I write this for no one other than myself, but I very well assumed that others might find my story both intriguing and helpful if ever in my predicament. I find myself replaying the hours after Chase’s birth and leading up to our discharge date from Children’s and this is my way of letting it all out on paper so that I can cope and hopefully heal. A different perspective on the story might help me in the process of healing.
I believe that is one thing to know your child has an illness or to be expecting a stint in the NICU due to prematurity. It might also be less stressful to know what IS wrong with your newborn or to be told that they are simply monitoring him or her for something less severe – say for jaundice or a problem regulating temperature. I, however, knew nothing was wrong. I went 9 ½ months in great health (other than a few non-related incidents) with totally normal “baby tests” (such as the quad screen) and then I found myself within hours of Chase’s birth with a NICU baby and I broke.
We were induced at 3 p.m. on the 20th. I received Cytotec and Pitocin. I had a few problems through the night – at around 2 a.m. my blood pressure plummeted and I was barely able to speak. I was unbelievably weak and probably scared the daylights out of my husband. I also had hyper extended contractions which in my case meant I was experiencing 4-8 contractions back-to-back with no breaks… so basically 10-30 minutes of constant contracting. To relieve my unbearable pain, I of course opted for an epidural (who wouldn’t?) but unfortunately my hyperextension wouldn't stop, so I had to receive my epidural while contracting … and in a moment of idiocy I actually MOVED during my epidural… and now I have nerve pain to deal with (it’s only temporary though, and will go away over the next few months.) Chase had decels all night, so they constantly came in to roll me back and forth trying to get him off his cord. After lots of meds for my blood pressure, liquids and on and off pitocin I was ready to push.
My actually delivery was quick. I pushed for 15 minutes and delivered Chase at 9:55 a.m. His initial APGAR score was 9/10 and 10/10 at 5 minutes. He was pink and adorable… 6 lbs. 10.5 ounces. He did have the cord around his neck twice and very tightly… but that, for the record, has nothing to do with his condition although it was the reason for his decels in labor.
Michael left shortly thereafter to watch them bath and measure Chase. He came back to the room an hour later in what looked like great spirits. As the day progressed he kept pacing and asking when Chase would get done with his tests and bath as I unknowingly reassured him that they would bring him as soon as they were finished. I reminded him that there was a full labor and delivery floor that day and lots of babies were surely being seen.
Soon, it was close to 4 in the afternoon and we still hadn’t seen Chase. It was then that Michael broke down. He told me that there might be a problem and that while they were bathing him a nurse became concerned with Chase’s head (his fontanel or “soft spot”). He told me that they were going to do an ultrasound but surely everything would be ok. He didn’t want to scare me so he never let me know but that as the hours passed he began to worry that the test results weren’t good. I was “ok” for the most part, not believing that MY little angel could POSSIBLY not be perfect. Not minutes later the phone rang and everything gets a little cloudy from there.
The test showed blood on the brain and not just a little. A team of doctors came in about an hour later to explain that Chase was now in the NICU. He apparently seized shortly after Michael left and they hypothesized that the pressure from the blood caused the seizing. He had a grade III bleed… and there are only 4 grades. They asked if either of us had any blood disorders in the family to which we both replied no. They asked if we had any trauma during the pregnancy… such as a car accident… but that was a no too. Soon we found that we were dealing with a very rare occurrence, especially for a term baby, and that they hadn’t a clue why he’d have this problem.
They wheeled me down the hall and into the NICU not minutes later. They lead me there through a series of back doors to avoid having me go past the nursery, but it wouldn’t have mattered to me. I was broken, tired and in tears. I knew which one was Chase from the moment we entered the room – although there was no nametag yet. He was adorable and looked so healthy. "How could such a beautiful little man be so sick ?", I kept asking myself. His iscolete had a large sign on it “IVH Precaution”. Basically, that meant my newborn baby couldn’t be touched, talked to or stimulated. I had to sit in my wheelchair and cry. I felt so alone and cold without my baby.
I only stayed for a bit as they wanted my to settle into my postpartum room. It’s a strange feeling to know everyone is looking at you as they’ve clearly been informed of the situation. All the rooms we passed had mothers and babies, families and balloons, celebration and laughter… but it wouldn’t be like that for me.
A nurse came in to acquaint me with the NICU process, let me know the hours and numbers… told me when doctors would be by and the like and finished the conversation with “Would you like anything for the pain?” Oh would I. Only thing is they don’t make a drug for the kind of pain I felt. My heart ached for my baby.
It took forever to get to sleep that night, but within hours a NICU nurse was standing over my bed in the dark. “Chase has seized 5 more times”… “He's now on 35 mg of pheno”… “He’s having apeanic episodes of not breathing”… “We’ve had to intibuate him”. Michael told me later that he told himself then we might loose the baby.
We were awakened by Michael’s parents wanting to come up. How I wished they would have left me alone… but we used the wake-up call to immediately go to the NICU to check on Chase. Come to find out, they were already in the process of deciding when he should go to Children’s. We were told about 30 minutes after visiting him that they were going to take him by ambulance, and that I should go shower. So, I left and went to shower. I barely had the shampoo out of my hair before Michael knocked on the door feverishly to tell me they had decided to helicopter him out and the chopper would be there in 15 minutes. I still had conditioner in my hair when I jumped out (as best I could), threw my hair into a ponytail, threw on a robe and went back to the NICU.
There, the nurses prepped him for the helicopter ride by undoing all of his cords and monitors and reattaching them to a portable unit. They rewired his intubation machine and cleaned out his bed. Michelle, his nurse, told me I could have anything in his iscolete, and she handed me his thermometer, a blanket, some socks and a sign with his name on it that she had made. They told me the procedure for Children’s and explained to us how to get there. Within 10 minutes, the helicopter team had landed and were headed to the hospital. Four medics came in with a stretcher and a tiny little iscolete on top. They let me tell him goodbye and then took off his cap and handed it to me. I kissed Chase goodbye and stopped holding back my tears. I broke down as they rolled him out of the NICU.
Michael rolled me back to our room as I held the cap Chase had been wearing. I kept telling myself that the cap was all I had. I came to the hospital expecting a normal, healthy baby and now I was about to leave with nothing but a cheap piece of cloth that smelled of my baby. To this day, it is a feeling I can’t let go of.
I was discharged a day early, less than 24 hours after giving birth. I was in pain, swollen and unable to walk on my own. It would be 4 hours before I got to see Chase in Birmingham and I was already exhausted.
I've been having nightmares about the NICU, about having my newborn basically ripped from my arms and then told that something is wrong, nightmares about the hell my husband and son went through for 8 days... and all while I was supposed to be living in a dream world filled with new baby bliss, family and all things Christmas.
I spend at least 3 hours each night trying to sleep, only to re-live the events of Chase's birth and thereafter over and over. It's terrible - really - so, in efforts to get some sleep and rest my mind I've decided on "blogtherapy". Writing has always been a great source of relief for many things in my life and thus, I believe telling my story will help me to cope.
I've already begun the blog in a word document, as I fear it's going to take up a TON of space... and I'm probably right seeing I'm only into day 2 and the piece is 2 pages long. So, I hope to have it finished soon... for both my sanity and in hopes that I help another mom out there that finds herself in my situation (or something similar).
So, here's to me dealing with what happened... finding peace... and becoming a stronger woman and mother.
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