Every three hours I opened the nursery door and tiptoed in. I scrubbed my hands for 30 seconds and then confirmed with the nurse I was ready to feed my daughter. I opened the incubator, where my tiny baby lay, wrapped in a too-big newborn diaper, folded to ensure it wouldn’t fall off. After reporting the diaper contents to a nurse, I would start to feed. The nurse attached a syringe to a tube that ran up Syona’s nose to deposit milk into her stomach, saving her the energy and stress of having to suck. I poured an ounce of milk into the syringe and held it.
This was how I fed my premature daughter during her first week. It certainly wasn’t the start that I was expecting. Who knew that Syona’s first two weeks would be spent in the hospital rather than at home with me?
She had many medical complications and I wondered how her little body could withstand so much.
I stayed in the hospital for four days after Syona was born. Most mothers had a chance to room-in with their infants and I remember timing my cries with my roommate’s son’s because I was so sad that my daughter couldn’t be with me around the clock. When I was discharged from the hospital, I drove home with an empty infant car seat. After a shower and attempting to eat a meal, I went straight back to the hospital. When visiting hours ended, I returned to a house that was too quiet and far emptier than it had ever felt before.
I spent the next night in the hospital’s parent room, sleeping better than I had at home. I decided to stay in that room until Syona’s feeding tube was removed. I settled into a routine at the hospital: shuffle down to the nursery every three hours, change Syona’s diaper, try to feed her, pump breast milk, then back to my room.
During the morning shift change (when parents aren’t allowed in the nursery) I would head home for a shower and breakfast. After a week of living at the hospital I was back at home spending the days and evenings at the hospital. I was rarely alone there and often several members of my family would have dinner together in the common area. It was my daughter’s home, so the hospital began to feel like home for me too.
Syona came home 14 days after she was born. We thanked the team that made it possible and left the hospital ready to take care of our little girl. We left with such pride and faith in Syona’s strength and resilience.
Since then, Syona’s been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult for her muscles and brain to communicate with one another. But that faith in Syona’s resilience (that started in her first weeks of life at the hospital) is something that we continue to count on as she faces the hurdles of growing up.
Anchel Krishna is a Toronto-based freelance writer and mother of one. A trained communicator, Anchel now focuses on taking care of her toddler while attempting to string together coherent sentences.