When Heckle was four weeks into his NICU stay and about the same age as the baby inside me is now, I discovered the power of putting one foot in front of the other and became a cuddle addict.
After the worst of the Staph infection had passed, they weaned him off his morphine and that left him grumpy for a couple of days. On the third day he greeted me with the most magical look. He had a smile in his eyes and looked up at me as if to say, ‘You’re still here. Yay!’ The eye contact took it out of him and he fell back to sleep.
The days rolled on with no improvement. Heckle recovered, kind of. Holding in there is a better description. He worked hard for every breath, his chest heaving like a steam train. The question of how long he could keep up the hard work loomed over his humidicrib. The infection had left him with minimal lung capacity and didn’t seem to be clearing. He was in the limbo of not being critically ill, but not getting better.
This left Gordon and I with a decision. A course of steroids would give Heckle a break and perhaps a chance to recover, but it came at the price of a 20 percent risk of cerebral palsy. Add that to the 10 percent risk he had for being an extreme prem and the 20 percent for surviving after my waters broke at 20 weeks and our heads were spinning.
We rolled the dice and gave him the steroids. We were rewarded with a couple of weeks’ grace. The best part about this was a stint of daily cuddles.
The premature baby cuddle is a thing of wonder and our first one blew me away. The medical term is a kangaroo cuddle and they’re one of the nicer ways to help a prem baby heal.
In many parts of the world there aren’t enough humidicribs to go around, so they take advantage of a biological quirk to keep these little babies alive. When a mother is cuddling her baby, the hormones triggered enable her body to change temperature according to the baby’s needs. So the mothers in these countries are rostered in to cuddle their premature baby so that another baby can have a turn in the humidicrib. The thing they noticed in South America was that the babies having a regular kangaroo cuddle did a lot better.
However, a baby needs to be well enough to have a cuddle. I did squeeze one in before Heckle did battle with Staph.
Choreographing Heckle’s humidicrib exitwith all his tubes and wires was like tangoing with an octopus, but once he hit my chest, I inhaled his chocolate scent and listened to his mewing and the euphoria rolled through my body, leaving the world looking oh so rosy. Forty-five minutes and our time was up, but the walking on air feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day.
The weeks of waiting for him to be well enough for another cuddle left me feeling like a junkie craving another hit. So you can imagine the ecstatic state I was in after a week of daily cuddles.
I’m doing these fortnightly Belly Reports to remind everyone who can donate blood to do so. Wherever you are, your country needs your blood!
Heckle and I would not be here today without the generosity of the people who donate blood and we are not alone. One in three people will need a blood product some time in their life.
This is the Australian blood bank link, but every country has one.