Our little boy Harry was diagnosed with Gastroschisis when he was in the womb at only 12 weeks. Gastroschisis is when the bowel is protruding out of a hole on the stomach that is meant to close over around 10 weeks. In some cases more than just the bowel can be growing on the outside depending on the size of the hole.
As you can imagine this was a huge and heart breaking shock for my partner and I, learning that our baby boy would be taken into surgery as soon as he was born.
Before I even conceived breastfeeding has been extremely important to me. I believe it is a true blessing we get to nourish our children in such a natural, beautiful way. But I knew it wasn’t necessarily going to be easy to begin with and having learnt of Harry’s condition I knew it would be challenging, especially learning that he would not feed for possibly the first 2 weeks.
Harry was born by emergency Cesarean at 34 weeks and 5 days weighing 2kgs. Although we were nervous, we had the whole pregnancy to somewhat ‘prepare’ ourselves. Harry was taken from us straight away, all I was able to do before he left was touch him with my finger. There were doctors surrounding him helping him breathe. At this point I was sad, not having that skin to skin and being able to breastfeed him straight away.
For the first 3 weeks of Harry’s life, he was not able to have any milk. When I say not have any, he did not have one single drop of milk for the first few weeks of his life, because his bowel was not working properly yet. Yes, your right, he would have been starving. And for me as a mother this was heart breaking. I had my alarm set 24 hours a day and pumped every 3 hours. It was hard, I was confused and when I couldn’t be with him over night every part of me was yearning for him.
I would take my breast milk into hospital each morning and by the time he could actually have any, there was bucket loads.
I couldn’t breastfeed him straight away though, he was fed through a tube in his nose. The doctors had to monitor exactly how much was going in to determine that his bowel was working properly. He started with a tiny 2ml every 3 hours until his bowel “woke up” and was able to tolerate more.
It got to about 3 and a half weeks and they said I could try and breast feed. Although I had to drain my boobs first they explained he still would get a small amount! I was so excited the moment finally came. He fed wonderfully.
As a mother, I cant help but feel guilt those weeks when I wasn’t able to respond to my baby when he was hungry, or scared or be there next to him 24/7. But I gave him as much comfort as I could in the situation that faced us. The nurses fell in love with Harry, they always said he was so good and never complained, even when he was hungry those first few weeks.
Our breastfeeding journey was a little up and down when Harry got home from hospital, but we have stuck at it and are still going. Harry is now nearly 10 months old, and is as healthy as any other ‘normal’ 10 month old. At this stage there will be no further issues with Harry’s tummy.