All Akimbo: Light bulb moment

By Kim Blakely, mama to 2

bennett-and-juliana100_41091.jpgWe were blissfully happy when we finally got to introduce Moxie to our families and the next two days in the hospital are a blur of oohs, aahs, and wondrous gazes.

Moxie had a gift for her brother – amazing that she had the presence of mind to shop before birth, I know. She gave him an Iron Man action figure, and he held on to that thing like it was his very own life preserver in an ocean of uncertainty. Mojo would look at her, he would talk to her, but he refused to touch her – or me – for at least a couple of days.

Still, I would have to say we were all pretty happy.

On the third day, there was a bump in the road.

The pediatricians rounded early in the morning, so Moxie was wheeled off to the nursery before I got my breakfast. The lactation consultant visited while she was gone … but what she said didn’t really register.

She told me my daughter’s bilirubin level was something around 13 – not in the danger zone, which I’ve since learned is closer to 25. She told me I might consider doing three-step feeds: Nurse, pump, and have my husband feed her as much breast milk as she would swallow with a syringe following every nursing session.

Huh, I thought. OK. Three-step feeds sound a little complicated, but I’ll give it the old college try if it comes to that.

My husband had stayed at home with Mojo the night before and wasn’t yet at the hospital when the lactation consultant, and then the pediatrician, came in. If he’d been there, he might have been lucid enough to ask why she made that suggestion.

I should explain that I didn’t sleep much while I was in the hospital. It wasn’t so much that the baby was keeping me up as it was that I was up keeping the baby.

Say what you will about co-sleeping, but I did it with Mojo in the hospital and we both rested better. Maybe I’ve seen too many Lifetime movies, but I was honestly worried that someone might steal her away if I closed my eyes for too long.

I couldn’t move after the c-section anyway, so it was a given that I wouldn’t turn over while he slept on my chest. This time, the nurses barked at me about putting her in the isolette if I so much as felt drowsy. (They also forbade against cutting her sharp fingernails with the clippers I had brought for that very purpose – “She’ll bleed!” they warned.)

That said, by the third day I was feeling a little loopy and it took me a few minutes to comprehend what the doctor was saying. He was telling me that Moxie was jaundiced and that we had to put her in a “light box” immediately. She could be taken out only every three hours to nurse and was to be put back in as soon as she was done.


My milk was just coming in, and I knew that nursing every three hours – let alone only holding my baby every three hours – would slow that process down, if not put the kibosh on it altogether.

“I don’t really want to do that,” I told him. I wanted a little time to process this information, to do a little research on my own to figure out what was best for my baby, and the lactation consultant had told me the situation wasn’t dire.

What the doctor said next will stick with me for a loooong time.

He told me that if I didn’t do things his way, I would go home the next day without my baby. (I found out later that wasn’t true at all. My doctor would have discharged me a day later or I could have roomed in with my baby while she was being treated, but no one would have insisted that I go home without her.)

He also said that if he let her go home and then had to readmit her later, it would make him look bad. Wha … ?!

I was angry. I felt defeated and so upset with myself for not being able to address this bully, even to ask him logical questions. Instead, I just burst into tears.

He left and a couple of nurses showed up with the gigantic light box. They were both friendly and compassionate, but they comforted me as much as they could, and then they plugged the machine in, turned it on and left.

Another nurse came in and told me that she would be assigned to Moxie, that she would check on her at least every couple of hours. She would be the one to come in and take Moxie out of the box when it was time for her to nurse and would return to put her back when she was done, she said. (Icily, I might add.)

My instincts told me Moxie needed to nurse – and I know now that my instincts were right on. From what I’ve learned, the more a jaundiced baby nurses (and poops), the quicker the bilirubin can be removed from his or her little body.

When I tried to explain to Nurse Icy that I was concerned about feeding my baby only every three hours, she put her hands on her hips and demanded, “What can I do to make you happy?”

What she could do, I told her, was leave my room.

My husband answered the phone when the doctor called my room a couple of hours later. He didn’t ask to speak to me, nor did he offer any explanation – but he said he had changed his mind about the light box.

We did the three-step feeds, my husband and me as a team, until late that evening, when I felt like Moxie was stuffed to the gills and that any more nourishment might just make her ill.

The next morning, her bilirubin level was up a little more, as to be expected, and the sweet nurse who broke the news told me she would get things rolling for Moxie to go under the lights. However, she told me I should feel free to take my baby out and nurse her anytime I felt like she needed to eat.

I <HEART> her.

In the end, Moxie spent no time in the box, but it stayed in my room – still plugged in, still turned on – for the next 24 hours.

Now, I know that jaundice isn’t the worst thing in the world. I know lots of parents have had to deal with truly scary situations with their new babies and I am in no way trying to compare this to that. If she had to go under the lights, we would have survived.

But the way this was handled seems way off base to me.

We took Moxie to our pediatrician’s office the next day – and again two days later – for follow-up examinations, and her bilirubin levels dropped off and her weight came up, which is just what was supposed to happen. She is fine.

I’m pretty sure I, however, lost weight from all the tears I shed about the situation. I guess I do have to thank the mean doctor for something.

Kim suffered years of secondary infertility before getting pregnant with Moxie. Read previous installments of All Akimbo or’s other mom blogs now!