Kya Grace Schwertfeger was born at 6pm on January 23, 2010
She was 2.79 kg and 50 centimeters long at birth. (Or, 6 lbs 1 oz. and 20 inches, for us metric illiterate Americans.) (Myself included.)
Mother and Baby Kya were very happy and healthy after a normal birth, even considering a loooonnnggg two days in labor. She was worth it!
This is Kya about 3 hours after birth:
THIS is Kya about 10 hours after birth:
Why is my baby canary yellow? That’s what I was asking at 6 o’clock in the morning! It turns out that Kya was affected with a fairly rare form of jaundice called “newborn blood incompatibility jaundice”, caused by a mom who has O+ blood and a dad who has A+ blood. When the baby gets the dad’s (A +) blood type, there is a clash of antibodies in the birth canal that causes the baby to become jaundiced very quickly after birth. That is why Kya was yellow, and that is why we were rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when she was about 12 hours old.
Fortunately, I was able to stay in the unit in order to feed Kya. She spent 2 full days on what is called a “Billi-bed”, which is an incubator with a special light that treats jaundice. She also received two intravenous doses of a special antibody that destroyed the jaundice in her system. We weren’t allowed to take her out of the bed to hold her or even feed her. I expressed milk into a bottle and then stuck my hands into the incubator to give it to her.
After two days in Intensive Care, we were released to go home because Kya had improved so dramatically. Her “biliruben”, which is the number that indicates the severity of jaundice, was practically normal. We were allowed to take her home as long as we continued to keep her on the lighted bed, which we rented from the hospital. For the first two days she was home, I was allowed to take her off the bed to feed her, but had to place her directly back on it to receive the light therapy. There was a 6 day lapse between the first time that Jacob got to hold his baby girl (Saturday, when she was born) and the second time (Friday, when she came off the bilibed.) You can imagine he wasn’t thrilled with THAT arrangement. And I think (besides the worry) that is the hardest part of having a baby with jaundice. Not being able to hold and love on this brand new, amazing child!
The potential effects of severe jaundice are serious and scary. An extremely high biliruben can cause extensive brain damage and harmful seizures. Treatment is usually blood exchange therapy, which is a traumatizing procedure consisting of multiple blood transfusions. We are so grateful to have been cared for the way we were. The medical staff was excellent. Kya’s jaundice was caught early and treated quickly. And although it WAS very serious, she will suffer no damaging effects.
Jacob and I’s future children are at risk for the same problem. Anytime that you have a combination of the blood types that we do (Mom is O+, Dad is A+, baby is A+) you have a potential for blood incompatibility jaundice. It is fairly rare and has variables other than the ones I’ve mentioned here, but it is a real possibility. It’s also easily avoidable. The baby can be tested at birth for high biliruben levels (as any future children born to Jacob and I will.)
I wish we would’ve known we were at risk. But I know that there are thousands of other things that could be a problem and could be tested for at birth. You just can’t prevent everything.
It was definitely a learning experience.
Lesson #1: To be an advocate for myself (and my family) and trust my own instincts. If I hadn’t mentioned something to the nurse it could’ve been hours before my midwife did her rounds and discovered Kya’s jaundice.
Lesson #2: To stand on what I KNOW to be true, even in the face of uncertainty. God is good and faithful and has our joys and tragedies at the forefront of His heart. He protects us, heals us, and comforts us, regardless of the circumstance. And He works everything together for HIS glory.
We spent 3 weeks in Johannesburg after Kya was born, and we have been back in Zambia for 2 weeks now. My mom has been with us for the last 2 weeks and it has been a pleasure and a blessing to have her company (and HELP.) Who knew that you needed your mother the most right at the exact time that you are mothering the most?
I wish you could be here to cuddle and kiss Miss Kya. She is an absolute treasure and we are thrilled to be a family of four. And just to assure you that she is no longer 6 pounds OR yellow:
Kya at 5 weeks on February 27 (9 lbs. 1 oz and rosy pink!):