We are glad to have Mama Chantal (https://www.instagram.com/chantalsimonec/), the owner and Co-founder of Artsy Bugsy art studio (https://www.instagram.com/artsybugsy.studio/) and also mama to 4 amazing children, Jayden, Jensen, Jacob, and her little fighter, Camila Aria.
It's a bittersweet moment when Mama Chantal welcomes her baby girl, Camila Aria, into this world. Shortly after her birth, baby Camila needs to be separated from her mama as she needs to be in NICU.
We are glad to have Mama Chantal share her journey with us to empower more Mamas who are going through the same journey as her.
Throughout the pregnancy, we were made aware that there was a chance of Mei Mei going into NICU as Mei Mei was diagnosed with Ventricular Septal Defect, also known as VSD, which is a congenital disability of the heart. A hole in the wall (septum) separates the heart's two lower chambers (ventricles). So Mei Mei being in NICU was something we were mentally prepared for.
It all seemed to be getting better as she grew at every doctor's appointment. The cardiologist also reassured us that her VSD should spontaneously close up, and we shouldn't worry.
Everything was fine at birth, and we both headed up into the Ward to rest for the night. At 4am, the PD on call came into the room to inform me that they had brought her down to the NICU because her oxygen levels had dropped. They were quite worried that her oxygen levels didn't come back up fast enough.
Even though we were prepared that Mei Mei would be in NICU, we didn't prepare ourselves for the duration of how long she might be in there. It's been six weeks so far, and she still hasn't been discharged.
I just feel like - No matter how "mentally prepared" a Mom is that their child may need NICU, it is heartbreaking to see your tiny child hooked on to different tubes and an IV in real life.
The whole month following that was a blur of daily trips to the hospital, trying to catch the doctors on their rounds to get updates, trying to understand and digest all the information given to us. We also had to prepare ourselves emotionally and mentally for all the worst "what ifs" that were thrown at us, AND not to forget our work too.
There was good and bad news throughout her stay in NICU.
Initially, Mei Mei's vitals are stable, and she no longer needs to be in NICU anymore. She's being "promoted" to High Dependency Ward, this doesn't sound "good", but it's an improvement as it's considered one level below NICU.
But shortly after that, Mei Mei had a really bad cry, and her oxygen level started to dip dangerously low. It took a long while to come back up, and the PD had to put the oxygen box back.
At that moment, it felt like 1 step forward and 2 steps back.
They moved Mei Mei back to NICU from the High Dependency Ward. The nurses replaced the oxygen box with the nose prongs, but her nose was so tiny they couldn't reach the level of oxygen ideal for Mei Mei, so they switched her up to a mask.
It's really hard to see more tubes connected to her at first, but I am glad she is getting better. Finally, her vitals stabilized, and she can be moved back to the High Dependency Ward for monitoring.
But it's not good news. The doctors informed us that Mei Mei failed her hearing test, and they'll do another in 4 weeks. That is because the component she failed was the test to check if the brain waves were activated. They're doubtful that she'll pass the next one. So we have to start on early intervention.
I think if someone were to tell me that my daughter is possibly hearing impaired 6 weeks ago, I would have taken the news very differently. But after going through all her breathing issues fudge, I am just very thankful that she can finally breathe on her own!
This whole journey is filled with many unknowns, but we are keeping positive and saying our prayers, so fingers crossed we're heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel 🙏🏻
1) How did you and your family cope during this period?
We're very blessed to have a very hands-on family, so my in-laws were always there to help with the older boys if they had classes, etc., and we've got great helpers that we could leave the boys at home with.
But I think they did feel a little neglected cause I did head back into work 2-3 weeks after delivery, and there were days when I would visit the hospital after work and get home late so that I couldn't put them to bed.
My boys didn't like that cause they're used to us all going to bed together!
They are really sweet throughout the journey - they're constantly asking if Mei Mei is feeling better and asking when she can come home.
My youngest son (3yo) also regularly prays with my in-laws for Mei Mei to come home quickly. The kids' love for each other was the most rewarding part of being a mummy!
They always asked when Mei Mei would arrive throughout my pregnancy, and now that she's here. They haven't met her, and they are constantly asking how she is and when she'll be home / if she's better.
2) Any advice you want to share with other mummies that gone through a similar experience as you?
There are a few things I consciously do and don't do actually -
1. Do be there for your spouse. It can get exhausting but try not to take it out on each other. I found that this whole experience has made my husband and me closer because we never used to prioritize "date nights" with 3 boys, so now when we go to the hospital daily, we suddenly have so much time to talk without constant "mama, mama, mama" in the background 😂
2. Don't ask "why us" - I feel like this is just a slippery slope you don't want to go on.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help and delegate - I created a WhatsApp group chat with my in-laws purely for the older boys' schedule to help us with all of their classes because I still wanted their lives to go on as per usual.
4. Do be grateful - that we're blessed with a beautiful child, and take comfort that they're well taken care of by the nurses and doctors. We're very blessed to be living in Singapore, where we have access to top-notch medical care.
I would also like to say that we haven't reached the light at the end of the tunnel. It is there. It may feel like it's flickering on and off from time to time, but keep faith that we'll reach it 💖