What Happened in the NICU

Hey Saltee People,

I was going through my 2020 journal – any one else every do this? – and realized I never really explained what happened after I gave birth. I have my birth story on youtube (you can click here to see that) but I didn’t really cover what happened immediately after. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or that I didn’t want to tell people, I think in the beginning my mind was so scattered that I really couldn’t process what happened and then I just forgot. So here I am almost 7 months later here to tell you what happened in the NICU.

*note this may be triggering for some people – so please proceed with caution*

So my video leaves off with them literally completing the emergency c-section in the OR. Jameson came out, limp, not breathing, purple at 11:34 AM. I had a fever, I was shaking and I was on a lot of pain meds and antibiotics. I was in a daze. I remember the anesthesiologist saying “look there goes your baby” and I looked the wrong way only to turn and see them passing Jameson through the “baby window” into the sterile environment where they were going to resuscitate him. His APGAR score when he first came out was a 3. For those who don’t know what an APGAR is, it’s basically how likely a baby is to survive… and I believe 5 minutes later it went up to a 7 after they got him breathing. A nurse asked Chris and I if we had a camera and we did. She was kind enough to take it into the room and take the first photos of our baby boy.

They then got ready to move me to postpartum. Chris and I got separated here somehow… I’m not really sure where he was… I think he was just waiting in the lobby or something like that. Once I was in postpartum they pushed on my uterus… and if you’ve been there you know it’s not fun at all. They had these things on my legs compressing them so the blood would circulate and they had me on IV for my infection that both Jameson and I had gotten during labor and pain meds. Here I was in and out of consciousness. Finally Chris came into recovery, the nurse told him I wouldn’t be brought into postpartum until I was stable and we wouldn’t be able to see Jameson until my COVID test came back positive. After like an hour we got my COVID results and they said Chris could go see Jameson. So after thinking about it, we decided for Chris to go see Jameson in the NICU, and then he would go home and shower and come back.

I was alone in, kind of confused, and unsure of what was going on. I kept looking at the photos the nurse had taken. I really wasn’t sure what was going on. I thought that Jameson would be in the NICU for like a day and then he would be in my arms and we would be on our way. I was So wrong.

Finally, I was cleared to move from recovery to postpartum. They wheeled my whole hospital bed through the hospital and they allowed me to take a pitstop at the NICU. I met Jameson’s doctor and honestly it wasn’t a very positive experience. Seeing him hooked up to a million things, and then the doctor telling me he didn’t know if he would have brain damage and he didn’t know how long he would be in the NICU for. I immediately became overwhelmed and I couldn’t help but cry. How could this be happening? I had such a normal healthy pregnancy. I am only 24, I was a healthy weight, I had no complications…

I don’t remember Jameson’s technical diagnosis but I know it in regular terms. While I was pushing, there were a few things that went wrong. First, Jameson was head down, but facing out instead of towards me which can make it harder for the baby to come out. Second, he was in the birth canal for so long he ended up getting an infection – his heart rate was up and I had gotten the same infection and a fever. This is when they decided to do the emergency c-section. While they were doing the cesarian they realized his head was stuck in my pelvis – they had to go through my vagina, and push it out in order to get him out of my stomach. Somewhere during that, he lost oxygen causing him to come out unconscious, not breathing and limp.

When babies lose oxygen, sometimes this can cause brain swelling, and this can sometimes cause long term damage. In order to prevent this and regulate his body, the NICU had him on a cooling pad. He was in a state of induced hypothermia for 72 hours. He had to get all of his nutrition through IV, and I believe he was on some medication to keep him calm and to reduce pain. Then the warming process later would take 12 hours to get him back to normal body temperature – they do this gradual so they don’t shock the nervous system and to prevent seizures. He had a c-pap machine to help him breath and they also had him on some antibiotics for two days.

Back to the timeline of things, once I was settled in postpartum – which was a super small room compared to where I was laboring – they had to locate all of our things, and I waited for Chris to come back. Once he was back I think I rested some more and then eventual around 9 PM I was able to take a wheel chair down to the NICU. We stayed and stared at our baby. We weren’t really allowed to touch him – particularly rub him, because they didn’t want to excite/stimulate him too much. They needed to keep his heart rate low because of the cooling. We took some more photos, I could barely sit up but I stood to see my baby.

The next day, July 7th I think we went to the NICU like 3 or 4 times. I got my IV removed, I got off antibiotics and was able to go to the bathroom and eat. I felt a little more human. I got to shower which was more or less a scaring experience. The moment I looked at myself in the mirror – my incision, my popped blood vessel in my eye, my puffy face – I started shaking. I think it all just kind of hit me. I got into the shower and I needed Chris to help me stand. But, I will say, that day I slowly but surely walked instead of wheeled to the NICU and Jameson was doing a little bit better.

July 8th – Jameson was off antibiotics and breathing on his own. His eyes were open and it was a welcome site seeing a lot less wires connected to him. He was still being monitored closely, still getting his nutrition through and IV but he was able to swab some colostrum on his lips.

July 9th – This was the day we had been looking forward to. Warming day! They started the warming process in the afternoon so we would be able to hold Jameson at 2 am. So we set our alarms and when the time came we were bright eyed and bushy taled. We made our way down the NICU, and I sat in a chair and they delicately took Jameson out of his bed with all wires attached and put him in my arms. We tried to breastfeed – but he pretty much just fell asleep so Chris and I both did skin to skin. He was so small, and so mushy. He just melted in my arms. We ended up staying so long that we tried feeding again – but he ended up falling asleep again. We decided around 5 am that we should get some rest so the nurses gave us both blankets to put on our skin so Jameson would be able to have those in his little bed and recognize our smells.

July 10th – This was the day that I was discharged from the hospital and although I got to sleep in my own bed that night, I cried on the way home. I felt empty and it was really hard to focus on the positives – that Jameson was making progress and would be home soon. So that morning we left Jameson in the NICU and then came back to some really good news. Jameson got moved to step down! This was so so exciting. This is the part of the NICU where they prepare him for life in the real world. So no more crazy wires – well just a few. But he got to sleep in a crib, in his own little room, and wear clothes and it was just a much more relaxed environment. Of course we asked what needed to happen for him to come home. They had told us once he gained sufficient weight, was able to eat consistently and I think maintain a certain temperature and heart rate. So I brought in all the breastmilk I could over the next few days and pumped and worked to bottle and breastfeed him – I wrote a whole blog about my feeding journey that you can find here.

I remember one day as we were walking up to the hospital for one of our many NICU visits seeing a baby being discharged that had been in the NICU for over 100 days. There was a huge group of friends and family waiting outside the hospital doors and the mom and the nurse walked out and I immediately started tearing up. F*ck I’m tearing up as I type this. Chris and I just looked at each other and I knew we were both thinking that we were so lucky. 100 days, that’s 3 months of not having your baby home with you, of having to go to the NICU everyday. It just put things into perspective and I know God had timed that perfectly.

Over the next few days Chris and I would visit the NICU as much as we could and as close to meal time as possible. I brought in all the milk I could to ensure they had enough for him – if anything they had too much. We did have a minor set back. Jameson had a more intense case of jaundice – so they had to put him in a blue light blanket. It was actually kind of cute and we called him our little glow worm.

Finally on July 15th they told us he would be able to be discharged. They needed us to meet with a few people, for Jameson to be checked out by his doctor and then we could bring him home. That morning we went Sharp and hung around pretty much all day – we left for meals. Finally around 2 pm the nurse said “are you ready to do this”. She carried Jameson out with me to the front door, Chris pulled the car around, security checked our bracelets and that was it. He was ours.

I look back at those 9 days and honestly it feels like a dream. The day Jameson got discharged was my dad’s birthday – so my dad was the first person to hold him outside of Chris and I (and the great nurses at Sharp). Sometimes I feel like I missed out on the “birth experience” but I am just so thankful that Jameson is happy and healthy today. Any mom who has had a baby in the NICU for any amount of time knows that it’s just such a difficult and emotional time. You’re happy that your baby is making progress and getting the care they need but you just want to take them home and for things to be normal.

I know this was kind of a long post and if you made it this far congrats. That was quite the story. If you are a c-section mama or a mama of a NICU baby and you want to talk I am here for you!

Stay Saltee,

Annalisa

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