"It wasn't Supposed to Be like This!"
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
This is Part 1 of my journey...
When I was pregnant with our first child, we had just moved to Scottsdale and were unpacking, setting up rooms and getting to know our new city! Jesse and I joined a club and decided to go swim some laps to help my back soreness. So, we did, and then on our way home we stopped by the grocery store. We split up to divide and conquer and I felt something run down my leg. I went to go find him to tell him I was going to the bathroom. Maybe I had to go potty! Well.. Nothing came out so we checked out, went home and I noticed the same thing kept happening. I called my doctor and he said that it didn't really sound like my water broke, but to be safe go to the hospital to get checked. No bags packed, wet hair and all, we hopped back in the car and went to the hospital. I put on that gown, and waited patiently for a nurse to come in. She did a quick swab and within minutes came back and said, "You'll be staying here until you meet your baby." Excuse me what? This can't be.. I was only 30 weeks, I still had stuff to do, I have nothing here, and that's 10 weeks away from the 40 week marker! NO way in hell this is happening right now. It was a slow leak, so I was put on strict bed rest in the hospital trying to buy all the time I could..
I was pumped full of antibiotics and two steroid shots to speed up the baby's lung maturity. I had to constantly be wearing the monitoring belts around my belly and I was told to drink as much water as possible so I could replenish the water I was losing. I couldn't get up, only to go to the bathroom... I couldn't even stand for a shower... I had to sit on a stool. At this point my mom flew in so Jesse could still somewhat work and I could have company. I wasn't contracting but once in a while so I wasn't in labor. At about 31 weeks, Jesse, my Mom and me in a wheelchair were taken down to the NICU to get a tour because this was where we would ultimately go since we were going to have a preemie.. I remember really feeling welcomed by the nurses but holy crap, I'm touring the NICU??? You plan and make reservations for tours.. You tour schools, businesses, homes, in no way was I planning on touring the NICU where sick babies go! Everything in my pregnancy had been fine up until this point! What on earth happened? What did I do wrong?
The goal was to make it to 32 weeks so we could do a lung maturity test to see if he was ready to be delivered in order to risk infection. They kept telling me, "You'd rather have a preemie than a sick and infected baby." Well.. the test turned out positive so that meant since I wasn't in active labor, they would start me on Pitocin. I labored all through the night, got my epidural at 3:00 in the morning, and labored well into the morning as well. Frequently a nurse would rush in and flip me from one side to the next because the baby's heart rate was going down. This was really not fun during the night when I was trying to sleep.. It scared me and I just really had no idea what was going on..
Sure enough, after much of the same thing, the nurses didn't like what was happening so they called my doctor and he scheduled an emergency c-section. Turns out, the cord was wrapped around his neck three times and that's why his heart rate would go down when I'd contract. In the OR (Operating Room) there were probably 10-12 nurses, doctors, specialists etc ready for any and everything.. Talk about making you more nervous... This was supposed to be the moment I met my son and as soon as he was out, they showed him to me quickly and took him away within seconds to check everything, get his stats, and then move him to the NICU. My husband followed along and I was left to be stapled up all by myself.. This wasn't "supposed" to be happening. I wasn't planning on a c-section. I remember them having to put many blankets on my upper body because the nerves and worry were making me shake so bad. What was happening right now?
After I was done being "put back together" they took me to recovery... Again, I was all by myself because baby of course was the priority.. After being done in there, they asked me if I wanted them to wheel my bed to the NICU to see my sweet son... Well, of course I did but yet I was nervous.. What would he look like? What would he be hooked up to? Could I even hold him? I was scared but all these thoughts I just kept to myself because I had to keep it together for everyone else .. Me delivering a 32 weeker was already a shock to our family and extended family, so I knew everyone was already nervous and scared.. They didn't need to see me, Mom nervous and scared also.. I had to be the strong one. At least that's what I thought..
So, on my way to the NICU, our hospital has this tradition where you push this button and a lullaby is played throughout the hospital.. It meant a baby was born. From touring the hospital, this was something I was looking forward to when I had my baby, but it just felt strange to me because in my mind at the time, my little guy had much longer to bake.. I still couldn't believe he was here. I pushed the button and off we went. The big wooden NICU doors opened and they took me right to the front pod (the one closest to everyone where the babies of biggest concern were put.) My husband was there with him and all I could see was this teeny tiny little baby with a giant IV sticking straight out of his head.. Well isn't that nice I thought? Why the hell is that there making him look like a freaking unicorn? What great first pictures that will make! This child hasn't been in the world but about an hour or two at this point and he's been poked and poked.. Ultimately I found out, that was the best spot for his IV to go vein wise and he wouldn't try to mess with it up there.
This was right after he was born, before the IV
So.. after that little shocker of seeing him and that IV, I noticed he had many wires hooked up to him, a feeding tube in his nose and all these monitors just starred right at me.. I didn't know what anything meant but I just knew I felt so helpless at that moment. He was "supposed" to be laying on me, I was "supposed" to be trying to nurse him, and I sure as hell wasn't supposed to be looking at him with a nervous feeling or scared to death.. They asked me if I wanted to hold him.. I responded with, "Can I?" He just looked so fragile and how in the hell do you hold a baby with ease hooked up to all those wires? I was afraid something would go wrong or an alarm would be triggered. It was a quick hold just to get a picture and I quickly gave him a kiss and gave him back. I said goodbye and they rolled me to my room.
The room was a new room from my peri-natal room, but when they rolled me in, guess what? Yep.. I was alone... No baby, no one around except for my nurses. My baby and husband were "supposed" to be in there with me.. We were "supposed" to be calling back family to come see our first born. I was at a loss.. Like what the hell do I do in here? I mean I know I recover from my c-section, but I'm in the hospital without my guy with me..There is no little bassinet next to my bed. I'm not quite sure those of you that haven't experienced this will ever understand the feeling of that pain, confusion and sadness of being separated from your baby. Jesse would bounce back and forth from my room to the NICU and bring me new pictures and videos... I was so thankful for that, it's all I had. I couldn't just get up and go see him... It was shitty... Plain and simple, really really shitty.
That night the nurses made me get up and take a walk.. OUCH.. Where did I want to walk? Well, duh.. Down to see my baby. It was very painful for sure but I was determined to make it there so I could sit in the chair by his bassinet to watch and see him. When you get to the NICU you have to call in and give your name etc. to be allowed in. It felt like a barrier... I had to be approved to "see" my baby... I walked in, scrubbed in and washed up, and made it to his pod. All I could do was just look.. I think at this point I was still in disbelief that we were here, in the NICU at 32 weeks and I just had a 4.1 pound preemie. He was absolutely perfect with his fuzzy little body, yellow skin and little tiny features. Thankfully he was able to breath on his own. The NICU nurse of course asked if I wanted to hold my son and I did since the first time I felt so nervous. I just remember balancing on the edge of the chair because that was the only some what comfortable position and her handing me Oliver. I was in heaven no doubt, but I was sore as hell too. It was only for a few minutes and then I had to head back to my room because I just couldn't sit like that much longer.
I ended up stying the maximum days which was maybe 4 in my room and going back and forth to the NICU like I did, all while trying to take the time to rest and recover my body.. On the last day, discharge day, it was not the happy day I had anticipated.. Why would I celebrate? Yeah I got to go home, but not my baby.. He was just starting his journey there and we had no idea when we could bring him home.. They brought my wheelchair, Jesse grabbed all our stuff and pulled up the car. It was time.. Being wheeled through that hospital with a puffy tummy that just gave birth, I had nothing to show for. No baby with me, just bags, and a water bottle. They helped me in the car and away we drove home. I'm not really sure what my thoughts were... I don't know if I had any emotions left, or even how to process what was happening. I was numb to it all and still confused as ever as to why this all happened in the first place.. What did I do wrong?
We made it home and I think someone had even put some decorations in our yard.. It was hard to find joy in those things because I wasn't bringing our baby home yet... He wasn't ready. I had to leave him at the hospital by himself with a nurse to look after him.. Don't get me wrong, NICU nurses are some of my favorite people on this planet but they still aren't me.. I had to pump all day and all night so that I could bring milk up to the hospital for them to feed him through his tube.. When I could drive myself, I would spend all my days there by his little crib just watching him, reading, pumping, holding him, doing skin to skin, asking nurses questions, documenting, journaling, sing to him, changing the tiniest of diapers, picking out an outfit for him, dressing him all while he was still hooked up to all his cords and wires. Those darn monitor alarms and beeping noises still give me PTSD to this day..
He ended up in the "Feeders and Growers" room which is where you stayed until you were discharged. After 5 whole weeks of Oliver being in the NICU, we finally got the news that we could bring him home! Exciting right? Yes. BUT..... what was it going to look like at home? Those little tiny formula bottles we had to use with a preemie nipples, he would choke on sometimes while drinking... Scared the living heck out of me. He was too little to latch still so I had to bottle feed him a mixture of high-calorie formula to make him grow and breast milk. It wasn't "supposed" to be like this, I was planning to nurse him.. Why has everything been so hard and totally not what I thought would happen?
After his first bath in the hospital
Well.. That little 4.1 pound preemie is now my 75 pound 6 1/2 year old Kindergarten boy! If someone could have given me a glimpse at what he would look like and be like now, I would have been a lot more calm. We feel very fortunate that even though his life started differently than most, his life now is the same as any other his age. That kid is tough as nails and I always kid with everyone about him "using steroids" as a baby. That's why he is so rough and tough. And for the love, the kid had an IV sticking out of his head at 1 day old! The NICU nurses reminded us that these NICU babies are "special ones." And I totally agree. As many mini heart attacks as I felt like I suffered, PTSD as I may have, it was all worth it and IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THAT WAY... God doesn't make mistakes, we are all created perfect in his image.