When the twins were born they were very little – 4.9 and 5.4lbs. They were also born with black hair which was a bit of a surprise; but apparently this isn’t unusual for new borns. Just as eye colour changes, so does hair colour.
One of the first new born problems we encountered was Barnaby’s inability to retain and maintain heat. This is considered dangerous because a new born may need to draw on glucose reserves to keep its body warm. At one point, he was taken away and placed under a heated lamp. He was then put in a heated cot and brought back to me. He stayed in the ‘hot cot’ for a few days until he could regulate his own body temperature.
Emilia had a red mark that started on her nose and spread over her forehead and eyelids. I thought it might be a permanent birthmark but after about a year it started to fade. It reappears very faintly when she gets really upset, but otherwise it has pretty much disappeared. Again, this is not unusual.
The twins were induced at 37 weeks and so when they were born they were quite under-developed. Consequently, Emilia was unable to latch-on which is common in premature babies, and so despite my best efforts she only drank breast milk from a bottle.
Barnaby showed a willingness to latch-on but something was preventing him from getting as much milk as he should. Upon a full examination, it was discovered that he was tongue tied. This is when the string of tissue under the baby’s tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short. Whilst we were in the hospital I was asked if I was happy for the unnecessary bit to be cut and it was done very quickly after he had been given a little bit of a sugar hit. Thereafter he could breastfeed without a problem.
A few days later when Barnaby was being examined again, the nurse pointed out a red mark on his chest. It stood proud of his skin and was a deep red colour. She told me it was a ‘haemangioma’ which is due to the extensive development of blood vessels in that area; and that it would grow and fill with blood, and then after a few years it would start to disappear. Barnaby is nearly three and the mark is probably 2cm wide and 0.5cm in protrusion. The blood has disappeared and the mark has deflated and is now a pale pink colour.
Between 5 and 15 days after a baby is born the umbilical stump dries out, turns black and drops off; then a couple of weeks later the belly button heals completely. Once the cord remnants were gone it was clear there was a bit of a problem with Emilia. Both her belly button and the area around it protruded a lot. It wasn’t an ‘outy’ it was more like a little hill. We took her to see the doctor who referred us to the hospital where we were advised it was an umbilical hernia. Apparently umbilical cords pass through a small opening in their stomach muscles which closes soon after birth. An umbilical hernia occurs when the stomach muscles don’t join completely and the intestine or other tissues bulge through this weak spot around the belly button. We were advised that it wouldn’t be causing her any pain and that if it didn’t shrink back over the next two years we should return and they would consider options. Luckily it did shrink back after about a year or so and she now has a perfect little button.
Having researched each problem at the time and again to write this, it seems to me that these things are perfectly natural and reasonably common in newborns; but it didn’t stop me from being in a constant state of anxiety for quite a few months after they were born.
I was lucky (I can say that now even though it didn’t feel that way at the time); we were kept in hospital for about 5 days and so the nursing staff were able to spot problems and imperfections quickly, and provide us with the information we needed.
Whilst supportive in some ways I didn’t find our health visitors able to help us with many of the issues we identified after we returned home. Instead they referred us to the GP again and again. A large majority of the GPs we saw either seemed bored with my concerns and/or left me with the distinct impression that I had become a neurotic Mum. To avoid this I decided to visit doctors only when absolutely necessary and instead became a homeopathy and acupuncture convert; something that has proved invaluable over the last few years.