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The eighth week

By this time Lucy seemed to have lost her focus. She seemed to have lost her delicacy and her movements had become grosser and less informed by intentionality. She seemed to feel per?secuted, trying to get rid of something—sneezing, hiccoughing, crying, mouthing, flailing her arms.

Her hand goes towards her mouth but does not touch it. The nurse thinks that she does not like the headbox. Both hands go out to the side as if she is trying to gain a purchase. She stares at the oxygen outlet; her right hand stretches up and pushes the oxygen outlet to her mouth and her mouth opens against it again and again and she is crying. She pants hard and quietens. Her right hand is crooked around the oxygen tube. Again her head lifts, searching, and she is crying. And again her mouth jams up against the oxygen tube. She moves away and she is panting. This desperate search continues. Her eyes open and close, look around, and seem unfocused.

It seemed as if she was making a huge attempt to gain a purchase and to pull herself out of a persecuted state, to find something. This was full of pain for her, and heartbreaking to watch. Eventually she took refuge in dismantling her perceptions and becoming unfocused. I often spoke to mother on the ward, and at this time she did not speak about Lucy unless I did. At the psycho-social meeting I found that others besides me were worried by mother's seeming lack of attachment to Lucy. It was decided to put Lucy on a trickle of oxygen from a small tube taped to her nose so that she could be taken out of the headbox and the parents could lift her out of her cot more easily.

On day sixty I went to the cool nursery with these thoughts in my head.

Mother was changing Lucy's cardigan. She was worried about whether the new cardigan was too rough. Lucy was wide awake, looking around and at her Mother. Mother kept on saying that she was going to pick her up for a little cuddle. I felt anxious about whether she was really going to do this. Eventually mother picked her up and I helped with the lead. She sat down and I asked her if I could stay to watch. She said yes. Lucy was nestled in her left arm, looking up into her Mother's eyes. She looked content but was also looking for something with her mouth. Her Mother said that she had not got a very good suck; the speech therapist would try to help her with it. I said that I thought she loved her Mother holding her and that she was looking for something to go into her mouth. Mother looked interested. She dipped her little finger into some sterilised water and put it into Lucy's mouth. Lucy took it and sucked strongly. She rested every now and then but her suck was strong and rhythmic. Mother said that she was sucking her finger far in, she was afraid of hurting her throat, and every now and then she shot it out. I said that I thought she liked being in control. Mother laughed and said,

"Just like her mother, or so her father thinks!” Mother was laughing and smiling. I had never seen her look so animated. She was obviously thrilled. She pointed out to me that Lucy was holding her Mother's hand to her mouth. Her little finger nails were in her mother's hand. If mother relaxed her hand, Lucy held it there. Lucy looked unbelievably well and right. This continued for some time. Then it was time for Lucy's feed. Mother said that she would put Lucy down and put the milk down the tube. I said that if she wanted to go on holding Lucy I could hold the tube and she agreed. In the meantime Daniel's feed was forgotten. A passing nurse suggested that she put Lucy to the breast. Mother seemed hesitant. Lucy went on sucking on her finger. The nurse suggested it again. Mother looked around nervously and asked if there were any midwives around. She undid her shirt and put Lucy near her nipple. Lucy put her tongue against it, opened her mouth to take it, sucked, and then cried. This happened several times with Lucy quite clearly going for the breast and then coming off it. Mother felt that she was too hungry, that she needed feeding. She did up her shirt and another nurse suggested a bottle. Mother tried the bottle. Lucy licked it, took it, rested, took it, rested, looked sleepy. After some while Mother decided to put the rest down the tube. I held the tube and suggested to Mother that she put her finger in Lucy's mouth so that she associated sucking with the feeling in her tummy. She did this and Lucy began sucking vigorously. I suggested that she tried the bottle which had just a little bit of milk left in it. Mother checked with the nurse who agreed. Lucy resisted the bottle, turning her head. She screwed up her face and then took the bottle with her head turned away from Mother in very good strong sucks. She held her right hand inside Mother's shirt and Mother said that she was stroking her breast.

The milk down the tube was finished. Very little was left in the bottle and Lucy seemed to have finished, but Mother wanted this tiny amount put down the tube. I remembered how when the twins were first born and Mother was expressing tiny amounts of milk, a nurse had said to her it did not matter how small it was, it was so precious and could be put down the tube. Mother had felt that this was the one thing that only she could do for her babies.

Lucy lay back on Mother's lap very relaxed. One eye had been open during the bottle feed.

Now both were closed. Mother asked me why I had particularly sat with her this afternoon, had I thought that Lucy was neglected? I said that I had thought that she had lost her focus.

She had wanted to suck and I thought that she had become more confused about it. She said oh yes, she thought that too. She noted that Lucy's breathing was easy now, not laboured, although she was on her back. She thought that she would improve now that she was out of her headbox. She touched her chest very gently and watched her breathing. She looked at her baby daughter with tremendous pleasure and delight, talking to her, smiling and hugging her.

She said that now they would show the doctors and Lucy would soon be off her oxygen. This echoed my suspicion that Lucy was hanging on to the oxygen in some depressed state, unable to find anything else to hold on to.

I felt that mother and baby had found each other.

 
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