Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

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