A Lot of Support When My Son was Born Prematurely

Arnaud, Polyvalent Warehouseman (Chains Department) – Waregem

I originally worked as an educator for children with a disability. But the heavy schedules (including night and weekend work) were not ideal for my family life. Through the VDAB, I followed a training to become a polyvalent warehouseman. After my internship at TVH, I was offered a job as a temporary employee in the Picking department. Now, I work full-time in the Chains department. The story I would like to tell, shows how understanding and flexible TVH has been during this particularly difficult period of my life.

 

Monday 22 August 2017 started as a completely normal day. Our baby was due on 12 November and I was gradually preparing for fatherhood. We left our house in Tournai and went to the local hospital where my wife had an appointment for a routine examination. Afterwards, I drove on to TVH in Waregem. I had just started working when I received a text message: the ambulance would take my wife to Brussels. It was urgent, her blood pressure was too high. This is also known as pre-eclampsia. I had exactly 30 minutes to get to the hospital in Brussels if I wanted to see the baby be born.

 

I was completely seized by panic. My team leader, Pascal D'halluin, ordered me to go to my wife immediately. Normally, I am a very careful driver, but you can understand that I drove exceptionally fast that day, to be there for the birth of my son.

 

When I arrived at the hospital in Brussels, I immediately put on hospital scrubs and got to see my wife. In the meantime, it had already been decided that it would not be a natural birth, but a C-section. Mylan was born at 03:56 p.m.: 3 months earlier than expected. He was immediately placed in an incubator and attached to all kinds of tubes. He was so tiny he could fit in the palm of my hand. His skin was so transparent that you could see exactly where the tubes and needles were.

 

I was terrified: for the health of my baby and because of the fact that I had suddenly become a father. I was not prepared for this yet and I thought was dreaming the whole time. Mylan would stay in hospital for another 3 months: one and a half months in the specialised hospital in Brussels, and another one and a half months in the hospital in Tournai, where we live.

 

I informed Pascal that my son was born, and he let me take paternity leave that week to stay with my wife and baby. The armchair next to Mylan's incubator served as my bed. There was a monitor that beeped when something went wrong with Mylan (heartbeat too fast or too slow, oxygen deficiency...). Regardless of the time of the day (or night): a doctor came right away to examine Mylan. That week I barely slept 5 hours.

 

The following two weeks I drove to Brussels every evening after work. I always arrived late, because of the traffic jams. My wife and I held Mylan in turn, so that our heartbeats calmed him down and we created a bond of trust. I always stayed until 1 o'clock in the morning, then crawled into bed at 3 o'clock and slept for another 3 hours before leaving for work at 6 in the morning. I carried on that routine for 2 weeks, then I was exhausted. Because I no longer had the energy to drive to Brussels every day, I didn't feel like a good dad back then. My colleagues regularly covered my shifts so that I could be home for a day. Wouter Bekaert (Team leader Warehousing) completely understood the situation: he had gone through a similar experience in the past. His personal story offered me a lot of support and gave me the confidence that everything would be fine. In addition, Ann Thermote personally expressed her support - and I thought that was a very nice gesture.

 

Thanks to my colleagues and my team leader, I was able to stay at home for 3 weeks when Mylan was finally allowed to go home on 14 November. They have puzzled a lot to make this a success, for which I am extremely grateful. I would also like to thank one specific colleague again: Gaëtan. He postponed his moving plans by a week to fill in for me at work.

 

When I look back 2 years ago, my wife and I have gone through a very difficult period, both financially and socially. The hospital bills were sky-high (although luckily we received quite a large compensation thanks to the hospitalisation insurance) and our social life has suffered a lot. For example, when we went out with Mylan, we had to bring a monitor with us for months (until March 2017). The alarm went off at the slightest irregularity it detected, so passers-by always looked strange at and even criticised us. It hurts me that people express disapproval so quickly without knowing the situation.

 

Fortunately, that is all over. Mylan is now in perfect health and grows very fast. Also as a couple, we have become stronger. I am very proud of my wife for staying so brave and strong, and I am grateful to her for giving me such a wonderful son.

 

At the beginning of this year (January 2019), I got a tattoo of a lion on my arm. It is a symbol for my wife and me as a couple, but also for Mylan: our little fighter, who has grown from a fragile cub into a strong lion.

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