5 years ago at 29 weeks pregnant I went into labor and delivery for high blood pressure readings. I was admitted that night and told the next day that I officially had Pre Eclampsia but as long as the ultrasound was OK I could head home. However at the ultrasound they found out my amniotic fluid had dropped to 5 cm (normal is above 7) and so they told me I would be staying until I had my baby.
I settled in and made my self comfortable, preparing for weeks or, if I was lucky, a couple months of hospital bedrest. I spent the next couple of days touring the NICU, getting steroid shots (for the babies lungs)and preparing myself for the very likely possibility of a premature baby. It was very scary, and also a little boring.
Wednesday morning they wheeled me over to my maternal fetal medicine for a biophysical ultrasound. I knew it probably wasn’t great news when they called a doctor in to view the ultrasound. She informed me that my fluid had dropped to 3 cm with no real reason, which lead them to believe the baby was under stress. She said that the combination of things I was facing, was one of the leading causes of death inutero and that she would advise delivering that day. That was all we needed to hear and we agreed, that we would deliver. Because I was so early and the fluid was dropping so fast, she was not comfortable trying labor and so we scheduled a C section for that evening.
We spent the day calling our families to inform them the baby would be coming that night. I still laugh remembering how much that day showed the different way me and my husband process things. He is definitely a “glass half full” kind of guy. While me, I can’t decide if the glass is half empty or half full. I am too busy worrying why there is a glass at all, and where did that water come from? And what if there isn’t enough water and I am too thirsty? Or maybe there is too much and I will spill it. Or what if the glass isn’t strong enough to hold all that water? or..or.. or.. Anyways you get the picture. His calls were made in an excited tone “Hey, we are having our baby today, and we can’t wait to meet her!!”. Mine were made in a shaky teary voice, “Please pray, they want to deliver our baby tonight!”The day felt eternal as we passed back and forth between nerves, and excitement.
At about 5:30 we were wheeled back to the operating room where there was a giant team of people. 6 people to take care of me and 6 to take care of the baby . And at 5:51 my little 29 week and 5 day, Isabella Natalia entered the world. I remember at some point clearly hearing her cry, and breathing a sigh of relief, the doctor had warned there was a big chance she wouldn’t. Although I was told much later that at some point they had had to totally resuscitate her (so glad I didn’t know that at the time!). They carried her into the adjacent room where I watched thru glass doors as 6 neonatal doctors and nurses crowded around her tiny bed to try to stabilize her. As soon as they had her somewhat stable, which was no more than 5 minutes, but felt like an eternity, Julio walked over and said hello, taking pictures on his phone to show me, as they stitched me back up.
As soon as I was closed up, I was wheeled into recovery. They were still getting Isabella cleaned up and diapered and soon wheeled her to me on the way to the NICU. I may have been drugged out from the magnesium drip but I will never forget seeing my teeny tiny baby for the first time. I remember being scared and in awe of her small beautiful self. And as I said hello to her, she reached out her arms towards my voice. It was an amazing moment, and a reminder that she was my baby, the one we had prayed for and waited for. I only got about 10 seconds of touching her small, fragile feeling hand before they took her away.
And I sat in the recovery room, feeling so strange and so empty, and alone as my husband went to tell the family she was here. They immediately hooked me up to the breast pump, which took me by surprise and made me feel awkward and uncomfortable(I was grateful later, as I honestly think this made all the difference with my supply) . Needless to say this was not the beautiful after birth moment I had pictured. However my baby was alive and stable and beautiful, all 3 lbs and 6 oz of her. I held on to that and looked at the few pictures we had on our phone and treasured those until I was bought into my room, to see my family.
I had already warned people that no one besides daddy was allowed to see her until i had been able to go down to her room and really get to meet her. And I counted down the hours until my spinal wore off, as Julio ran between the two rooms. Finally after 11 pm, and after my relentless nagging, the nurses finally let me go. After many warnings that C section moms, especially on a magnesium drip, usually never get out of bed this soon, they pushed me in a wheelchair down to see my baby.
As I entered the room with my mom, sister and Julio all I really remember thinking was how tiny she was. I felt so strangely detached and it just couldn’t really quite get thru my head, that this really was my baby. She was hooked to a CPAP to help her breathe, with wires and cords everywhere to monitor her. I at that moment just felt like I had failed her, my body had failed at its most important job, keeping her safe. I remember laying awake that night, in between pumping alarms, and worrying why I didn’t feel that total head over heels feeling like I expected to. I mostly just felt worried, and empty and lonely in a hospital room, hearing other people’s babies cry, while mine lay quietly in an incubator across the building. For the next couple days I pretty much just worried, worried that she would have health issues, worried that it was my fault and that she wouldn’t know me, worried why I didn’t feel more motherly. I had such a hard time every time Julio took someone down there to meet her. I could only go a few times a day and it just killed me to not get to introduce people to my baby. My husband was amazing, nurturing us both and running my milk down at every pumping, comforting my irrational fears and melt downs.
And finally the day came when I got to hold her. They placed her in my arms, tubes and all, and just like that, I was in love. As I felt her warm tiny body against mine, I felt nervous I would drop her and in awe of her perfection. But mainly I just felt love, over whelming, all consuming love for that fighter that I had carried within me. I held her as long as they would let me and that wasn’t near long enough. I lived for those once a day holds, especially once I started doing skin to skin. The feel of her warm body snuggled up against me, was beyond amazing, and helped to alleviate the sense of loss over not yet being able to breast feed. Before every hold I made sure I peed, had a drink next to me, had eaten recently and had everything i could possibly need at my fingertips. Because once I held her I could hold her as long as I wanted, and as long as she tolerated it. I spent hours upon hours not moving from that chair in her room, and when I was done I counted down until I could do it again. It was so exciting the day I moved up to being able to hold her whenever I wanted. Nothing is worse than being told how much you are allowed to nurture your baby.
Isabella always did so much better than we had imagined. She came off the CPAP after only 5 days (we had been prepared for two weeks), breast fed way sooner, and came home at 42 days, when they originally told us 8-10 weeks. But that didn’t mean that it was an easy road to walk, the wierd life of being a NICU mom. The first time I left the hospital, I got home and just cried, I wasn’t supposed to come home alone. Actually almost every time I went home I cried, and so for that reason I spent almost all of the 42 nights at the hospital sleeping there. Either in her room or in the hospital sleeping rooms. I had to get up every 2.5 hours to pump anyways, and it was so much easier if I got to see my baby at the same time. I was so thankful to those who brought us meals, or me coffee, and visited me. I wanted the company and it was so nice to be able to share my little dolly with those who loved us!
I will never forget the heart pumping fear when the alarms blared as her heart went into decel, or the anxiety over brain scans. The willing her to finish all her feeds by mouth so we could go home, and the fear of giving her her first bath. But I will also never forget the kindness of those nurses and the all those special hours I had just holding my baby with no distractions. And when the time came to load her up and drive away, I will never forget that feeling of freedom and relief I had as I watched that hospital get ever further away in the rear view mirror. The NICU experience changes you as a person, a wife and as a mother. It deepens your relationships, makes you more unphased by the “small” things, and gives you an appreciation for the “normal” parts of motherhood. It also makes you realize you better snuggle those babies every darn chance you get, because somewhere there is a mom just waiting for the ok to pick up her baby and love on her. And here you have the freedom to hug them, nurse them, love them, however you want and whenever you want. So yes I hold my babies “too much”, but only because I started with never being able to hold my first enough.
This has been post 3 in my NICU moms series, the links to the first two are found below.
|NICU moms series post 1|
|NICU Moms series Post 2|