Jaundice: Because there aren't enough worries as a first-time parent

Written by: Christopher

My introduction into the world of parenting has been a happy and relatively comfortable one. I give all that credit to my adorable son Everett, who is healthy and easygoing. The healthy part is crucial because it means I’m not being burdened with parental worry. Like most new parents, my emotions will take a beating if there are signs my son isn’t feeling well. I know this because at one time, we did have a scare about our son’s health. We were one of the unlucky parents who had a baby with jaundice.

I told you before that our son entered into this world with one magnificent cone head. We were warned that since he had a head that resembled a gourd, that he was more susceptible to getting jaundice. The day after his birth, the paediatrician was happy with Everett’s health and allowed him to be discharged from the hospital, so we had completely erased the threat of jaundice from our minds.

A few days later, Everett was sleeping a lot. I know newborns just sleep, poop and eat, but Everett was just doing the sleep (and poop in his sleep) part. He would eat, but we had to wake him every time. He started “sleep eating” or just falling asleep at the breast. He would almost never open his eyes, even if he was crying. It got so bad that when our midwife pricked him for some blood tests, he didn’t even respond. At this point, we were getting a really bad case of the first time parent “freak out.” We didn’t have a clue what was wrong with Everett, but we were pretty sure it was awful. I’ve told you before about my rather extensive imagination, and I was creating all sorts of nightmare scenarios that were better suited for a Halloween movie marathon.

After enjoying only a few days back home, it was decided our best option was to return to the hospital to have Everett checked out. My father ended up taking us, which was fantastic since he is a doctor and allowed us to skip through a rather germ-filled waiting room. My dad continually assured us that this was just a preventive measure and Everett wasn’t facing any major physical danger. As the new parent who was seeing a mass decrease in my son’s alertness, my dad’s words had as much value as owning a boat in the Sahara Desert.

I realized it was only preventive measures, but my son was still being blindfolded and put into what looked like an incubator. It was decided he needed phototherapy, which would knock down his bilirubin levels (high levels caused jaundice and lethargy). We were told the therapy would be at least 12 hours, and we’d be spending the night at the hospital. It didn’t really matter that this was “preventative measures”, because seeing my brand new son like this was as delightful as a bath with piranhas.

Or at least, it was unpleasant for me and my wife. Everett believed he was on vacation. He stretched out in his little booth and put his hands behind his head. He looked ready for a tan or just some sweet relaxation. It was incredibly hard watching my son blindfolded and “trapped” inside a glass case, but after a while, I started to realize it was a “weekend at the resort” for him.

I’m thankful that the hospital allowed me to stay the night. It was great that my wife and I could sleep beside each other and talk through our worries. I know I’d have created a pool of tears if I was stuck at home by myself. I was glad I could be with Emily, and also watch Everett.

The experience started to become much easier to handle the first time Everett came out of the glass case. He was to spend three hours in the case, and then would come out for an hour to be fed and be changed, and then he would go back in (the time spent in the case was to total 12 or so hours of therapy). Everett came out very awake, and took to the breast better than he had ever before. He even started to look around the room and do some interaction. It was the most awake I’d seen him, and so it was clear the therapy worked.

It was a tough experience at first, but then I started to feel much better when I saw it was helping Everett. On top of that, Everett clearly loved going inside his little “tanning booth.” All my worries and emotional turmoil turned out to be just a really bad way to pass the time. The therapy ended up giving Everett his energy and since that day he has been feeding well and been really healthy.

It has been our lone scare as parents. It won’t be our only one. I was reminded how important it is for parents to support each other, and being able to spend the night together made the experience so much more bearable. I am now confident when we have our next parental scare that my wife and I will be able to remain strong in support of each other.

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