At the same time, the pediatric nurses called in the pediatrician and decided that Tre needed to go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because he wasn’t absorbing enough oxygen. I was terrified and torn. I wanted Italian Stallion to stay with me, but told him to go with Tre and make sure he was ok. (I later found out that the anesthesiologist was prepping general anesthesia in case it was needed.)
What seemed like an eternity (and a whole lot of medication) later, the doctors told me that I was stable and that the incision had been sewn up. I was wheeled into recovery where I was able to see my parents and in-laws. The doctors told me that I had lost a lot of blood and that had we not decided to go ahead with the c-section then, baby and I would both have likely died.
My first question once we got back to the recovery room was “How is Tre? When can I see him?”
Italian Stallion came back into the room at this point, as he was not able to stay with Tre in NICU until he was evaluated. He said that the nurses said he would be fine and that he just needed some oxygen. This made me feel a little better, but I badly wanted to see him. I was incredibly weak from the surgery, but was informed that I would not be able to eat or drink for several hours. It was now about noon.
The nurses told me that I would not be able to see Tre until I was able to get up on my own and into a wheelchair. With this goal in mind, I started wiggling my toes, moving my legs, and trying to get feeling back. It took me a couple hours, but I was finally able to get up and move to a wheelchair.
Italian Stallion wheeled me up to the 8th floor, where the NICU was. We had to check in and show our hospital bracelets to be allowed inside the locked area. I had heard of the NICU, but never been in one, and as not prepared for what we saw there.
Once past the locked doors, we had to scrub from the elbows down with a disinfectant soap and Italian Stallion had to put a hospital gown over his clothes (I already had the “pleasure” of wearing one!).
We finally got past all the sanitation and disinfecting procedure and a nurse took us to see Tre. We walked past little isolettes, special beds for premature babies. We saw tiny one and two pound babies and sets of twins hooked up to respirators and IVs.
We finally got to little Tre at the end of the hall. I cried when I saw him. He had several IVs including an umbilical IV and a respirator tube down his throat. He was crying, but no sound was coming out because of the tube in his throat. I have never wanted anything more than I wanted to pick up and comfort my baby at that moment. My chest was in physical pain as I ached to make him better.
“You can’t hold him as long as the IV is in,” the nurse informed me. “You can reach one hand in and touch his back.”
I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to explain to her that this was not enough. This would not make him better… this would not make me better. Didn’t she know that research shows that when moms hold babies skin-to-skin the babies do better? Instead, I just put my hand on his back. He calmed a little from my touch and it was like we could feel each other’s pain.
The next few days were some of the toughest of my life. The first three days I was confined to the hospital, and spent most of my hours in the NICU sitting next to my baby, touching him, singing to him, and just being there.
Each night, my mom would bring the two older kids to visit, and this would cheer me up some.
I wasn’t able to nurse because he was so small and because I wasn’t allowed to hold him. Luckily, hospitals now have breast pumps that could seriously rival an actual baby in suction power. I was absolutely determined to nurse him eventually and I pumped dutifully, every two hours around the clock until my milk came in. I would pump even just 10 mL of colostrums or milk and walk to the 8th floor to deliver it to him. My milk finally came in on the third day, just as they were ready to take him off one of the IVs and start feeding some by mouth. I had enough pumped to just barely stay ahead of him, so he never had to taste formula.
I felt that my pumping was a small way I could show that I loved him… it would be a gift that would hopefully help him gain strength fast and come home.
By day four of NICU life, Italian Stallion and I both had raw skin on our arms from scrubbing in so much to go see Tre. I hadn’t eaten much and I didn’t feel good because of the huge doses of iron I was on. I was ready to go, but I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving my baby. Also on day four, they finally took out the ventilator tube and I heard him cry! It was a painful raspy cry since his throat was raw from the four times he had pulled his tube out himself. He seemed so much happier though, just to have that tube out, and it seemed like he could see me better without the tube in. He still had a nasal canula, the small tube that delivered oxygen, though the nurses were hopeful that they could start tapering that down soon.
Since there was extra room in the hospital, the nurses offered to let me stay another night at as a “courtesy stay” so that I could be close to my baby. I spent most of that night upstairs with Tre, holding him, talking to him and wishing more than anything that I could hold him.
The next day, I got discharged and headed home to see my other two. I felt bad for being gone so much and spent several hours reading to them and holding them. I had been told after the surgery that I was not allowed to lift anything over 5 lbs for 8 weeks. I laughed when they told me that. Both of my other kids were well over 5 lbs and my 17 month old still expected to be held. At one point, I tried to take a nap alone upstairs and broke out into uncontrollable sobs. I cried for my baby, who I wanted to hold so bad. I cried because of the homebirth I lost, and I cried with thanksgiving that baby and I had both survived a very difficult delivery.
The next few days got even tougher as I was in constant transit from home to hospital and back. The breast pump was at the hospital, and so was Tre, so I had to be there every 2-3 hours to pump and see him. When I was at the hospital, I felt guilty because I wasn’t home with my kids. When I was home, I felt guilty that I wasn’t with Tre….
Missed previous parts of the saga? Find them here.