No Stranger To The NICU – My Story
(This is probably going to be long. Just saying.)
It has been a little over 6 years since my husband and I made the decision to expand our family beyond just the two of us. We tried for our first baby back in 2010. I immediately became pregnant and all was well. Or so we thought. I was around 25 weeks when things began to go downhill. We went through a series of events that included having an amniocentesis because we were told that our baby had Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and other open sores on his body. We were told to terminate the pregnancy because “what kind of life would baby Caleb have if I gave birth to him?” Those were the words of the genetic counselor.
She was just doing her job, right? 😏 Had I listened to her not so good advice I would not have my precious boy today. I did have preeclampsia and ended up in the hospital to be monitored. Caleb’s heart rate wasn’t consistent.
It was actually dropping so the doctor decided on an emergency c-section at 3:30 in the morning. By 3:48 Caleb was here; 31 weeks gestation and 2 pounds 5 ounces. This would be the beginning of my NICU journey.
Caleb was around six months when I realized I was pregnant again. We thought we wanted to have kids back to back. We had no idea what we had just gotten ourselves into! I was very confident this time around. I had already experienced what I thought was the most painful birthing experience, so I was excited just to have another chance. I was confident – so much so that I turned down monthly steroid shots that my doctor insisted on giving me. I told her that I wasn’t worried, and I wasn’t. Not that much, anyway. Though my first had been in the NICU, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Was it scary? YES!
Was I caught completely off guard? YUP!
But again, things could have been completely different. I made it through that pregnancy unscathed. Channing entered the world via c-section weighing 8 pounds and 15 ounces. He was truly the perfect baby. He was calm, patient, and quiet. He loved to cuddle and had just the right amount of baby fat. He was so huggable. I rejoiced; I did not know how it felt to give birth and hold baby immediately after, well, after the recovery period. I didn’t even know what it felt like to see baby after giving birth. It was so amazing. Channing and I spent 3 or 4 days in the hospital and I cuddled him the entire time.
Today, Caleb is 6 and Channing just turned 5. Isa, my youngest and only daughter, is 20 months. Almost 2. This coming October will make 2 years since she has been home.
I still get emotional over Isa’s birth. I get emotional when I think about the pregnancy, and if I think about it too long, sometimes I get angry. 😡 As I said here, this pregnancy was rocky from the start. We resolved one thing and something else popped up. It was an ongoing battle, but I was determined to make the most of this time, as it would be my last pregnancy. I still jog my memory hoping to arrive at some conclusion; how did I get here? Why did my body betray me again? Were there signs? What could I have done differently? Why weren’t there any signs? I had no vaginal bleeding, no headaches, from what I can remember, there were no contractions.
I was 29 weeks when I decided to check my blood pressure while shopping a Publix with my sister. It was 158 over 108. I immediately called my doctor and she told me to to go to the hospital. I truly am thankful for my doctor. She knew my history, as I was a longterm patient. She cared for me during both of my pregnancies, and always took her time during weekly visits . After I arrived at the hospital the nurses in triage wanted to send me home because my “blood pressure was fluctuating and I seemed stable”. I’m not sure how I would have responded had they actually told me to leave. The nurse who happened to be sitting in front of me called my doctor (who was in route) and attempted to get her permission to release me. She very sternly told them to admit me and things literally went left shortly after.
I remember being in bed and having the nurse adjust the monitor on my belly. She was having hard time, but I didn’t think anything was wrong. Those monitors can be tricky and if baby moves or if I move the machine gets out of whack. I didn’t see or hear her call or signal for help, but in walked another nurse. They began to discuss my situation and the new nurse tried to adjust the monitor as well. Honestly, I am not sure what happened, but at one point I was positioned upside down and by this time there were at least 10 faces looking at me. They looked worried. They spoke fast. They moved even faster. I heard a voice ask for my husband’s number – he had literally just left to check on our two boys and give my mom some relief, as she had been watching them.
They wanted to call him to inform him that they were getting ready to take the baby via an emergency c-section.
This again. Here we go.
I was transferred from one bed to another and then, as fast as their legs would carry them, I was wheeled through the hospital to the OR. I felt like I was on an in episode of Grey’s Anatomy; I was moving so fast, everything was blurred. I heard voices, but saw blurred images of people. I was scared. Alone. Cold. So cold. Once in the OR, they literally cut my (favorite) bra off of me, I know this because they were kind enough to tell me about it a few days after the fact. I was on a cold operating table shivering, someone asked if I wanted a warm blanket, “yes please” I managed to say with quivering lips. I was on the verge of crying.
I had so many questions, but not enough strength to ask them. The nurses and doctors moved swiftly, I heard conversations about medical instruments, vitals, baby’s heartbeat, etc. There was an urgency and that urgency frightened me. I was being prepped for surgery, but no one had bothered to give me a spinal. Remembering my last two c-sections, I was given a spinal almost right away, even for the initial emergency one. It felt like I was on that table for hours. I was so afraid of what I might feel in the moments to come. I looked up at a nurse who had been my my side since we were in my suite.
“Are you going to numb me?”
She looked at me with kind eyes,
“oh no, dear! You are going to be put to sleep.”
Tears began to fall. She went on to explain how they would put me to sleep. Her voice was soothing. This must be her purpose in life. I concentrated on the calmness of her voice as she spoke. She took one last look at me and assured me that I would not die. How does she know that? Every surgery is different. She squeezed my hand and I guess I drifted into oblivion because I have no idea what took place from that moment on.
I woke up in a cold large room with just one nurse at my side. I was a bit confused. It took a minute before I remembered that I had just had a baby. I didn’t know where I was. When I saw the nurse, a barrage of thoughts flooded my memory. I remember asking if the doctor tied my tubes. Not sure why at that exact moment I asked, but it was the plan. She told me that my tubes were not tied due to the severity of the situation. She then said that the doctor could “go through my belly button and do it that way”. I laughed at her. I was heavily medicated and it sounded preposterous. LOL. It’s a thing, I know, but at the time I wasn’t in my right mind. My daughter was born at 29 weeks and weighed 2 pounds.
She was, of course, immediately sent to the NICU and after recovery I was wheeled back to my room and placed on a 24 hour bedrest. I was not to move. I was given magnesium in order to prevent seizures – they really stressed this. Every time nurses came in my room I would hear them whispering about possible seizures. I don’t remember every detail, but I do remember the first time I saw my baby. I remember the fear I felt. I remember when my doctor walked in my room, the mood shifted. It was already quiet, but when she came in to see me, it felt different. She looked at me and took a deep breath. She proceeded to tell me what happened and what they discovered during the surgery. She explained that I had a 75% placental abruption. She went to to say that I lost so much blood, she didn’t know how I was still alive. Her words. Everyone in my room instantly began to wipe their tears away. “You and baby Isa are lucky to be alive.” I didn’t quite know how to take that, as I was still very confused.
For the days that followed that’s all I would hear; nurses who weren’t even assigned to me would come in my room just to tell me, “I heard about you, you are lucky to be alive.” They would linger for a little while and make small talk with me before leaving. This, coupled with everything else, it’s no wonder why I started having panic attacks at night. Isa spent a short 45 days in the NICU, though it wasn’t an easy stay by any means. Even the relatively easy days were laced with fear and doubt. Looking back, I can say with absolute certainty that yesterday’s pain is indeed tomorrow’s joy.