You’d finally come into the world, a whopping 42 hours after my water broke.
Your First Hour
Not previously knowing what we were having, the excitement over finding out we had a little boy was almost too much for your dad to handle. The tears flowed freely!
After a brief celebration while you laid on my tummy, you let out two of the tiniest, most precious, little squeaks I have ever heard – or will ever hear – in my life.
You weren’t pinking up very quickly, though, and you had a fever of 102 (we both did), so the midwife had your dad cut the cord so the pediatrician could give you some oxygen. It was a tense five minutes as they tried to get your saturation from the 70s into the 90s.
Tense for everyone but me. That damn opioid I’d taken a few hours earlier had messed me up! As your dad watched you being worked on by the pediatrician, I alternated between yelling at him to take pictures of you, and yelling at him to look at how flat my stomach had suddenly become!
“Oh my God, Steev, look how flat my stomach is!!!”
They finally got your oxygen saturation looking good, but sadly, they took you into the nursery instead of letting us spend that first hour together. It was the thing I’d been longing for most ever since I knew you were coming. That first “magic hour,” where we’d nurse and bond and get to know each other. Just you, me and your dad… quietly and intimately, before all the hubbub of getting you weighed and footprinted and measured and bathed.
For someone who never wanted kids, to this day I’m still dumbfounded how crushed I get every time I think about missing out on that hour.
So off you went while I was unhooked from the epidural and the monitors. Within the hour, I was being wheeled down to the maternity ward. But first, a detour to the nursery to see you.
I got to hold you for the first time, and marveled at you as your mouth opened and closed, presumably searching for some milk. After a minute, though, the pediatrician encouraged us to head to my recovery room, saying he’d bring you in behind us.
Highest High to Lowest Low
In my room, more celebration! Your aunt and grandma had brought me a yuuuuuuuge slice of chocolate cake that I had specially requested because I was so ravenous. I was chowing down and we were all chatting with excitement, when the pediatrician came in with THAT look on his face.
“What is it?” I asked. I knew immediately he was coming with bad news.
“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have some bad news,” he said. “You know that posturing he was doing when you were holding him? With his mouth opening and closing? It made me suspicious, so I examined him further and I’m pretty sure he’s showing signs of seizure activity.”
“I think he’s having seizures.”
“Oh, fuck.” That’s all I managed to utter.
Everyone else started asking questions, but I couldn’t tell you what they were. My high ass turned back to my chocolate cake.
I completely annihilated it.
I shouldn’t have been hungry in that moment, right? I honestly don’t even know that I really was… my mind was just reeling. I just saw the half-eaten cake sitting there and dove in. Maybe I felt the need to destroy something and, not yet being able to walk, wiped out the first thing in my reach.
Like I said, the drugs had fucked me up. The news I’d just gotten? Even more of a mindfuck. That’s the only reason I can think that I’d have been eating cake after hearing my kid was having seizures…
I did hear the pediatrician say that he’d already arranged for your transport to the Children’s Hospital across town, and that a NICU team was en route to pick you up and transfer you there. He said his team was prepping you for the transport, but they’d bring you into see us on your way to the ambulance.
He left, and the four of us looked at each other, still shocked and speechless. After a minute of more discussion I can’t remember, your grandma and aunt said they’d give your dad and me a moment alone.
Your dad came over to the bed, cuddled up next to me, and said, “Whatever happens, I know you and I can handle it. If we’re looking at a child with special needs, we’ll do what we have to do. We’re strong, and we love each other. And we got this.”
A few minutes later, your aunt and grandma came back, and a few minutes after that, they wheeled you in so we could love on you before they took you away. I handled it OK, probably because I was still effed from the drug. And because they gave us a glimmer of hope before taking you away…
They told us you’d stopped posturing and were no longer showing any signs of seizure activity. Or any obvious signs of damage. So, we crossed our fingers that even better news might be on the horizon.
But still… seeing you in that tiny incubator, all hooked up to various instruments, was too much for your dad. They wheeled you away, and he lost it.
He’d wanted to go with you, but they’d discouraged it. Since the transport team was just that – an entire team of people – there wasn’t a spot for your dad in the ambulance. And they said he wouldn’t be allowed to be with you until after you were hooked up and settled in the NICU, which would only be after you underwent some testing.
That thought was hard to swallow. From the second he saw you, he was completely in love. And he’d gone from the highest high of his life to the lowest low of his life in the span of an hour. We’d known the day was going to be a roller coaster, but we never could’ve prepared ourselves for this.
The next 2 hours were filled with non-stop discussion about all the scenarios we needed to prepare ourselves for – something no new parent should have to discuss just moments after their baby is born.
They were also filled with tons of activity… a visit from Martha and Nel, the nurse and midwife who delivered you, where we all cried together; me finally coming down(ish) from my high enough to get some instruction from the lactation consultant; firing up the breastpump so we could deliver some colostrum to you ASAP; and preliminary planning for my early discharge from the maternity ward.
And then, a call from the pediatric neurologist at the children’s hospital…
Who said you were OK.
“Say what? Can you repeat that, please??”
“I don’t know what the pediatrician there saw, maybe some spasming caused by reflux or the fever or the stress of the long labor. We’re going to keep him a couple days for a few more tests, but he isn’t having, nor did he ever have, any seizures.”
“He didn’t have a seizure.”
A few more “are you sure” questions from me, followed by a few more “your baby is okay” responses, and your dad and aunt hightailed it across town to see you.
They sent pictures to me and your gramma from the NICU as they cuddled you close and, a couple hours later, your dad came back and spent the night with me.
And your aunt took gramma out for drinks!
Hey, the day had weighed heavy on them, too. Only after we got the good news that you were okay, and your aunt was able to confirm it in-person, did the worry subside enough for them to realize they needed to eat! And needed a few drinks to wash away all that anxiety! So, as weary as they were after a day that viciously toyed with their emotions, they headed straight out for tapas and wine.
We Gotta Get Outta This Place
The one (and only) good thing about the day’s opioid experience… I finally slept that night. As freaked out as I was to sleep – what if I missed another call about you?? – I crashed.
The next morning, things went quickly. We packed up in no time and the doc came in and cleared me to go home. Then, a few minutes before we walked out the door, a wonderful woman representing the catholic faith came to visit and asked if I’d like communion.
I admitted that I hadn’t been to church in a while, but she graciously waved it off as an insignificant detail. I took communion and she, your dad and I gave thanks for your existence and prayed for your speedy release.
And the tears flowed again…
But it allowed me to leave the hospital much more content, and much more focused on the gratitude I had that you were in my world.
Getting My Hands On You
I was stylin’ as we made our way to the Children’s Hospital… wearing bedroom slippers and a robe! I can’t remember ever caring less about what I had on in public! I was honed in on getting to hold you again after a full day of being away from you.
Of course, we walked into you getting a brain EKG, so that was a tiny shock to the system. 25 electrodes all over your head! Sheesh…
All just routine, though, considering why you’d initially been brought there. Seizures had definitely been ruled out, but they were going to be super diligent about any other possible weird brain malfunction you might have. Thankfully, there were none!
You were barely a day old, and already we felt like we’d dodged so many bullets…
Of course, they immediately asked if I wanted to hold you. And for a second there, I froze up! You were so incredibly tiny, and looked so incredibly breakable, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea.
Of course, the nurses assured me of what I already know… That you were bendy and flexible and squishy by design, pretty much for the sole purpose of being held by a nervous, shaky new mom.
I sat down, they placed you in my arms, and I held you against my chest for some skin to skin… and it was nothing short of glorious! Super foreign concept, holding my newborn to my chest, not to mention super awkward… but glorious, nonetheless!
Then your dad got a turn, and… be still, my heart… you were so tiny in his giant hands!
I got comfortable pretty quickly, though, and decided nursing you would probably be just as glorious.
The awkwardness came flooding back. I couldn’t get a good position, you seemed uncomfortable AF… it was not the natural, instinctual thing I envisioned it to be.
I recalled all the classes we’d taken while I was pregnant… all the nursing tips and tricks we were told about… somehow, none of them came in handy in that moment. And, even though we only been at it for a couple minutes, the frustration set in fast.
Then, the NICU nurse said something that totally changed that.
“This is like a little dance you’re doing together. It’s going to be awkward first.”
Not exactly profound, right? But it sooooooo resonated with me, and immediately made me feel better. I mean, in middle school, do you know how long it took me to figure out the whole dancing thing? Literally all. of. middle. school.
I chilled out and tried again, one uncomfortable position after another, shifting you this way and that… only this time, the awkwardness of it all had me laughing instead of cursing.
And that was all it took! Me calming the hell down enough to embrace the short, albeit awkward, journey. If only I’d had that mindset as a pre-teen… School dances would’ve been way less traumatizing…
And just like that… your first milk coma!
And Now… The Rest of the Story
For three extra nights, we had to leave you there… in the grand scheme of things, that was a relatively short timeline. You just had a little bit of bilirubin to get over, and they wanted to make sure you were eating and pooping properly.
We were the lucky ones. No other child in your NICU ward was discharged as quickly – not even close. Seeing such desperately ill and incredibly premature babies is something I’ll never forget. The thought of what those parents must have been going through – the ones who visited, anyway – is something I can hardly fathom.
And what those babies were going through… even harder to fathom. I wanted to hold each of them so close and tell them everything would be okay.
Don’t get me wrong… your stay was hard for us, too. But we knew you were coming home. And, I’ll ashamedly admit, it was nice to catch up on some sleep in preparation for your homecoming.
Of course, we would’ve forfeited that in a millisecond to have you home with us! But, since that wasn’t in the cards, we took every opportunity to rest in between visits to see you.
That third night, though? One of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever had. It was weird, knowing you were just fine and likely coming home the next day, that I had a sudden stab of pain just as I was laying down to go to sleep.
I rolled over to your dad and said, “I miss him. I want him here with us right now. My chest hurts, I want him here so bad.” The urge to jump out of bed and go get you was so strong – felt so urgent – it was hard to fight. In that moment, my protective-mama instinct kicked-in somethin’ fierce!
And it continued through the next day – all. damn. day. – until 9pm (yes, 9:00 at night!), when they finally cleared you for discharge. Absolutely no sign of brain deficiencies – YAYYYYY!; hearing test – passed; bilirubin – all but gone; car seat check – done.
It was nothing short of thrilling to see your dad finally carry you over the threshold of your new home…