plan I hope to get an early discharge down to WCH and have a midwife come and check on me each day so that I can be closer to Gus and the baby.
The Grace Centre
The Grace Centre for Newborn Care is the newborn intensive care unit at WCH. It looks after babies who require surgery or who have complex medical conditions. Premature babies usually stay at Westmead Public Hospital in the NICU there.
There are 9 ventilator beds and 15 high dependency beds in the Grace Centre, and nurses who look after the babies 24 hours a day. According to the current Bandaged Bear Appeal approximately 600 babies spend time in the Grace Centre every year.
If you’d like to find out more about the Grace Centre here is a video which they showed us before they took we had a tour of the ward (it does show babies hooked up to all sorts of monitors which might be a bit confronting for some people):
Babies with heart problems usually struggle to feed well because they have less oxygen and so breathing and feeding at the same time is really hard. Couple that with surgery, lots of tubes and monitors and breastfeeding gets a bit complicated!
So, while I’m not going to be able to breastfeed our baby from birth, I hope to express milk that the baby will be fed via tube for the first few weeks of life until it’s able to breastfeed. Again we’ve found that at WCH they’re keen to have parents as involved as possible, and expressing milk is one way that I can closely participate in the baby’s care.
Most wards in the WCH have a recliner / bed so that one parent can stay by their child’s bedside. However, that’s not the case with intensive care. Instead, for the first week or two we are hoping to stay in the Parents Hostel which is located within the hospital. Gus will plan to stay there from Day 1, and I will be discharged there after my stay in WPH.
This year we’ve moved to a 20 minutes drive from Westmead as Gus has started working full time as an Assistant Minister at a church in South West Sydney. That has been a great answer to prayer – making attending appointments and familiarising ourselves with the hospital much easier than our previous hour+ drive!
I hope that helps to give some more insight into what we’re expecting our initial days in the hospital to be like. If you have other questions please don’t hesitate to ask or post a comment – we don’t have all the answers but you might raise a question we haven’t thought about yet!
I’ve found having opportunities to ask questions and learn more about places like the Grace Centre have really helped me to prepare emotionally and mentally for the baby’s arrival.
Of course I get teary when I think about what is to come, but I am so thankful to God for the medical care we have access to, and their obvious skill in looking after babies with heart conditions like ours.
Now back to setting up the nursery …