(Please read my previous blog posts, thank you!)
This wasn’t supposed to happen. She was supposed to be born, we stay in the hospital for a couple of nights to make sure everything was good, and then we go home so we can start being a family of four. I had already experienced enough strife with my difficult pregnancy so surely I deserved to have this, right...?
There is nothing quite like watching your newborn daughter get whisked away to the NICU and subsequently see her get strapped to all sorts of medical equipment and wires and cannulas. Our nurse was patient enough to explain everything she was doing but I was losing it. What was happening?!? Why can’t my daughter breathe? Wasn’t she doing just fine for the four nights we had together in our hospital room? Weren't we supposed to be going home today?
I honestly don’t really remember the rest of that day very clearly. I remember being able to breastfeed her. I remember my husband and I going back to our hospital room and getting food and a nap. I remember going back to my daughter’s pod and crying and wondering if she’s going to make it and if I’m going to make it. I remember spending the whole night there, pretending I wasn’t falling asleep (not allowed in the NICU), holding my daughter close to my heart while watching her monitors beep at me.
I had been discharged the previous night so we got kicked out of our hospital room. I remember going to the NICU to feed and hold my daughter and leaving so we could eat and then coming back to repeat the cycle. I remember thinking that my breastfeeding journey with her would be destroyed since she would have to get bottles during the night if I were to go home and sleep. So of course I didn’t want to go home and sleep but my nurses and my husband convinced me it would be okay.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of leaving the hospital for the first time without your newborn daughter. The sadness, the expectations shattered, the guilt, the constant worry for your daughter’s life. Remembering that the last time I gave birth and was discharged from the hospital I was pushed in a wheelchair with my son on top of me in his car seat. Resenting that this time I didn’t get a wheelchair and my daughter would not be leaving with me in her freakin’ car seat. When I got home that first night it felt so empty. My son was still at my mother-in-law’s. My daughter was not sleeping peacefully in the bassinet we had hauled up from our tornado room. I pumped and went to bed and woke up wondering how all of this was happening. None of it felt real. It all felt like a dream gone terribly wrong.
The next few weeks I found a rhythm of waking up and pumping, calling the NICU to see when I would need to show up for her next feeding, driving to the hospital, seeing my daughter and willing her to breathe better, listening to the doctors and nurses as they did their rounds and attempted all sorts of medical interventions on her, changing her diaper and feeding her and holding her so she knew that her mama loved her, unwillingly leaving her so I could go eat either hospital cafeteria food or takeout in my car, coming back and staying until I had to go home to sleep and then repeat the whole thing all over again.
This was a rough three weeks, not gonna lie. I terribly missed my son but knew he was in good hands with his grandparents and also with family friends. My husband was facing the toughest trials in his career thus far. I could not keep the Zoom plans I had made in a previous life. I felt so isolated, so alone in this struggle. Sure, I could text family and friends and make phone calls and Zoom calls. I saw my husband sometimes at night when I came home to pump and sleep and maybe eat something. But it was only me driving to the NICU every single day. Me sitting alone in the rocking chair in my daughter’s pod (which didn’t even rock for the first couple of days until a nurse realized it was in stationary mode). Me holding her and feeding her and wondering how my life fell apart so easily. Me getting sick of scrolling facebook and playing Pokemon Go and reading Kindle books and just wanting to take my daughter outside to enjoy the sunshine. Me overhearing conversations about other NICU babies on the brink of life and death and feeling blessed that my daughter was in a better spot than those poor babies were.
My bright moments were when my husband got to come and visit us after he had a stressful day at work, as well as when my husband brought my son to the hospital parking lot so I could finally see him and have a meal with him and hear his voice and listen to him spout off the knowledge he had been acquiring in my absence. My darkest moment was when I somehow landed myself in the ER, conveniently just 3 floors down from the NICU, due to postpartum hemorrhaging. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty for anybody.
I was battling a touch of postpartum depression through all of this. I would break down crying at least once if not 2-3 times a day, triggered by a song on the radio (Danny Gokey’s Tell Your Heart To Beat Again comes to mind) or by seeing a mama beam proudly at her newborn child in a car seat as she waited for her partner to pull up their car into the hospital’s cul-de-sac. I would cry when I worried about how my son is doing with all this instability in his life right now. I would cry when I thought my daughter had made progress but then took a step back due to no fault of her own. Luckily, I also cried tears of gratitude whenever I experienced the outpouring of love and generosity from my support system. I had so many offers of prayers, food, and child care that touched my heart and made me count my blessings over and over again.
My daughter’s treatment plan consisted of time, supplementary oxygen, six rounds of diuretics, and three rounds of steroids. They first had her on ¼ liter of oxygen and would wean her down to ⅛, 1/16, 1/32, and finally room air when she was ready. They even had her on 2 liters of oxygen at one point in an attempt to get rid of all the excess fluid in her lungs and jumpstart them at the same time. They took multiple x-rays of her lungs and conducted two echocardiograms to ensure that the hole in her heart had closed (it did). So much of her time in the NICU was just playing the waiting game to see how her little body responded to the different treatments. At 35 weeks it’s a toss up to see if the baby would be perfectly fine or would need additional time to grow. My daughter definitely needed that additional time for her lungs to become healthy and strong.
Throughout her entire stay her nurses were incredible. Shoutout to NICU nurses. They are so professional and know what they are doing and how to explain it as well as reassure anxious parents with anxious hearts over and over again.
Good Friday, during her morning feeding I noticed her cannula had come out of her nose but her SP02 level was still 95%. This was after she had been given her rounds of steroids during the past week. Encouraged by this, the doctor told me that if she can do well for 48 hours without the supplemental oxygen and pass her darn car seat test she could come home!!! I don’t think I have ever felt better on a Good Friday in my life! She continued to do well and on Holy Saturday, after FINALLY passing the car seat test, she was released from her wires and roomed in with me and my husband for the night in the NICU. On Easter Sunday she was successfully discharged!!!
Our NICU stay was finally over!!!
Alleluia doesn’t even cover how I felt on Easter. To have her home, to have my son FINALLY meet his sister, to be together as a family of four...life-changing.
I am happy to say that she is doing so well, gaining weight and sleeping (like a baby). My son oscillates between saying that he loves his sister and then wanting us to put her down so we can better play with him. My itching has almost all but disappeared and I am eating ALL the carbs. I probably should slow it down a bit considering I have a wedding to attend next month…
If you have made it to the end, thank you so much for sticking with me. I share my story because I want others to know they are not alone, whether they are experiencing a high risk pregnancy or have a baby who has to spend time in the NICU.
I also share my story because I want it to be a testament to how God’s goodness has come shining in through my storm. There were multiple times in which I honestly felt like this was not the case. Why, Lord, do I keep on experiencing these trials? Haven’t I done enough? Haven’t I gone through enough? Just how strong do you think I am? Where is my joy? Where is the peace in my life that you promise?
I realized, over and over again, that everything is a gift. My daughter’s life, a gift. The fact that she came out alive, a gift. These trials, a gift, an opportunity for me to realize just exactly who I lean on in times of despair. What I do when I have unlimited amounts of time yet such limited control of my circumstances. Sometimes all I could do was read His Word and soak in His promises, knowing that they are true and that they would come to fulfillment in His timing alone.
Sitting here now, being able to count my blessings and listen to my daughter’s little dinosaur noises, is a dream come true. We have meals coming in for the next two months thanks to my wonderful friends here and lots of baby gear to ensure she is diapered and well dressed. I got my first COVID vaccine shot and will be getting my next one tomorrow. My son is happy and healthy and will be potty trained before he goes to preschool in the fall…My husband definitely has job security (hehe). We have money to donate to charitable causes as well as money for my Amazon shopping sprees.
So thank you again for making it all this way. And please, if you can, share your story too. I’d love to read it. :)
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