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"Post-natal care after a premature baby -Sydney"

About: Royal Prince Alfred Hospital / Maternity

(as the patient),

My son was born at 35 weeks, 6 weeks after being on bed rest in hospital for 8 weeks with complete placenta previa. I had a general anaesthetic for the C-section and woke up feeling very groggy and panicked not knowing what had happened to my son. Thankfully, the anaesthetist had met with me earlier and knew exactly the answers I'd want to know, he informed me my son was in NICU but was doing okay. Then they took me in to see him.

Up on the ward the midwives I saw would not allow me to have my doula in the room when they would give me any information, despite me begging them to allow her to stay. They claimed confidentiality reasons, but I wanted someone with me because I wouldn't remember what they were saying as I was on high doses of morphine, days later when I asked questions they appeared to get annoyed with me because I should have been told on the first day, but I just did not remember. Booklets of information were placed on shelves up high (I'm 5'3") and I only discovered them when I was packing up to go home.

I asked for the morphine drip to be taken out as it was making me feel sick and unable to stay awake and met with great opposition. I felt I had to get very angry for anyone to listen to me. After 2 hours of asking a doctor came and disconnected it.

I wanted to take a shower and to get into a wheelchair to be able to go to see my son. I was told that they were far too busy and I would have to wait. So I got my doula to help me into the shower. A midwife then proceeded to force her way into the bathroom slamming the door into my doulas back. She demanded to know what we were doing and why I was showering without her permission. She demanded to see my pad and how much loss I had. After a few minutes of me demanding for her to leave she finally did.

My doula had to search for a wheelchair and then we were finally off to NICU. My son was on CPAP so I couldn't hold him.We went back up to the ward and I hand expressed some colostrum, the NICU nurse told me the midwives would help me but I could not see one around.

My doula went home and another friend came to stay the night, she helped me into the wheelchair and we went to NICU for my first cuddle and feed with my son. We then went back to the ward. There were so many other babies crying and I got a bit emotional while expressing, the midwife told me not to bother with that if I'm not going to get much. This was less then 24 hours after birth in a breastfeeding friendly hospital.

That night I was told a NICU staff member would call when he woke, I did not receive a call. We'd get to NICU to find that he was asleep again and I wasn't allowed to hold him.

The next day and night I would go down every 3 hours for feeds. I was questioned by the pain team as to why I wanted the morphine out and why I was only taking panadol. A midwife came to take my OBs and that was it.

Day 3-5 were pretty uneventful. On day 5 a registrar came into my room and asked quite loudly where my baby was. When I said HDU she asked what had happened. I said he had been there since birth and she looked confused. I couldn't believe it. She had been at the birth!

My doula visited us often and was a great support to me. A midwife questioned whether I had a mental disability requiring her to be there, I don't, and a social worker asked if I could do anything without her. I was determined to breastfeed but was told by a NICU nurse that breastfed babies were a pain because they can't be scheduled. I wanted to few on demand but was told that wasn't how things were done and besides demand fed babies don't gain weight. He didn't appear to gain much weight on their schedule but he tripled his birth weight when we came home and demand fed.

On day 5 he was moved into an open air cot. At some point he wet himself and it leaked through, he was left in his wet nappy so long that his temperature dropped and he had to go back into the humicrib, which was, in my eyes, a major setback.

I was discharged that same day and was lucky that one of the hostel beds was free or I would have gone home without my baby. This is a fantastic service but I think there should be more support for mothers discharging without their babies.

For the most part, the nurses looking after my son were great .As he got healthier and closely to SCN they were even better. It seems to me the ICU nurses that I came into contact with (bar one we saw who was brilliant) seemed quite cold and detached.

Finally on the 7th day he was discharged but we had to wait 3 hours to have his hearing test done. There weren't any birth registration packs available, they told us we could wait a month but we were moving interstate the following week. We had a follow up visit and found the nurse to be very rude. She wanted to see our bath, the babies sleeping area, our toddlers sleeping area (forget that she was napping at the time) and she appeared to get very annoyed when I told her we had no sterilizing equipment because we weren't using a dummy or bottles.

Again I was feeling pressure to use formula even though he was gaining weight steadily on breastfeeding alone. I refused another visit.

All in all, although there were several midwives who I thought were good (especially on the ante-natal ward) and the nurses I saw in HDU were great there was many things that happened to both of us that I don’t think should have ever happened to anyone.

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