As I picked up the call from my colleague, Annie, I was thrilled. I had always had beautiful exchanges with this experienced Birth Doula. Annie was consistently generous and always ready to discuss her thoughts and experiences as a Birth Companion.
I had always experienced Annie as a calm and as a thoughtful speaking person. Therefore, I was even more startled when I heard the urgency in her voice. She was calling from her client’s apartment, she was there for the post-birth follow-up visit. She quickly explained that the family was exhausted from comforting their newborn. The baby, less than a week old, had been crying nearly of non-stop since arriving home. The mother explained that breastfeeding was difficult and they did not know what they were doing wrong.
After a closer look at the newborn, Annie recognised signs of serious dehydration; lethargic, ashen skin color and the baby’s skin was lacking elasticity. After examining the baby’s mouth, the reason for the crying became clear: Ankyloglossia, also known as Tongue-tie. Quickly thinking, she phoned me and asked for my assistance to find the nearest and best hospital in the area to which to transport the family.
I called the neonatal unit of a well-known hospital and explained the situation. Confident in our assessment skills as professional Birth and Postpartum Companions, the nurse on the telephone asked me to hold the line until she could confirm that a Doctor and surgeon was immediately available. I was relieved as the nurse relayed that the baby would be seen and treated immediately. Calling Annie back, I informed her that the hospital staff was expecting them, and sent the exact directions to the hospital via SMS message.
An hour later I received another call from Annie. Relieved and full of gratitude of our teamwork, she explained that the baby was seen as soon as they arrived. The attending doctor immediately confirmed the underside of baby’s tongue was attached so closely to the floor of the mouth, that it could not drink from the mother’s breast.
Astoundingly this baby’s Tongue-tie was somehow missed by multiple hospital staff; midwives, and paediatricians.
As soon as the surgeon released the tongue with an incision, the baby drank as never before. Annie could see the baby’s color change from ash-grey to a robust pink. Content and with a belly full of milk, the baby fell asleep deeply in his mother’s arms.
We rejoiced, our hearts overflowing with gratefulness that we were able to quickly help this family, this baby with a potential life-threatening situation. We parted with the knowledge that we just made a huge difference in this new family’s life, a family that had existed for less than a week. I will always be grateful to Annie for coming into my life, sharing with me her perspective on the world of birth. I will also always be grateful for her trusting me that day, in such a precarious and frightening situation. This experience made it very clear to me the value of our support and knowledge.