“I have an appointment for 10:00 a.m” I said to the receptionist at the window.
“You are twenty minutes late” she said. “This is your first appointment so perhaps you are not aware that we want our patients to be on time. If you are late again, you will no longer be a patient here.”
“I am so sorry” I said. “This is my third day as a Mom and I had no idea how much work it would be to take my newborn out of the house.”
“Well because you are late, the doctor may refuse to see you” she said.
I looked at my son and knew he was really sick. His face was yellow, his eyes were yellow. He was very frail and not eating.
That’s when I started to cry. I didn’t just cry a little – I sobbed.
My son needed help and because I couldn’t get it together, I worried that the doctor wouldn’t see me.
During our stay at Mount Sinai, it was determined that Max was suffering from jaundice. They said they would only release us if we promised to see our family doctor in my hometown. This was my first appointment with my new family doctor and already it was such a mess.
I sat down beside my Mom and Max and told my Mom what happened.
“Maxwell?” asked the nurse coming around the corner.
She looked at me and saw that I was not okay.
“I am so sorry”I started. “The receptionist said that we may not be able to see the doctor because I am late and I am so sorry.”
“Oh honey” she said. “You are a new Mom and it is okay. Don’t worry. The doctor won’t even care. Let’s take care of your little boy.”
Once in the room in the doctor’s office, I thought my tears would stop but they wouldn’t. The nurse was getting my information and I just couldn’t stop sobbing.
“I am so sorry I am such a mess. I moved from Toronto yesterday and Max is sick and -”
“It is okay sweetheart” she said. “You are in the right place. Everything will be okay.”
“Sarah?” asked the doctor as she walked in.
“I was late” I started. “The receptionist was angry with me and I promise that I am a responsible person.”
“I am always late” she laughed. “It is totally okay. Now let’s take a look at your son.”
When she started looking at him, I knew something was wrong. She weighed him on the scale and I could see that his weight had dropped from 6 lbs 8 ounces at Mount Sinai to 5 lbs 8 ounces in two days.
“He has lost 15% of his birth weight and he is suffering from jaundice” she began. “I need to make a call to the hospital. He will probably have to go there for a bit.”
That made me cry even more.
“I don’t have postpartum depression” I started. “I know you probably think I am mentally unstable but I am just scared.”
“You are a Mom on day three of your journey. You are allowed to feel this way” she said.
She then looked at my Mom.
“Promise me you will watch her and make sure she is okay. Sarah, if you start feeling really anxious or sad for a couple of days, please call me.”
She left the room and I spoke with my Mom.
“She is the best doctor” my Mom said. “The only issue is that receptionist. She should have never said that to you. That should have never happened.”
“Thanks Mom” I said.
I could hear my new doctor on the phone with someone at the hospital. She spent about 20 minutes giving information to the other person over the phone.
She walked back into the room and started giving me information very gently.
“Max will be admitted to the hospital in the paediatrics division. He’ll probably stay there for the weekend and you will be with him Mama. They will place bright lights on him and he will get better. Please go home, pack your things, and head to the hospital right away.”
I cried the whole way home. We had just come from the hospital. I had only spent one night out of a hospital since Max had been born.
Once I got to the house, I just grabbed a bunch of things for Max and myself. I was packing for several days but I don’t even think I was mentally there packing the things I needed most.
We headed off to the hospital and I pulled right out front. It was freezing and I didn’t want Max to get cold. My Mom went to park the car.
I walked into the hospital completely terrified.
“My son is named Max and we are supposed to check in” I said to a nurse through tears.
“Your room number is 653” said the kind nurse. “Are you okay?”
“Yes” I lied as I took off with Max in his car seat and headed to the room.
The room was massive and nobody was in there. I set Max’s car seat on the ground and sat down with him.
“I am so sorry” I said to Max. “I have already failed you. I suck as a Mom and can’t even breastfeed. I am sorry that I got you here.”
That’s when another nurse walked in.
I turned around and she could see I was a mess.
“Oh my gosh. What is wrong? Are you okay?” she asked.
“I have failed as a Mom. I am so scared and know my son is sick. I can’t even breastfeed.”
“We have got you. We have got him. He will be so much better here, I promise. Things will get better” she said.
And things did get better.
Max was seen by so many nurses and doctors. He had an IV and was placed in an incubator. At first, I was fearful of it and hated that he had to wear a patch over his eyes to block the light. I thought he’d hate it so much and it would be extremely difficult to calm him down.
I was so wrong.
He loved the incubator because it was 35 degrees. Babies with jaundice are often really cold and because they try to keep their body warm, they lose weight because they are burning so many calories.
During our hospital stay, I went from being super scared and sad to amazingly happy and calm. When the nurses came in we would joke and talk about reality stars.
“You can go home now” said the nurse. “I don’t want you to go though.”
“I don’t want to leave” I said.
“I’ll always remember you sitting on the floor crying. I went to the nurses station and told them that my patient was on the floor crying. Everyone was worried about you. Look at how far you have come” she said.
“I went from never wanting to come to the hospital to never wanting to leave the hospital. Max gained so much strength here and has become a different person. He loved being in the light and is finally breastfeeding” I said.
“You are leaving because you have a healthy boy. Never wish to be in a hospital” said the nurse.
“You are so right” I said.
Although the hospital had become Max’s favourite place, I recognize my privilege. I got to leave with my son in my arms. My son was leaving healthier and would slowly get better.
I started to think of all of my friends who stayed in the hospital for long periods with their little ones. Moms who lost their babies or who had extensive stays at the NICU, Sick Kids, Ronald McDonald House, etc.
How did they get through it?
I only had a sick baby for a couple days and I couldn’t function. How the hell do other people get through much more difficult times?
Since the hospital, Max is now very healthy. We have had more visits to the doctor. I gave her a card and bought her staff Tim Horton’s (as an apology for making a bad first impression).
After going back to the hospital for breastfeeding class, I can say that as of today, I can successfully breastfeed. I am saying “today” because one never knows what can happen with breastfeeding. I do have formula stocked up just in case.
We are staying home and just enjoying our time together despite this Covid 19 Crisis. We have an appointment with the doctor on Friday to look over his jaundice. I am so excited to show the team at the doctor’s office that Max now weighs 9 lbs and has no more yellow in his face. His eyes are still a bit yellow but he has made so much progress.
I just have to end this blog by saying that doctors and nurses are AMAZING. I respect them so much and think they should be paid millions. Not only do they deal with the physical issues of their patients (and the families of their patients) but they deal with the emotional issues of their patients/families as well.
Since leaving the hospital I sent about twenty thank you cards and gift cards out to the staff at the two hospitals I was in. Everyone was so lovely and helped me so much.
When I left the hospital I was so thankful for our healthcare system and now with everything going on with Covid 19, I am even more grateful.
Thank you to everyone who helped us so much while we were struggling.
To all of the families in the hospital right now (especially with little ones), I send you so much love and admire your strength.
To the doctor and nurses in the hospital right now – thank you for all that you do. You are the most hardworking people of any profession and I can’t imagine what you are dealing with right now.
To my amazing friends and family – thank you for being there.
May we all never have to enter a hospital again.