THINK we should bail.” It was with these words that I was informed by my doctor that I was to become a mother seven weeks early. I was not ready. Not physically and definitely not emotionally. I still had so much to do.
I had no baby things. I could’t have the baby then. No.
But Dr Bilankulu insisted. My placenta had calcified and the baby would soon have no oxygen. I guess you can’t argue with that.
As the nurses prepared me for an emergency Caesarean section, my head was filled with superficial thoughts. I didn’t like the date – November 9. I still had a story to do that week. What about my baby shower? But we’re supposed to marry in three days? Crocodile tears fell as specialist paediatrician Dr Thwala held my hand and the gigantic needle entered my spine. None of these things mattered – it is happening now, Dr Thwala told me.
As I stared into the bright light above me, Adam was born at 10.45am. He weighed only 1.4kg. As the doctors removed him from my body, the nurses half sang in unison, “Happy birthday, Baby Ajam.” He was so small. I had never seen anything like it.
His loud cries could be heard metres away (the doctors were impressed – they didn’t expect wails like that from a premature baby born at 33 weeks) and he was as white as snow.
I didn’t get to hold him that day. One nurse came round and showed me my baby. I was overwhelmed. I told her that couldn’t be my baby. She replied that he was definitely mine.
He had to be rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. I passed out. I woke up in a room, halfparalysed, confused. And for a brief moment I had forgotten that I had just given birth to a baby boy.
When I saw Adam again, he was hooked up to several machines. I cried – then I threw up. He looked so helpless, I couldn’t hold him. He developed many infections while he lay there. But I knew he was in good hands. The nurses at Life Roseacres Hospital in Primrose were amazing. They took care of my boy as if he were their own.
It was only four weeks – that’s how long it took my baby to reach 2kg – but it felt like four months. Three times a day, every day, I would pump my breast milk, take it to the hospital and feed my tiny son.
He got stronger every day. Every day, with hesitation, I’d ask Dr Thwala whether I could take Adam home. But every day I would go home without my child. I needed to be strong for Adam and that was the side of me I showed the world, including my husband, for weeks. But inside it was killing me.
On December 1, doctors announced that he was finally ready to go home.
That morning, I woke up feeling nervous and anxious, but mostly excited. Everything at home was ready; it had been ready for a long time.
When we walked through the door of our home, he whimpered. He was probably confused by his surroundings, the smells and the sounds. But it didn’t take long for him to become familiar.
Many people visited. Many couldn’t hide their shock at how small he was. But that’s how it was. This was my beautiful baby boy.
Adam turned two last week. It’s hard to tell now that he once weighed a mere 1.4kg and that he had had such a traumatising entry into this world. He has reached all his milestones. He is well and happy.
I will tell him this story one day.
SO TINY: A nurse holds the hand of a 970g premature baby girl lying in an incubator.