They Put Baby in the Corner

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I left off with George coming out of my belly at 5:17 pm.

Our hospital has a rooming in policy, and they are very big on giving the families as much time together. They first will check all his vitals and they have a few tests that the baby has to pass before leaving us with him for an hour.

Because I was on magnesium for about 19 hours, George took on some of the drug too. My side effects were to feel like death, so you can imagine the toll it took on George’s little 5 lb 14 oz body. The mag made him super sleepy and sluggish so he did not pass some of the breathing tests and reflex test.

So I was able to hold George for about 2 minutes before they took him to the nursery to get a closer look at him. Even then, he was swaddled in so many blankets all I got to experience was his bluish gray face, no counting toes or seeing those knobby knees. Tom did not get a chance at all to hold our little man at this point.

Not exactly how we imagined this to go.

I am not sure how much time had passed, I was high as a kite with the mag drip still coursing through my veins. It could not have been very long before the nursery nurse practitioner and attending doctor came to our room to let us know that they took George to the NICU to put him on oxygen.

He was not able to breath on his own. Those last few weeks are time for babies to fully develop their lung and intestines. So in addition to not being able to breath, he was also put on an IV because he could not feed on his own.

He was on the oxygen for 3 days, and the IV for two days.

Feeding George went from the having an IV, feeding him drops of breastmilk from a syringe, breastmilk in a bottle and increasing mL he took with each feeding, to finally testing the breastfeeding waters 5 days after he was born.

While in the NICU, they also did heart scans on him because he had a murmur at first. He had some holes, but they all turned out to be normal holes that all babies have due to being hooked up to an umbilical cord for 9 months.  I wasn’t aware that the heart isn’t fully developed at birth, and that murmurs are pretty common in newborns. The second heart scan gave us some positive news that these holes were closing on their own like they should. We do have to do a two month follow up with a heart specialist in Nashville just to make sure he is still progressing.

He also has jaundice and had to be put on photo-therapy until the day before he left. He still has high billy levels so we are taking a few minutes outside each day to hopefully get that down on his own. They also say the more he eats the more he will work it out of his system. We are having to go back in every couple days to get his levels checked to make sure he doesn’t have to go back to the hospital for even more photo-therapy. We are trying to kick the jaundice like a bad habit.

But hey we got to see him rock these shades.

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So that was the prognosis of why he was in the NICU.

That was all technical, but there are so many emotions that no one prepares you for when you have a NICU baby.

You always think that it wont happen to you, and that you will get to take home your little one soon after the birth. Yea you hear the stories and read the articles trying to get you to think about the possibilities. However, I think most of us choose to be optimistic and brush the forewarning aside.

Even if you do think about the what ifs, you are never ready for the shock of the news that your baby had to go to intensive care. That reality cannot be explained.

You cannot prepare for the feelings of being helpless as you see him being strapped to monitors and watch him cry as he is poked and prodded.

I was so overwhelmed the first time I saw him 28 hours after he was born. Overwhelmed with worry that something else could go wrong, but happiness that he is alive.

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You never think this is how you will spend time with your newborn.

You are disappointed that you can’t snuggle him close.

You are heartbroken that he has all of these gadgets attached to him.

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You are taken over from anxiety that every knock on your door or phone call will be someone telling you even more bad news. So sleep isn’t really happening because each time I closed my eyes I feared the worst.

You are just scared.

I think you would expect those emotions to come but maybe not the depth of them and how paralyzing they can be at times.

The one that I was not expecting was the guilt.

Seeing that it was my blood pressure that caused George’s 3 week early entrance to the world, I felt like it was all my fault. I felt responsible for not being able to carry him full term so his lungs could develop. I hated myself and my body for not passing my first test as a mom. I felt like I had failed him. Why couldn’t I just get my blood pressure down for just a couple more weeks?

Maybe it was the delusional side effects of the mag drip, but I was so distraught that I was to blame that I would cry at the drop of a hat.

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When you have a baby in the NICU, you also have to consider balancing your time. While we could go to the NICU any time we wanted minus the 3 hours they were closed due to staff changes, we needed to take time to take care of ourselves. Having a NICU baby is both physically and emotionally demanding. (not to mention having a baby period is physically and emotionally demanding) I would have stayed in there the whole time if I could, but I had family remind me that I needed to eat and sleep-you know basic functions of life. Once we left the hospital and weren’t just down the hall we had to keep in mind the time it takes to get to and from the hospital and how to break up the day to make the most of the drives. But all the while when you don’t go see him you think, “Are we being bad parents because we aren’t at his side every second?” How does he know that we love him if he can’t see us constantly?

Eventually you work through all these emotions, and a lot of it goes away for those moments where you get to hold his hand and you see his improvements each day. You start focusing on the positives and push aside the ugly emotions so you can celebrate the small (yet huge) strides towards being free of the NICU.

Holding George sans tubing for the first time was possible one of the best moments of my life. This happened three days after he was born.

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You realize that while the experience is difficult, it is a blessing to have the NICU staff taking care of your little one. He is getting 24 hour attention and being observed by professionals to encourage his growth. I would love to be the one giving him that attention, but let’s be honest I have no idea what I am doing so it was comforting to be able to chat with medical professionals every day on how to do things. Knowing they were taking ever precaution was comforting that we would have a healthy baby soon. We were able to ask all kinds of questions related to parenthood and how to be the best for George. It was like a gradual and practical introduction to taking care of our baby. It was very reassuring to have that help and guidance. Gotta look at the positives.

I was also able to get a lot of assistance and hands on help with breastfeeding which we would not have had outside of the NICU. Granted, we are still working on that because he still isn’t strong enough to do it for long, but the nurses were so encouraging and gave me some great advice for his particular situation. They made me feel better about issues that we were having, and I feel so much more at ease about the one thing that I was most anxious about prior to giving birth.

Coming home without George was definitely painful and devastating, but it gave Tom and I time to rest and get our house fully ready for our little guy.

We feel very fortunate for the staff who took care of him for his first week. George followed their guidance and was able to get stronger with each passing day. Every time we came to visit, he passed another NICU milestone and was one step closer to coming home with us. That week in NICU felt like an eternity too, but I know we are lucky that we had a positive experience and that it wasn’t any longer than the 7 days.

Our little guy is a fighter, and now we get to have him all to ourselves. And we are so thankful for that. The security blanket of having 24 hour staff to ask for help has been lifted, and they actually trusted us to take him home.

We can totally do this right?

I won’t lie, I had my first mommy panic attack sans hospital on the car ride home from the hospital…chalk it up to sleep deprivation.

Oh and they really did put our baby in the corner.

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Thank you to everyone who said prayers, sent good vibes our way, or reached out with words of support. This was one of the most difficult weeks, and those thoughts in our direction were definitely appreciated.

Now I hope you are ready for George pictures in overdrive now that I have my hands on him full time. Check out #georgegram on my Instagram for the latest adorable thing.

As Tom put it about his sneezes, “It’s the most adorable thing. It’s like seeing a puppy ride a pony.”

George’s Birth Story

This has been a whirlwind of a week.

I never thought that a week ago I would be sitting here to tell this story. I was just posting our 36 week update!

But here we are.

Today George is 5 days old.

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Let’s start at the beginning shall we.

Monday morning at 8:30am I had another check up with my doctor. This was also the day that George had officially been cooking for 37 weeks, which was a huge stress relief to know he was out of the premie category. (By a day mind you…)

At this appointment, they checked my blood pressure like usual and found it at a level that was seriously crazy dangerous. For two hours, I laid on a cold hard observation bed while they checked my blood pressure every 30 minutes and watched George on a heart monitor. While my blood pressure went down, it wasn’t much to get us out of the woods. George, by the way, was just having a ball in there and passing all his tests.

At 10:30am, my doctor came in and said “Let’s have a baby today.”

Oh my. Our due date is September 15th.

SEPTEMBER. It is August.

She said that because of my protein level increasing from 400 to 2000 in one week and my blood pressure, she didn’t want to prolong it because I would soon get really sick. That would not be good for George either. Fortunately, I had already started dilating and was measuring at 2. She said that is great news for an induction because it should go much more smoothly since my body was already preparing for it.

Still 3 weeks early…

She directed me to go to the hospital immediately, and they would put me on some medicine for my blood pressure and induce me sometime that evening.

To add to the complications, Tom was not in town because he was doing an interview in Missouri. So obviously my panic level went up knowing he was not at home and 6 hours away.

My doctor knew he was out of town and explained that the labor probably wouldn’t start until late this evening which would give him plenty of time to get back.

So I left the doctor’s office and decided to go home first instead of straight to hospital. I know I am a rebel and didn’t follow her instructions. I needed to get myself together….Holy cow this is 3 weeks early! Plus there were all the bags to get and the dogs to give some love to.

I called Tom, and we figured out a game plan to get him back ASAP. To be honest, he figured it out, I just cried on the phone.

The best thing for me was to get home and collect myself in our own space for just a bit.

Luckily we had packed the hospital bag that weekend so there wasn’t a whole lot more that I needed to do at home besides last minute toiletries and getting the dogs squared away. Also we had not put the car seat in the car yet, so that needed to go on the list too. To be real with you, I just threw all the stuff in the car, and Tom took care of it later at the hospital.

I decided to relax a little at home to buy more time for Tom to get back to TN so I didn’t have to be in the hospital by myself for long. Also there was just so much processing that I needed to do to keep my blood pressure down.

So I ate some lunch, knowing that as soon as I walked in those doors I would not be allowed food. (Little did I know I wouldn’t have food for 2 and a half days…)

I went through the house a half a dozen times to make sure I had completed our pre-baby list and the bags were complete. I played with the dogs for just a bit after packing the car since they could tell I was panicked which makes them panicked. I gave them a pep talk and told them the next time we came home we would have their brother.

Then I headed towards the hospital but with one more pit stop on the way. I still had not bought nursing bras since they say to wait until your last few weeks. I was going to do that later this Monday anyway at the local maternity store. Well I didn’t have time for that so I went to Target to pick up some cheapies (which I am regretting now..but I was on a time crunch). Also the Target here has the worst selection of everything, and my sizes are always picked clean. Finding nursing bras was no different, but I bought a couple that would make do until I had more time to invest.

Going to Target on the way to deliver your baby is totally normal right?

I got to the hospital at about 1:15 and then proceeded to wait in the registration lobby until 2:30. Nothing like sitting in a waiting room to make your anxiety rise.

I finally got up to Labor and Delivery about 3pm on Monday. I was put in a bed and hooked up to the blood pressure cuff and told to relax.

And I started my fantastic meal of ice chips galore as I waited.

Tom got to the hospital around 6pm. At this time the on-call doctor came in to discuss the course of action. He was a big creeper and seriously talked more about us having 12 kids than worrying about the one we were having right now. He weirded me out so much, and I just wanted my own doctors to take care of me. So we kept asking when the on-call switched to see if I could hold out. (Not even kidding…he was that awkward.)

Anyway, at 10pm they put me on an IV and a magnesium drip. I also got to experience a catheter for the first time. The magnesium is supposed to lower my blood pressure so I can safely deliver George. The bad side is that it is the devil. It makes you feel like you are physically on fire. It slows down your whole system and just makes you feel really sluggish. But it was getting my blood pressure down so there you go. I also had to be on it for another 24 hours after the birth, so I was in sluggish fiery hell for 2 and half days…Magnesium makes you feel so awful about life.

At midnight, they started giving me pitocin. They started with a 2, and they would increase it gradually every hour or so to start inducing the labor more naturally.

A couple hours later, I was in non-stop pain. Contractions are real friends. I can’t even explain how awful they felt. Unfortunately because of the pitocin, I was also not having any break. There was an hour there that I had non stop contractions for the ENTIRE 60 minutes. Remember that time when my doctor said that labor would go more smoothly…uh yea about that.

So they pulled the pitocin back and gave me some pain medication so I could sleep for a little bit.

This is where the timeline gets really blurry for me. The magnesium was taking it’s full affect on me, and I had no idea what time it was. I just knew that I felt like poop and wanted this to be over.

Sometime Tuesday morning, I got an epidural. I had originally wanted to wait as long as possible to get an epidural to see if I could do it naturally and also so I could walk around during labor. Because of the magnesium, I had a catheter so I was not allowed to walk around anyway. Because our plans had changed and I wasn’t able to be mobile at all, and there was so much misery, I figured let’s have at it. Give me those drugs.

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Getting an epidural was not bad at all pain wise. Unfortunately right where they stick it in, my back is super ticklish. I can think about someone touching it and my back will start spazing. So it took us a little while for me to take the epidural. Luckily, my nurse was amazing as I cried into her neck from feeling like a spazing idiot. Really I had the best nurses all week. Amazing staff.

Also I made it to the on-call doctor change. And as my luck would have it, my doctor was on call. She is amazing, so I am glad the labor went long so I could have her helping me through this.

I finally dilated to a 6, and as my doctor was checking my cervix she accidentally broke my water. This wasn’t a bad thing, she just hadn’t intentionally gone down there to do that. It was pretty humorous when it happened. I was a gusher, so my doctor was covered. Whoops.

We then had a slight emergency happen. My blood pressure skyrocketed then plummeted super fast. Both George and I were in distress randomly. George’s heart beat went really crazy low and all of a sudden there were tons of nurses in the room helping me get on all fours to get George moving again. It was an intense couple of seconds as we waited for him to get more active.

I then threw up a couple times because of my blood pressure going nuts.

At this point, I was put on a oxygen mask. I had this well after the labor ended.

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The next hour was much more calm and they backed the pitocin down again so I could rest some more and relax a little.

Unfortunately, I started feeling the contractions again. Excuse me, isn’t that why I got the epidural so I don’t have to feel this awful pain?

They upped my epidural juice. Also known as magic. I could still feel everything, but there was no pain. I didn’t have control of my right leg though. It was a log.

At around 4pm on Tuesday, I had dilated to an 8 and my doctor said it was time. So we went over what Tom and I would do during labor, and we got that party started.

I would push 3 times during a contraction and then we would take a break. My doctor and labor nurse were awesome and during the breaks we were talking about our dogs and the Army since both my doctor and nurse were Army spouses. They did a great job at making me feel real at ease.

Also Tom was absolutely amazing during this whole thing! I have the best husband, and they really don’t give the husbands enough credit during the laboring process.

I may be delusional, but I thought the actual pushing part was the easiest part of the labor. That one hour was nothing in comparison to the previous 16 hours of craziness. The pushing was hard don’t get me wrong. I was out of breath and exhausted, but I at least wasn’t writhing in agony as much as I was during the wee hours of the morning before.

After about 4 large pushing sessions, my doctor said that if George didn’t make it out on the next point she would have to use the suction cup tool (it has a technical term, I just don’t remember what it was) to help him get out.

George was being stubborn so the suction cup went on his head.

And then just an hour after we began pushing, George came out!

At 5:17 pm on August 26th, Tom and I became parents to the most beautiful little guy.

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I came home from the hospital on Saturday, but we were not able to bring George home with us. While it was heartbreaking to come home without him, he has needed his time in the NICU.

We are hoping to have him home on Tuesday. He has a couple more tests to pass, but come back later this week for the full story of our NICU journey.

Glad to finally meet my August baby! He apparently wanted to be more of a summer baby than a fall baby.

This is also why they tell you to be flexible with your birth plan and have no expectations. Something is bound to change.