I balked at the idea of calling this post Tricky 6 part 5. But that’s what it is. The part where he isn’t causing half a dozen medical professionals to scratch their heads and confer, rather that in which he was a joy to his parents and grew to be a smart and very witty young man. But first, the part where he was a tiny human….

At 3 pounds my little man was tiny and felt so breakable. You know when you bring home your newborn and you feel all weird about dressing them and pushing their resistant little limbs through their grow suits? Imagine one who is about a third that size? Then add to that the fact that his skin is so frail and new, so thin that if you touch him to hard you may just give him a nasty looking bruise.

It was awful for the first day or two. I was so shy of hurting him that I felt useless and clumsy. Like a first time mother. Then I got used to him, and learned that I wasn’t going to damage him, that I could touch him gently and lift his little legs to change his nappies. Each nappy was actually a quarter of a full cloth or toweling nappy, which was then folded into a tiny triangle.

My mind boggled at the idea that every thing in his world was a quarter the size of normal baby merchandise. Tiny pacifiers or “dummies”, little jackets especially made for preemie babies, little bonnets and booties that were so sweet and small. I didn’t yet have to worry about feeding him, as he was fed via a tube that was inserted up his nose and down into his stomach, fastened to his little cheek with tape. I was told by the nurses that breastfeeding such a tiny baby would tire him out way too much. Preemies need to do one thing and one thing only and that is to put on weight! The effort of sucking for such tiny humans costs them too much energy, therefore they are tube fed until they gain some strength and weight.

I was so very lucky with 6, who was born healthy, with no breathing difficulties or other problems. He was just required to gain his “full term birth weight” or within those parameters and then we could take him home.

This took time however, and a week after my c-section I was discharged from the Hospital and had to go back to Magoo’s (Mum), to stay. This meant being apart from baby 6 and nearly broke my heart. It also meant being reunited with 3 and 5 as a proper mother. One that could look after them and kiss their tears away and read them bedtime stories again. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Driving back and forth to the hospital wore me out quickly. (These days they won’t let mother’s drive for 6 weeks after a c-section!) Back then, no such rule. I would spend hours by 6’s humidicrib talking to him and changing his nappies. Then it would be time to go to the “milking room” where there were 6 or so breast expressing machines set up for us to use. We would do our “milking” and then go back to our babies.

6 was in Bay 2 of the N.I.C.U by his second day of life, and I longed for his transfer into Bay 3, as this meant it was time to take him home. It was in Bay 2 in his second week of life, that I got to hold 6 for the first time. It was a moment that I will never forget. After having 2 babies that I could hold and feed straight away, it was torment to have to touch, change and sponge bathe my baby through the holes in his crib. Even his first photos had to be taken through those holes! So when I arrived at NIC one morning to be met with the news that today was “the day”, I was beside myself with excitement.

I placed him next to my naked skin, wound a blanket around us, and sat and had one of the most contented moments of my life.

After losing James, after months of laying in hospital, here finally was the wonderful moment where baby and mother bonded. Skin to skin, heart to heart.

He grew so quickly and did so well that we were able to transfer to our local Hospital within a few weeks. He was around 5 pound at this time and so gorgeous. He was smiling and a happy contented baby. We lost the feed tube at around 4 weeks and so breastfeeding was well established. I could live at the flat in town with the other two boys, and would go to hospital approximately every 3 hours for feeds. The hospital had a standby supply of my breast milk. It was so great to be back at home with the boys, my friends and the rest of my family.

Again and again I depended on Aunty J. She was like a second mother to my boys and was essential to my partner and I whilst 6 was in hospital. Life was so busy, going back and forth all the time. I was so glad when he was able to come home.

Four months old.

Four months old.

The photo above was taken at a girlfriend’s place. She was so entranced with how small 6 was at four months, she wanted to take a photo to compare him with her daughter’s baby dolls. He wasn’t quite as big as them yet!

6 grew quickly, but had his fair share of hospital visits. Of course he was the most fragile of my children, requiring a 5 day stay in hospital for chickenpox. He had a form of asthma that affects premature babies, which made him get sicker than most  babies do with childhood illnesses. But he was a strong little man, and fought off his sickness bravely. He was prescribed asthma drugs and responded well to them.

6 was around 8 months old when he got R.S.V. which is a very serious virus affecting most babies between the ages of birth and 2 years. It can be very serious for premature babies or babies with weakness of the heart or lungs. Poor baby 6 and I were flown to Canberra Hospital for treatment. His little lungs became very inflamed and he required oxygen 24 hours a day. He hated the nasal prongs and would tear them out, so the only answer was for me to sit with him and hold an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. The only way he would allow me to do this was if I sang his favorite song, “Incy Wincy Spider” over and over and over. Which I did. That song still brings me to a state of mild panic and unease when I hear it.

When I weaned 6 from the breast, I quickly found that his asthma worsened after having a cows milk formula. We put him on goats milk, followed by soy which seemed to work the best. To this day 6 prefers soy milk, even though he no longer has any sensitivities to  cows milk. Recently due to the bad publicity soy products are getting we are trying slowly to change his habits. I am of the belief that just about everything we eat is GMO so I sometimes wonder why Fitty and I bother singling out specific products?

I honestly think that 6 was less sturdy than my older boys. He quickly joined his classmates in growth percentiles, out doing them completely the year before High School began. However his bones seemed more brittle.

At 2 years old 6 decided to learn to skateboard and fell sideways breaking his femur (upper leg). Off to hospital again.

traction is no fun for a 2 year old!

traction is no fun for a 2 year old!

He was a great patient. Requiring traction for 3 weeks, with one of those casts that have a stabilizer between the legs. I was a mess trying to look after him. It broke my heart, but he always had a smile on his face. He was watching Teletubbies all day long, eating Twisties and getting all his Mother’s attention. So he didn’t mind it so much. Once he came home, with the prospect of the cast for another 4-6 weeks, I wondered how we would cope, but he very quickly learned to amble around, he looked like a crab!

At four years old, our poor boy fell down the steps at the farm. He broke his collar bone, but not badly, we had to keep him still and calm, and he healed quite quickly. I began to wonder if he had a bone density issue and took him to the doctor. He agreed that the soy formula and perhaps his prematurity added to his lack of bone strength and suggested more calcium rich foods like yoghurt and cheese. He loved yoghurt anyway and was quite pleased to be offered it more frequently.

My older children and most of my friends have always accused me of “babying” Dale, but when you consider all we went through together, I think we just had a more dependent on each other bond than that which I developed with my other boys. They did all the normal things at the normal times, sometimes quicker, and were always out the door to play in the sandpit or navigate the clouds on their motorbike! (5!!) Whereas 6 was a sick little boy most of his infancy and needed nebulizing and special care a lot of the time. Plus of course he’s my youngest child and don’t we all baby our youngest a bit?

Life as a single mother was obviously funny!

Life as a single mother was obviously funny!

Around the time the above photo was taken, He who used to be and I decided to call it quits. I’d like to say that I was a calm, decent woman who kept all the pain from her children, but unfortunately I can’t claim that. In all honesty I was a mess and due to infidelity on his part I went a tiny bit mad. I was so broken!

This led me to quickly jump into a relationship that wasn’t good. Before I knew it, we had bought a house together and were engaged. I kind of knew it was a rebound relationship, but after a few years together, a marriage, and many dramas we too, called it quits. I had decided then and there that it was all going to be about the boys and I from that moment on. No more relationships. No more dates. No more men. I was sick of all the heart ache and drama and felt I owed the boys some time on our own. I didn’t see Fitty coming at all……

6 turned 7 years old just after we moved into a lovely big house. It was huge, each of us had our own space as well as huge big family rooms. It was one of those houses boys dream of living in. 5 and 6 each had their own rooms built high in the house, each room consisting of two levels. Up the ladder to their bed, down the ladder to toys and clothing storage. The house had a huge light-well in the middle and if you stuck your head out 5 or 6’s internal bedroom window you could pelt a pair of sox down onto your mother as she walked up or down the many stairs! This soon became their favorite game.

Dale's first time on an escalator.

Dale’s first time on an escalator.

skating without broken bones.....

still skateboarding……

Enter Fitty! I had begun to go for a drink after work with a few of my friends, and one night ran into Fitty at one of his band gigs. We hadn’t seen each other for years, only to wave or say “Hi” quickly. Here he was giving me an enormous hug and it just felt “right” I can’t explain it better. The rest is history.

dale

6 you are now 6 feet tall and skinny as a rake! You have the most wonderful sense of humour and I get sooo cranky because I just can’t stay mad at you while you make me giggle!

You make me crazy with your untidy room, and you eat so much I wonder if you are going to burst. You are such a different child to your brothers, you fill my head with wild wonderings on just how much you will achieve in your life. I can see you on TV or on the stage. Your dramatic and comedic talents are so exceptional. Watching you perform your community play last year made me so proud. You totally stole the show for me.

Dale performs in first play.

Dale performs in first play.

You make 7 and 8’s life so much happier just by being you, and I am so grateful for the way you love them and “big brother” them. They love you and think the world of you, you know? It’s unusual for siblings, especially steps, to get along so well as you all do, and I thank you for the ease, grace and fun with which you have accepted your younger siblings.

Dale at wedding

I know you are destined to be very happy, it’s something you excel at right here at home. May you always have the energy for laughter and lightness that you have now my darling child.

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