Monday, May 13, 2013

The Story of A Boy and his brand new baby Sister: Part 17: Welcome to the NICU

If you have found your way to this chapter I hope that you have first found your way to parts was a very long journey to get to that cold April night in the OR.

Thank you for reading, for your kind and gentle comments and for sharing in the hope and legacy of my dear Son William.

27 April 2008

in the wee hours of the morning.....

I remember waking up feeling like I was having an out of body experience. It was similar to the experience of going under~ only in reverse. At first the voices sounded very far away.....and I wasn't sure if someone was holding my hand....and my legs felt odd and heavy.

Slowly but surely I returned to consciousness......and my husband was holding my hand....and my legs were still numb. The curt and efficient doctor was standing at my bedside talking to my husband. And I could hear what she was saying but it still felt sort of dreamlike. She was talking about the reason my water broke....and I was all wait, what the what? We know why? I shook my head several times to try to clear the cobwebs of anesthesia from my brain. She told my husband that I wasn't out of the woods yet. She said I'd have to stay over on the labor side so they could keep a close eye on me. She told my husband we would talk more when she rounded in the morning. I remember thinking: well thank the gods for that, since I really have NO IDEA what she just said.

I looked over to see my husband looking more tired and more worried than I had ever seen him. It was like he had aged 10 years in the hours I was in the OR. I told him that he should go home and get some rest and he promised that he would~ but said we were waiting for the neonatologist to come over and talk to us.

Now I am not the most patient of women by nature.....and I was immediately filled with dread but felt an extreme sense of urgency for the neonatologist to come: RIGHT NOW. Now my husband IS the most patient of men by nature and he reassured me that they had been waiting for me to wake up and that he had asked the dr to wait and talk to us both at the same time. It was then that I learned that after the incubator and my husband had been whisked from the OR I was in surgery for nearly 2 more hours. And then I was crying and apologizing and I felt like a big jackass because he had been waiting all that time~ not knowing the medical condition of his wife or his daughter.

He was calm and reassuring, he wiped my tears and held my hand. I looked at him and I knew there was resolve and desperation on my face and in my voice. But I felt compelled to say: No matter how this turns out, I can NOT do this again....there is no way that I could survive *this* again. He said: I know honey, you told me that in the OR. Funny, I didn't remember saying it to him in the OR. And at this point I still had no clue as to just HOW true my words were.

And so we waited. And the nurse who never seemed to leave my bedside was **constantly** mashing on my stomach, checking my blood pressure and checking the amount of bleeding I was having. It was actually rather irritating and I really wanted her to stop~ but at the same time knew that she could not.

Then in trudged the neonatologist and a NICU nurse. I could tell immediately that the news was grave. The doctor had a very thick accent. I remember struggling to understand what he was saying and most of my questions were answered with sighs and him repeating the words he had just said only slower.

So this is the news that fellow and the nurse brought to my bedside that night: Our daughter was alive, despite great odds that she was not expected to live in utero for 4 weeks without any measurable amniotic fluid and the fact that she almost did not survive the delivery. They had successfully intubated her and she was on a ventilator. They had gotten IVs started and already given her what seemed to me like lots of medications. The biggest problem (and largest indicator of her eventual survivability) were her VASTLY premature lungs. He went on to explain that one of the main functions amniotic fluid was to help with fetal lung maturation ~~paying no mind to the fact that we had been listening to that song and dance for 4 weeks now: starting with good ole Dr. Fuckface in the world renowned hospital in Pittsburgh what felt like half a lifetime ago. He ended his tale of woe by listing all of the things our daughter might face in the next 24-48 hours....brain hemorrhaging being the most deadly. I asked when we could see her (I mean THAT'S a *normal* question RIGHT?) He looked at me as if I had three heads. He said they would let my husband in to see her for a moment and he could bring me back a picture. I would not be able to physically see her until I was stable enough to be transported via wheelchair.

And with that he and the nurse left the room and said that he would talk to us in the morning. WTH is with all of this "we'll talk more in the morning" bullshit? Incidentally: THAT doctor and THAT nurse became my  two *least* favorite staff members of the NICU. But having absolutely ZERO control over the situation~~ my husband and I chose to try to focus on the positives: she *had* survived delivery, she *was* successfully intubated, she *had already* received medications meant to save her life and also reduce her risks of long term catastrophic health issues.

My husband was ushered to the NICU where it was explained to him that he would need to 'scrub up' and put on a gown and a mask each and every time he wanted to enter the NICU. And they taught him how to do those things. Just after 2 in the morning he returned to my bedside with a picture of the tiniest living baby I had ever seen. She was perfect in every single way: just really, really, really small. To demonstrate the point further my husband had been given a teeny tiny diaper to show me. And he said it was the smallest preemie diapers that were made and it was HUGE on her little body.

I clutched that photo and that teeny tiny diaper like my life depended on it. She looked so very frail, her skin still almost transparent. Her left leg was twisted at an odd angle~ my husband said that the staff had told him that this was a result of her being essentially "stuck" in the same position for four long weeks. And they did not know if it would resolve or be a permanent disfigurement....and truthfully that was the *least* of our worries.

And so it was then that my husband went home to rest and to snuggle our dear living son at home enough for the both of us.

And there in the labor room I stared at the first picture of my miracle daughter until I had memorized each and every single one of her teeny tiny features. It occurred to me that she very strongly resembled my husband and both of my sons....and that thought made me smile.

Throughout that long night I would awaken many times and clutch the photo anew. And each time I would ask the nurse who never seemed to leave my bedside if there had been any word from the NICU. Each time she would say "no" and tell me to rest. And I would clutch the photo and drift off again. Praying, praying, praying to the gods, to William, to the universe ........a prayer now said aloud literally thousands of times in the last 4 weeks:

Please let my daughter survive and please let her be healthy.


  1. I wish I could "Lke" this. I've been so blessed with healthy babies. Not all of them perfect, but thrivers and fighters, oh yes! xsnos.

  2. Although Maggie was a whopping 2.11, I know that fear you speak of! Love you, Regina!