Currently, I’m sitting in a dark NICU room with Joelle sound asleep across the room hooked up to monitors and listening to her soft breath. And this has been my setting for the last six days. How did we get here?
Let’s start part 2 where I left part 1. The hour and half it took my doctor to control my bleeding was all a blur. My blood pressure tanked and at one point I yelled I was about to pass out. Everything was spinning. Later my doctor told me that she was sure I had ruptured my uterus and I was going to need surgery. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. It was just a bad tear needing multiple sutures and lots of help from 4 other OB residents.
After the storm had passed, I was allowed to cuddle with Joelle for the first few hours. Our first nursing session went well as she learned very quickly. Everything was going great. Until my epidural wore off. I was expecting pain which I could deal with. But I wasn’t expecting the residual effects of my low blood pressure.
At 2 o’clock in the morning, the nurse asked me to walk with her to the bathroom so I could pee. I made it to the toilet and she asked if I was ok enough for her to go grab something from across the hall. I said yes. A few moments after she left, my body said no. I felt the wave of light headedness come on and the next thing I know, I hear my nurse say “shit”. I had passed out on the floor. And then proceeded to pass out another 2 more times. I finally came to with Dave and my nurse yelling my name. Dave later told me that it looked like a scene from Dexter as I lay there passed out. I’m sure you can gather what I mean.
All this time, Joelle was in the nursery getting her normal screens and testing done. But things weren’t looking good for her. She had apparently swallowed from blood during delivery irritating her nasal passage ways due to refluxing this blood. Babies are primarily nose breathers especially when they nurse, so this posed a problem for her. Once she was brought back to me, the nurse explained the situation and allowed me to nurse so she could watch her breathing. She struggled too much to breathe that they had to bring her back to the nursery to be evaluated and monitored. I was told that she could end up in the NICU if the problem got worse over the next hour.
Do you think I slept during that hour? I don’t think I even closed my eyes. I felt so helpless and on top of it, I couldn’t be with her. That hour passed and then another. In the meantime, my nurses had been monitoring my vital signs and my blood pressure was still quite low and I couldn’t be trusted to get out of bed. Another surprising complication was I couldn’t empty my bladder and when I tried to pee it hurt very badly along with an intense wave of pressure. It was the weirdest feeling. The nurses tried to catheterize me without any luck. And their attempts to do so were extremely painful. Almost more than my contractions.
By 7 am, the nursery nurse practitioner came in with Joelle and quickly said she was going to NICU because she wasn’t getting better. The next thing I knew, both Joelle and Dave were gone and I was left in a empty labor and delivery room. And I lost it. We’re talking an uncontrollable break down (and I’m emotional just writing about it). The very worst feeling a parent could have: not knowing if your child is going to be ok and I couldn’t be there.
Dave finally came back about an hour later after she had been admitted and evaluated in the NICU. She was stable and the doctors were optimistic that this problem was minor. I didn’t get to see her again until about noon on Friday. And this is what I saw:
She was under a humidified hood to keep her nasal passage ways moist and was hooked up to monitors for heart rate, breathing and oxygen saturation. I never thought I’d have a baby in the NICU. But we had to face the realty that she needed a little extra care. I was wheeled down to my room after I was assured she was in good hands.
I settled into my room and couldn’t help but break down because my little girl wasn’t with me. We were suppose to spend our recovery time cuddling, nuzzling and getting to know each other. At that point, I had barely held her for 1 hour. My nurses were so sensitive to my emotions and gave us lots of reassurance that she would be ok.
I finally got to hold Joelle the next day and it was just what I needed to boost my mood. We got to nurse and her breathing was improving. She no longer needed the humidity hood and we were allowed to cuddle and hold her as much as we wanted. I was elated!
With Joelle starting to improve, both my docs and hers started to talk about going home. As you can imagine, having a baby in the NICU can make you crazy. Usually, improvements come with small set backs. Just as she was starting to get better, she would have an episode of dropping her oxygen saturation. Talk about frustrating. It’s a double edge sword. You want your baby to come home but you don’t want to until they are well enough.
In the meantime, I was experiencing my own set backs. First, my blood work revealed that the blood loss during delivery left my hemoglobin levels critical. I was told that if it didn’t improve in the morning, I would require a blood transfusion. Also, the problem with my bladder needed to be addressed as I couldn’t void it completely without intense pain. A bladder screen revealed I had significant amounts of urine inside even after I went pee. The nurses painfully drained it to find out I had 2L of urine inside! And the worst part is that I didn’t even feel the urge to pee. That meant my bladder muscles were so distended that the nerves no longer functioned. I was placed on “bladder rest” and had to walk around the hospital with a catheter. Fun. Not so much.
The next morning my blood results weren’t great. My hemoglobin was even lower in the critical range so I had no choice to stay another night and receive a blood transfusion.
Don’t I look a little pale? I received 2 units of blood over the course of 4 1/2 hours. And this is what Dave was doing in the meantime:
Joelle was born on Thursday July 2nd and by Tuesday July 7th, I was well enough to be discharged. I guess blood does a body good. But I was discharged still on bladder rest. Walking around with a pee bag attached to your leg sucks. Another thing that sucks…. cankles. I gave birth to an 8lb 3oz baby and my current weight is only 3lbs less. Somehow that math doesn’t work out. I had so much fluid and blood pumped into me that I’m experiencing alot of swelling.
Like I said, the NICU will make you crazy. Your baby is in a dark room with monitors and alarms constantly flashing and beeping. Every little spike or depression in vitals can make a nervous parent crazy. But you can’t help it. Dave and I had to keep this in mind and focus our attention on Joelle. She progressed slowly and the docs were more comfortable with the idea of her going home. Until she failed her car seat challenge. She had to sit in her car seat for 90 minutes without her oxygen saturation drifting past a certain point. She failed at the 80 minute mark! That meant another night in the NICU.
Since I was discharged, I stayed the night with her and Dave went home to be with Corrine who was being watched over by Dave’s parents. Being along with her in the NICU was hard. Mainly because I was still recovering and just getting around was hard (let’s not forget about that damn pee bag too but at least I didn’t have to run to the bathroom). She thought the hours of 2am to 4am were play time as she wouldn’t go to sleep. I was cursing Dave at home all snug in our warm bed getting uninterrupted sleep. Joelle and I survived. The next day was uneventful so we were hopeful she would be discharged soon.
After successfully passing her car seat challenge, Joelle was finally discharged on Wednesday night and we came home at last.
Stay tuned for Part 3 where I talk how I believe Corrine experienced this whole situation and Joelle’s homecoming.