Elliot and his Daddy in the Hospital
April 2, 2014As I am writing this, I'm not sure if I will have the courage to actually post it. The things I have been going through over the past couple of months have just been so hard and overwhelming that I feel like if I don't get these feelings down I may explode.
At thirty weeks pregnant my water broke. I was home alone with my kids, and I had no car. Fortunately I was able to get hold of one of my good friends on the phone. She took me to the hospital and took my kids out to breakfast. I walked into the hospital alone hoping no one would notice that my pants were slowly getting soaked underneath the sweater I had tied around my waist. It was very quickly determined that although I wasn't in labor my water was in fact broken and that they were going to have to move me to another hospital with a better NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit). They pumped me full of baby cooking drugs; a steroid to help baby's lungs develop faster,an antibiotic to keep away infection, and Magnesium Sulfate to prevent labor and help baby develop neurologically. I instantly felt nauseated and far too hot. The ride in the ambulance was a hazy nauseating experience. I was unable to keep track of where they were taking me. They brought me to a tiny observation room, and I spent the next 48 hours dealing with the effects of the drugs including being to shaky to make it to the bathroom on my own. The doctors then told me the plan. The baby and I would be monitored everyday until I either went into labor naturally or 34 weeks at which time they would induce labor. With water broken the risks of infection for both of us were pretty high and higher after 34 weeks. When it was apparent that my condition was stable they moved me to the Mother and Infant Unit, and the waiting began...
The days were all very similar. Nurses and CNAs would monitor my blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen levels. Once or twice a day a Nurse from labor and delivery would strap me to a monitor that checked to make sure the baby's heart beat was steady, that he was moving enough, and that I was not having contractions. I ate three meals a day and did a lot of waiting. My sweetheart brought me my art supplies as well as several movies and I did my best to occupy the long empty hours between seeing Nurses. they were all really wonderful people. They always tried not to "bother" me. They always told me that I didn't have to pause my music or my movie when they came in, but for me the interruption (and the conversation) was welcome. I spent hours and hours watching stupid TV shows, drawing, reading, and singing to the baby. I talked to him a lot as he was the only one who never left the room. I missed cooking my own meals and eating what I want. I missed going outside and feeling the sun on my skin. Mostly I waited. I waited and waited and waited, and I tried really hard not to think.
When I thought too hard I felt intense loneliness and frustration. I worried about labor and delivery, how intense the pain would be and how long it might last. While delivery is usually the end of the journey to get baby home it was made clear to me that he would probably have problems, and that I would at some point be forced to go home without him. I tried really hard not to think to much about that last one because it made me feel despair that was hard to pull myself out of. On top of it all I missed my girls. Early into my hospital stay my husband and I made a decision to send them out of state with their grandmother to give them a little more of a stable situation.
Once a day a doctor would come in to check on me. He or she (there were several different ones) would go over the plan, to induce me at 34 weeks. By the end of my month long stay I found I had very little to say to the doctors.
There were a few times of "excitement" things that made them send me over to labor and delivery to be monitored more closely. Those times made me long for the room in the mother and infant unit, mostly because labor and delivery beds are really only meant for one thing, and it is not sleeping.
I made it to 34 weeks. They took me in a wheelchair to an actual delivery room instead of the tiny cupboard like space they used to monitor me earlier. They started the induction at 9:30 AM. Several hours later I was REALLY feeling the contractions. Feeling them to the point of tears. I asked for an epidural. Soon after receiving it I realized that for me having an epidural was trading one feeling of vulnerability for another. The pain was terrible and made me feel very emotionally vulnerable, the epidural made me feel more physically vulnerable as I could not move hardly at all anything below my mid-back. At least I could sleep a little. I had the epidural for over 24 hours. It made me grateful that I listened to the nurses instead of just trying to tough it out.
At almost 11:30 the next night from when they started the induction I started to feel the urge to push, and ,sure enough, it was time. A small army marched through the door. In addition to myself and my husband there was the doctor and a student doctor, the nurse, a couple of student nurses as well as a team of four or five waiting to check on the baby the instant he arrived. He came quickly. Just one and a half pushes and I heard his cries. They placed him on my belly, cut the cord, and before I could see his face he was whisked across the room. I asked to see his face. I don't know if they didn't hear me or chose to ignore me. After they wiped him down and bundled him up they brought him back for me to hold him. After about 30 seconds of that he was once again taken away, this time out of the room and down the hall to the NICU. my husband went with them. The doctors left and the nurse left to get some things. I found myself entirely alone for the first time. Really truly alone because I didn't have my little man to talk to anymore. For the better part of two hours I sat and waited for the feeling to return to my legs so that I could clean up and go see my baby. Finally the Nurse wheeled me down to the NICU and I watched them work on my son from a distance. He wasn't breathing very well and they had to put medication down directly into his lungs. I wasn't able to hold him again that first night. They brought me to a different room in the mother and infant unit. A rush of mommies having babies necessitated them putting me in a two person room with another mother. At three o'clock in the morning I found my self laying on a hospital bed, no longer pregnant, no babe in arms, listening to the cries of a perfectly healthy child on the other side of a curtain, and it hurt. I cried as quietly as a could so I wouldn't disturb my room mate. I talked on the phone to my mom for a little bit and then tried to doze.
The next day they moved me to a private room and I spent my hours walking to the NICU for his feedings and walking back to my room to try to sleep between feedings. I learned how to use an electric breast pump, as it became clear that he was not going to be able to eat right away. Meanwhile my girls and mother-in-law came back, it was nice to see them. Less than 48 hours after giving birth I was discharged from the hospital. At the hospital there is a boarding room for NICU parents. I stayed that first night I was discharged waking every few hours to go be a part of his feedings. I quickly discovered that my needs as a postpartum mother were not going to mesh very well with staying in the boarding room and being there for my new son. The boarding room is virtually a tiny closet with no bathroom. I spent the night caring for my needs in a public bathroom.
The next day was extremely emotional. On top of leaving my son in a hospital 40 minutes away from my house, I discovered that my insurance was going to be a pain to get me an electric breast pump for home, and my husband got into a fender bender in the parking lot and I had to deal with the car insurance. I didn't know how the day could get any worse and then it came time to leave. I clutched my husbands arm as we walked together down to the parking lot. I kept feeling this mad desire to turn and run back to the NICU. I don't know what I would have done if I had given into that temptation. I felt it again when my sweetheart asked me to drive. I was amazed when I actually made it out of the parking lot. I spent the next several days fighting the insurance to get a breast pump, and driving back and forth mostly with my husband (who was on paternity leave), leaving my girls in the care of my mother-in-law. Eventually she had to go home and my husband had to go back to work.
My son Elliot is two weeks old now. He is on day 16 of his stay in the NICU. I keep expecting it to get easier to deal with. But every time I get out there my heart breaks. It is hard to leave him EVERY time I have to leave him. He is no longer on oxygen, he doesn't have an IV anymore, right now we are waiting for him to be awake and eat all his feedings. He is currently getting most of his nutrition through a tube that takes my breast milk through his nose directly to his stomach. It is a rare moment when I actually get to see his eyes. I feel like maybe I should be more grateful that he has made some progress, but I have found myself in a very negative place. The other day I couldn't stop crying because I had a normal day. I didn't go see Elliot so it was kind of like a day I may have had before I was pregnant. The normalcy just felt so wrong. When you have a baby things don't just go back to normal, they are supposed to change. You find a new normal. There are many times I don't feel like I have even have a son. Right now I have to share him with all the nurses and doctors at the NICU. They are the ones that soothe him when he cries. They are the ones that change his diapers and feed him. I just visit. An hour or two a day is all I can manage between the needs of my two girls and the needs of my baby. I am a visitor in my own child's life.
I know this won't last forever. That is something that everybody likes to tell me "It is just going to be a short time and then he will be home". Maybe I should be able to take comfort in that, but I just don't feel it. These last couple of months have been one huge emotional slog and I am weary. I still get up every few hours at night so that I can pump, and keep my milk supply high. I still have the tender breasts and other things that come along with being a brand new mom. Everything but the baby. I spend my nights looking at an empty cradle while I pump instead of the sweet face of my new-born son.
I don't know what I need at this point. People keep asking me "what do you need? Can I help" and while I am exceedingly grateful for the offers I am not even sure what to say. I don't know if I need to talk it out or just a really big hug. I have spent more time crying than not the last few days and I just don't know what to do. I feel like I have been robbed of the joy of having my new baby. I just want to celebrate his birth, it's an amazing and wonderful thing to have him in our lives, and I just want to celebrate.
May 8, 2014
Elliot got to come home after 28 days in the NICU. It was the day of my baby shower. I was on the stairs when I got the call and I started crying so hard with gratitude, relief, and happiness that I sat down right where I was, said a brief prayer of thanks and then called my sweetheart to let him know the good news.
Elliot in his coming home outfit
We went to the shower, bought a car seat and went to finally pick bring him home..My one piece of advice to anyone who ever has to have a child in the hospital for any length of time is to lean on people. Accept help from friends and family, and most importantly keep in touch with your father in heaven. The word of God was what finally pulled me out of the dark and negative place I was in. About three weeks into his stay as I drove to and from the hospital I started to listen to talks from the general conference of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, of which I am a member, and for the first time since he went in I finally felt comfort.
It hasn't been the completely blissful existence I dreamed of since we got home. I have been thrust into the life of new parent (again) with all the lack of sleep that comes with it. I have entered into the new mother-of-three phase, and it is hard, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I know I have a lot of learning and growing and healing to do. I am so grateful for my husband that I have to lean on. I am grateful for my children Lucy, Emmy and Elliot. I am grateful for all the support from friends and family that I had as our family went through this. I am most grateful too my Heavenly Father, for all the support that he has given me. Even on the hardest days (especially since bringing Elliot home) I have found solace and peace.