After Birdie was born, she was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU to immediately address her respiratory distress. Along with her immature lungs, she was thought to have aspirated some fluid during her abrupt entrance in to this world. There were some complications during my c section that resulted in Squeak being yanked a few times from my rib cage. She required breathing assistance via a CPAP for about 24 hours before she was weaned off oxygen for another 3 days.
After my blood pressure stabilzed, my hospital bed was wheeled to the NICU and I was allowed to see my tiny miracle for about 5 minutes before being taken to the postpartum unit. Again I was without my baby in my arms, but she was alive. They told me to sleep. Yeah. I stared at the clock willing the feeling to return to my legs so I could crawl to my child. I called the NICU every 45 minutes to ask about our baby.
The anguish of our first child dying and then watching Birdie struggling to breathe was enough to crack the strongest of people. This experience has easily shaved 10 years off my life and there will never be enough concealer to rectify the bags under my eyes. When Birdie started experiencing apnea episodes and I watched all of her numbers plummet and our girl essentially hold her breathe, I do not have the right words. It's a special level of fear hearing alarms go off and everyone rush to your child's bedside. I wanted it to be me. I begged for it to be me. It's watching your heart beat outside your body and you can do nothing to control what is happening. Fortunately the staff realized very quickly what this issue was and the appropriate medication administered.
The medication thankfully resolved the apnea of prematurity issues immediately but I'll watch her breathe until she's 18.Then we tackled the bottle feedings. Preemies have difficulties coordinating the whole suck-swallow-breathe situation, while eating. My kid didn't even get a go at a bottle for 8 days due to oxygen needs. Thanks to a mighty NICU speech therapist, my kid can now eat. Eat a lot. At 4 am. Fun side note. I AM a pediatric speech therapist and MY kid ate better for the NICU speech therapist, Beau and pretty much any nurse. I sobbed in my car on more than one occasion.
Thats what the NICU feels like. Holding your breathe. Waiting for the bad, waiting for the good, waiting. Tip toeing through the day. Counting every mL drank and the scale move up by grams. I've googled how many grams to an ounce, ounce to lbs more than I care to admit. The NICU is driving away from the hospital, trusting other people (very awesome,capable people) to watch your baby so you can have a break from the hospital room. The NICU is walking past the well baby nursery, top full of crying, fat babies and grieving your birth plan. My birth plan did not involve my guts being removed. I've had one baby vaginally and one via c-section. Folks, c-sections are not the easy way out. I'll post about that on a later date. It's fighting the guilt. You should feel nothing but happy and gratitude for your tiny baby but you can't help but cry.
The baby blues are a real thing. I cried over everything. We are on high alert for any post partum anxiety or depression as parents who have experienced child loss are at higher than average risk. I am pretty in tune with my feelings but I still have a counselor and my family keeps an eye on things. My hormones are a little more even now but I just cried because she's another day older so there's that.
The NICU is hard on your marriage. While Beau had all the faith in the world about our medical team I felt the need to be there every second I could. I would get really snippy about having to leave and I'll give you a guess who had to deal with my madness. I'm sure I set a record for the number of questions I asked or things I worried about. But I'll continue to stand on my soap box about how love conquers all and marriages should evolve, bend to withstand life. I made a grand life choice in making Beau my partner, he is for sure the calm to my storm. Love you babe.
The phenomenal NICU nurses, Beau, families and our well established tribe helped me keep in together as best as possible. Reaching out to a friend who had two babies in the NICU was a vital life line. Having someone tell you it's ok to cry for 12 hours for no reason or for a reason helped me to feel validated.
If you ever know someone or are someone experiencing a NICU stay I'd be happy to talk to you and have a party over every mIlliliter your kid drinks. Every day that monitor doesn't sound. Cry with you. Bring you a beer.
Im grateful our NICU stay was 21 days. I know many a brave families experiencing longer stays or parents of babies with critical issues. I'll tuck you right in my heart with my girls.
Rest easy Pipes.