So, last we let off, I was waiting for an operating room so I could give birth to my baby girl at only 34 weeks (6 weeks early). I had spent a long night on various medications to try to get me out of labor, only then to have many other medications pumped into my body to prep for my c-section. My memories from this time are like snapshots, and only when I piece them together can I attempt to recreate the entire story.
I remember being wheeled into the operating room by the doctor, who kept slamming me into walls by accident. He kept joking that he was a better doctor than bed-wheeler. I remember all of the staff in the operating room joking and talking about their daily lives. I noted how this was an average day at work for them, yet it was the most important day of my life. I remember my husband telling the anesthesiologist how sensitive I am to anesthesia. After I started dry-heaving during the surgery, the doctor remarked that my husband wasn’t kidding, and then adjusted my meds. I remember telling my husband to take his glasses off, because to my horror, I could see the reflection of my open abdomen. I remember the NICU staff walking into the room right before my little girl was ready to be taken out of me, assuring me they were going to give the best of care to my little girl. After they pulled her out, I remember waiting to hear her cry for the first time. It felt like an eternity. It probably was anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
The amazing doctor, who happened to be in charge of the NICU kept saying, “Come on Princess. Come on Princess. It’s okay, she is just a little stunned. Come on Princess.” Finally she cried and it was the most beautiful sound. Then I cried out of joy and relief. Before the NICU staff whisked my little girl away to work on her and make sure she was stable, I was able to give her a brief kiss on the head. The doctor then sewed me up and brought me to the recovery room. Unlike after my previous surgeries, I was alert. I needed to see how my baby was. The NICU doctor came in and told us our baby was stable, but there was a long road ahead.
My daughter was currently on CPAP which was helping her breathe. Also, because she was born so early, she was at risk for a collapsed lung and for bowel obstructions, among other problems. The doctor said that for now, she was stable and doing okay, but that the next 48 hours were crucial. They wheeled me into the NICU to see her, and as I went to sit up to get a closer look, I am told that I turned a shade of green, then white, and then collapsed. I was in and out of consciousness for the next 24 hours; the drugs and the operation definitely took their toll on my body . I would wake up periodically and ask my husband how my little one was. He was running back and forth between me and our baby and kept assuring me she was doing great.
The next morning I finally got up, showered as quickly as I could, and got in a wheel chair to go see my baby. Seeing my baby in the NICU, in an incubator, hooked up to monitors, on a breathing tube, was extremely overwhelming. She was 4 pounds 8 ounces and actually dropped down to a little over 3 pounds- as all babies lose weight in their first week. The nurses called my daughter Sleeping Beauty and Pocket Princess. They said she was perfectly formed, yet she was tiny. They told me that she probably wouldn’t come home much before her due date. There were many painful things that we endured during that time. I don’t like to dwell upon these things, because when all is told, we came out of this very lucky.
I remember how hard it was not being able to hold my baby for the first 48 hours, until she was stable. I remember how weird it was seeing other people take care of her feedings, change her diaper and look after her general well being. After four days, my husband and I had to leave the hospital, but my little one had to stay. That was the worst day of my life, leaving her there in the NICU. My only comfort was that the nurses and doctors that were taking care of her were angels on earth. I had been watching them for the last few days taking care of my daughter as their own. I knew she was in good hands.
The doctors had told me that Guinness Beer was good for breast milk. It goes without saying that my husband and I stopped at a local supermarket after leaving our little girl at the hospital to pick up a 6-pack before we headed home, although I was too exhausted and worried to take more than a sip. My little one beat all of the odds. Like most babies in the NICU, there are things she had to do on her own before she could come home. She first had to breathe on her own, which thankfully she did after a few days. She then had to be able to bottle feed, as opposed to receiving food through a feeding tube. That was a little trickier. When I was discharged, I tried to make it to the hospital to see every feeding that I could. The feedings I missed, I would frantically call the NICU nurse assigned to my daughter to see if she was able to bottle feed or if it was a tube feeding. My daughter was so little, that drinking from a bottle was exhausting for her, and sometimes she just couldn’t do it. I knew that when the nurse told me that it was a tube feeding, it would immediately add at least a couple of days to my baby’s stay in the NICU. I was getting a lot of use out of the breast pump I had bought on a hunch the week before I went into labor. It would be months before my little one would be strong enough to nurse.
The last test before my daughter could come home was the car seat test. My husband and I had to bring her car seat into the NICU so that the doctors could monitor her while she sat in it. If she didn’t go into distress, and her vitals remained stable, she could go home! I remember getting that joyous call that she was finally ready to come home. We rushed to the hospital and watched as they unhooked all of her monitors, which had been on her since moments after her birth. I was so very excited and overjoyed, but I was also terrified. I was pretty sure there was a good possibility that I could break her. My incredible mother single handedly redesigned my kitchen while I was in the hospital and while I was going back and forth to the NICU. The morning we went to go pick up our baby, my parents, whom I am forever indebted to, were at our apartment scrubbing it from floor to ceiling, removing all the dust and making it safe for our little one. We had a new granite counter top and a new dishwasher that I had ordered the afternoon I went into labor eleven days before. We had our kitchen redone. My brother and father were able to pick up the crib that my grandmother ordered early to complete my daughter’s nursery. We finally had a baby in our home, a dream of ours for many years. We were traumatized by all we had just gone through, but so very grateful. Now the new journey of parenthood was upon us.