On a cloudy Sunday in May, exactly on Mother’s day, happened that our daughter was born with emergency C-section in the 26th week of my pregnancy. Dorka came to the world completely unexpected in Ferenc Csolnoky Hospital in Veszprém, from where after 1,5 weeks we were transferred to Semmelweis University Department and Pediatrics and Pediatric Health Center Nr. I. NICU, Budapest.
The first weeks we spent there were about staying alive. Dorka was artificially respirated, her circulation had to be supported, her kidneys did not work, her Botallo tube did not close. She did not have a stroke, but her overall condition was unsatisfactory. We could barely recover from the shock of her birth, when on the first morning spent in Bókay's PIC, they called us to tell, that Dorka’s colon was perforated in a well-defined spot. By the time we got into the hospital she was in the operating room. We learned, that the on-call doctor was trying to stabilize her condition all night, he discovered an intestinal perforation, thanks to him that they were able to intervene so quickly.
But the hard part only followed. There was a fungal infection in her blood that weakened her body. A week later her second surgery took place, the Botallo ligature. This period was very tough and we never knew what news we arrive on the next day. Fortunately, doctors knew what problems were to be expected with pre-term babies: they prepared for and counted on these and when troubles really happened, they recognized them and acted on, many times already one step ahead.
Then things slowly turned to the right direction. Dorka took well the obstacles: she overcame the fungal infection, her kidneys recovered, she was removed from the respiration support, her circulation was good and her breastfeeding could begin. Doctors have always informed us about Dorka’s state, prepared us to be ready for a long recovery, and that our little girl probably has to spend long weeks in the NICU department.
They always encouraged me that even if it was very difficult, I should not stop pumping my milk because Dorka was in much need of breastmilk. Milking became a mission to me, which I considered to be one of my main tasks. I held on to this when I felt helpless during the difficult days. At the end, I managed to accumulate so much breast milk that when few months after going home I cleared out our freezer, I counted 15 liters of breast milk in smaller or larger portions.
When the doctors removed her from the respiratory support, they made us sit into a comfortable armchair and placed Dorka on our chest. After three weeks, this was the first time we could take our little girl in our arms. From that day on, we had skin-to-skin contact almost every day, some days for only 1, but other days even for 5-6 hours.
During our stay in NICU, we came across with the program “I know your voice” and with the girls working in the program, who have brought with their music and their voice to the hospital room not less but life. They taught us many songs and encouraged us to sing more to our children, because it has a great impact on them and on us. At the time when it was so incredibly difficult to talk, when we felt we did not know how to get in touch with our little girl, who seemingly did not show any signs of life in the incubator, they gave us a tool: singing. Through singing we could experience our parenthood for the first time and it also helped us to express our feelings. Ever since we sing those songs for her and for our son as well every day.
The nurses became Dorka’s second parents. Gently, with love and with great determination they treated our child, cared for her 24 hours a day. They made sure she had everything she needed. And they did even more: they did not only change her diaper and feed her, but they pampered her, dressed her in beautiful dresses and proudly shown to us in the morning how pretty she was. They painted hearts and flowers on the bedhead board, and they told us very precisely how she was and what she did in those hours when we were away. They also cared for our souls while Dorka’s condition was wavering, as on the toughest days we were very broken. They were happy for us in success and encouraged us to believe that our little girl will become completely healthy. Her last surgery took place when she was two months old, in which the doctors closed the intestinal tract, which was in the earlier surgery extracted and also had her eyes treated with laser.
Dorka spent 86 days in the hospital, we visited her every day, we held her hand, patted her, we sang to her or just looked at her as she slept, as she snuffled, and we couldn’t be grateful enough to God that she is with us and that we are going ahead on our journey every day. My husband has promised to do as many push-ups every day as days Dorka spent in the hospital: he could stop his mission at 86. We could take her home at the end of July with weight of 2750 grams. Leaving the hospital did not go easy; in the first period, we called the department with different questions and problems every day and they were always happy to hear about Dorka. And we had to admit to ourselves: we miss them, not just as professionals, but personally too.
Perhaps many people - especially those who have not experienced - think that this situation is terrible, maybe almost unbearable. But I have to say, it is not. Indeed, it was probably the most difficult period of our life, but we have seen so many miracles and experienced such goodwill with which in "real life" one comes across rarely, or at least not so profound. First of all, it was very touching for us that our whole family and close friends joined together and did everything to keep us and emotionally support us. I believe that without their help we would not have come off so good from the whole situation. Second, it was amazing to live the common fate with other parents, the incredible strong bond, to make through these very difficult days together. My grandmother told me about similar human ties, which during World War II she experienced in a cellar of Budapest with 12 other people. We experienced in our "coexistence" with nurses and parents that the infinity of human goodness is manifesting in such difficult situations. We were happy for each other's successes and we cried together for each other's difficulties. I hear from many sources, that this bond is born in most NICU departments and parents who are "living" together there, are still in contact with each other after leaving the hospital.
During the hospital period we felt the homecoming will be the end of our trials, we waited for it as the date of redemption. But quickly we had to realise, the few months ahead would be just as difficult as the hospital period, even if in a little different way. Tiredness and worry made the memory of this period hard to recall, there are only tiny flashes: night duties, endless milk pumping, colic, hard times with bottle feeding, lots of baby throw ups, Dorka not being able to poop... sometimes we were very bitter. Then she learned the breast feeding, so after four months I could stop milking and feeding from bottle. We also figured that she was sensitive to milk protein, so I switched to diary-free diet and her colic disappeared. I could say, 4 months after her homecoming I started to enjoy my motherhood and I could value the little moments. As a result of the development sessions - Dévény and TSMT, which I think helped us very much - Dorka caught up in half a year, doing everything she’d have done if she was born at term, which was a great relief for us.
Today, Dorka is two and a half years old, clever, lively little girl whom we are incredibly proud of. After two and a half years, I can say that I would be poorer in my heart without the "experience" in which I met so many wonderful people, who put their hearts and souls in improving the situation and care of premature babies, and we were fortunate to have seen so many levels of human goodwill.
We believe that Dorka did feel that us, her parents and little brother, have taken each other’s hand every day and shouted really loud to the sky: “Go, Dorka! You can do it! We are waiting for you home!”