Baby Dewan changed their lives

Both Ansu and DW Botha are in their thirties and knew what they wanted from life. Ansu is a business consultant and DW has an aluminium factory. They are proud parents to their special baby Dewan, whose birth changed their lives in so many ways.

“First the romance, the perfect wedding and blissful married life! Then in 2008, brought the big question – to have or not to have children. At 32 years of age and me with problems like endometriosis, it seemed time was limited and we decided to see what happens. We were ecstatic to fall pregnant within a month! Unfortunately, on 6 April 2008, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks.

We decided to let nature take its course and were very surprised to be pregnant again 7 weeks later. Though determined not to be anxious about miscarriage I was terrified when I again experienced bleeding at 7, 9 and 11 weeks. I only truly started feeling pregnant when I started showing at 16 weeks and found out that we were expecting a boy.

As clear as amniotic fluid

At 26 weeks I awoke one morning surrounded by a clear, wet patch in bed. Not knowing what to think I called my doctor for an appointment, but tested negative for an amniotic fluid leak. The leaking continued and a week later I went for another check up with the same results – this time I was labeled paranoid. At 28½ weeks it tested positive for amniotic fluid and I had to be admitted to hospital immediately. We were allowed to go home and pick up some ‘stuff’. What a new meaning to a simple word like ‘stuff’! What to pack for an unexpected baby?! We rushed around the house in a frantic panic, grabbing whatever seemed practical at the time although with hindsight was definitely not! DW grabbed an old backpack from his free roaming days for the baby’s things, the label reading “Animal Active”. This became the permanent nappy bag amidst much humour!

I received steroid injections to mature the baby’s lungs as well as medication to suppress premature labour. On 20 December 2008 – the due date of my first pregnancy and 30 weeks into this one – I was off to theatre for a Caesarean section, as it seemed that infection had set in. Everything happened very quickly. My husband was still fumbling with the camera, when the anaesthetist said that this was the moment if he wanted to take some pictures – the baby was emerging! With very soft but determined cries Dewan, our little miracle, met the world at 15h08, weighing a whole 1,6kg. We held him for a quick photo, after which he was rushed off to NICU, with his dad in tow.

Anxious, overjoyed, humbled

DW had various updates and cell phone pictures for me throughout the afternoon. Dewan was a little fighter and had to be sedated for the intubation! I was finally wheeled in to see my baby at 19h00 that evening and was stunned at his size, at how fragile and strange he seemed. The rhythmic ‘purring’ of the oscillator, joined by an undirected orchestra of beeps and shrill sounds, with bright neon lights adding to the impersonal and cold atmosphere – it took some courage to reach out and touch Dewan. Amazingly, his little hand immediately responded with a firm grasp of my finger. While his fragility was emphasised by all the tubes and pipes, he was still an emotional little human being, eagerly responding to comforting touch. I felt completely overwhelmed by this unfamiliar, different world of whose existence I’d never really known. I realised how fragile pregnancy and the life created within really is and that, although pregnancy is not an illness, it should be respected and handled with the greatest of care to preserve the miracle of life inside.

By the next day I was determined to become mobile so that I could visit Dewan. I felt an intense need to let him know that he was not alone, to comfort him with my familiar voice, to soften his new world of harsh lights and noises. We sat with him, not knowing how or where to touch. I studied him from top to toe. While I don’t know what I had expected, I was amazed at how complete and perfectly formed Dewan was, though his skin was see-through and his body was covered in lanugo, making him look other-worldly and more vulnerable.

Spot the NICU Mom

I quickly adapted to the NICU routine and the constant expressing. You can spot a NICU mommy from a mile away – they all carry a ‘six pack cooler box’ with precious cargo! It felt like I was permanently busy with my breasts. I had to treat them with care and express every 3 hours. For half an hour before I warmed them to soften lumps, expressed for half an hour and then applied cold packs and frozen cabbage leaves to cool and ease the angry inflammation, followed by a vigorous and painful rub with Arnica oil. The cabbage leaves were a source of some light relief, as my hospital room had a permanent odour that lifted many an eyebrow!

My days revolved around how Dewan was doing – did he pick up weight, were his feeds increased? He again proved his tenacity by being weaned off oxygen within 48 hours! He had a bout of jaundice and looked very cute under the lights with his protective goggles. After only one week, Dewan thankfully latched directly, although for only one breast feed a day to prevent weight loss from the sheer exertion of the task at hand.

A brain scan was done and detected small bleedings in both his ventricles. He had tremors in his legs, a possible sign of neurological damage or dormicum withdrawal. Once again we had to wait and see. To our great relief the tremors disappeared.

Mother touch

I was committed to kangaroo care and spent hours every day with Dewan on my chest, covered with a dark towel to provide him with some shelter from the harsh lights and sounds. Life settled into a routine and I spent most of my time on the hard NICU chairs, causing constant backache.

Dewan was discharged at six weeks, weighing 1,8kg and breastfeeding 8 feeds a day. We were welcomed by a vicious storm that first night, leaving us without power and fumbling to feed in the dark. The three hourly feeds took an hour and a half each, with loads of medication and vitamins having to be administered in between.

Long walk to freedom

The preemie journey is a long journey. Dewan had a groin hernia repaired at 10 weeks (2,2kg). He started with colic at 12 weeks (most days crying – screaming really – for 8 to 10 hour stretches) and had such bad reflux that he needed a Nissen repair at 14 weeks, when he was just 3kg. The colic abated after 7 weeks, ironically right after we had a very bad accident coming from hospital. I rolled my car with Dewan inside. Yet another miracle – we weren’t hurt.

The journey continues with physiotherapy to assist with muscle balancing and speech therapy to desensitise his mouth and assist him with eating solids. He is now 9 and half months old (corrected 7 months) and an absolute joy!

A friend of mine phoned me in tears a few days after Dewan’s birth, ‘sympathising’ with our situation. What a negative experience, as we were so thankful that he was doing well. Dewan’s birth was the most rewarding experience of our lives and seeing our happy and bright baby provides us with constant happiness and fulfillment! We generally approach life with gusto and decided from the beginning that a positive attitude and a sense of humour to lighten the stress is what this experience called for – a decision that made all the difference in the world! ”

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