Nothing could prepare you for meeting your baby for the first time. After all the scans, blood tests and doctors appointments it was almost time to meet my baby girl.

After my waters broke on Monday morning the 22nd of August, I thought for sure she would be here later that day, however she had other plans. Monday came and went and my contractions had only started to hurt around 10pm that night. By 6.30 the next morning they were still there but not regular and after not sleeping at all on Monday night I was put on a drip Tuesday morning. I was told this would bring my contractions on hard and fast however that also didn’t happen and it was a long day! At about 2pm on Tuesday after being on the drip for almost 8 hours it was time to push. After 2 hours of pushing, little miss still didn’t think it was the right time to come out. My contractions were still only 2-3 mins apart and only lasted long enough for me to push twice. I was exhausted, tired and I just wanted it to be over. At one stage a actually told the doctor I couldn’t do it any more and tried to stop.

In the end Montana was brought into the world via Kiwi Extraction (suction cap) at 4.45pm. The nurse placed her on my belly and she didn’t move, didn’t make a sound or didn’t cry. I ask if she was alive and I had no longer got those words out and they took her off me. They worked on her on the resus table, told me she was breathing but not real well and took her to special care. I then didn’t see her again until 7.30pm that night.

I remember laying there after I had her thinking she’s finally here. After that long 30+ hours my little girl was here. I never could prepare my self for what the pediatrician was going to tell me next. She came into the room and told me she was okay but she was born with quite an extensive cleft lip and palate. I nodded my head and said okay, but it didn’t really sink in. I knew of cleft lips as we had a friend who had one but I didn’t know how much it could affect one little baby.

As she was undiagnosed I was not prepared at all. I couldn’t breastfed like I had planned. Her cleft effected her hard and soft palate therefore she could not form a vacuum to suction the milk out. She couldn’t even suck a normal bottle teat.I tried and tried to breastfeed but it was just not possible. She didn’t take the the haberman specialty feeding teat that the hospital provided to us. She kept falling asleep while feeding and ended up being fed with a Nasal Gastric Tube (NGT) for the first three weeks. She finally took to a Chu Chu teat and started to drink her whole bottle without falling asleep and after three weeks we were able to take the NGT out, the day before we flew down to Brisbane for our first cleft clinic!

She also had jaundice and spent 24 hours under photo therapy lights.She was so sleepy I had to wake her every 3-4 hours for feeds. The nurses had to keep testing her blood sugar levels as they kept dropping which meant heel pricks all the time.

At her newborn hearing test she passed in her right ear and failed in her left. She was then retested and she failed in both ears. Before her hearing test I was prepped that she could fail and it was normal for cleft babies to fail this test as the ears, nose and throat are all connect and the fluid may not have drained from her ears, causing a blockage and hearing loss. If she passed or failed I would be given a referral to Audiology and she would undergo a complete hearing test that will test for temporary and permanent hearing loss.

Between trying to get Montana to feed so we could be discharged from hospital, learning how to be a mum and look after a newborn, I spent so much time researching about clefts and learning about how to look after a baby with a cleft. Having a baby born with an undiagnosed cleft was hard. There is nothing I would have changed about Montana but had her cleft been picked up in my ultrasound I could have been prepared with feeding equipment and more understanding of what a cleft was.

by Casey Hancock



Montanas Birth Story