Friday, March 30, 2012

Postpartum and the NICU

To say that we weren't really prepared for this experience would be an understatement. After all, we thought that we had five more weeks to prepare for baby! With that said, having a "late pre-term baby" is an even more intense experience. We were fortunate that when our son was delivered, all of his systems were working normally, and there were no major issues right off the bat.

Our hospital has a standard rule that late pre-term babies must be observed for at least six hours after delivery. The first hour is spent with us in the room, and then the rest of the time is spent in the special care nursery / NICU. Since I was less than mobile (due to the C-section) and still on medication (including that darn Magnesium!), I still don't remember much of what happened. Although, I do remember the super-cool hovercraft like mattress that they used to move me from the operating room table to my rolling bed. (It was quite the trip!) Nonetheless, I was moved to a new room on the delivery wing, and Matthew got to join us in the room for a little bit. 

After an hour or so, Lennie escorted our son down to the NICU for testing, and I got to begin recovering from surgery. When Lennie returned from the NICU, he said that they were going to keep our baby for observation, since he had decided that he didn't want to eat. (Apparently this is normal for early babies.) Everything else was okay, he simply didn't want to eat. In addition, with the room being kept so cold (again because of the Magnesium hot flashes I was having), they decided that it wasn't the best place for our baby. 

As visitors began to arrive, we would spend some time in my room, and then Lennie would escort them back to see our new addition in the NICU. We're especially grateful that one of our church's pastors and one of our great friends were able to visit with us and talk about what had just transpired. Our friend's husband even delivered dinner to Lennie -- which I think he really needed!

My parents were finally able to arrive from Phoenix around 10 that night. They checked on me, and then were whisked back to the NICU to meet their newest grandson. Unfortunately, Matthew was still not eating, and the NICU staff had to insert a feeding tube through Matthew's nose so that he could eat. This was heart wrenching news, but I knew that our son was in good hands. 

Since I was still in the throes of recovering from surgery, I wasn't able to go to the NICU to visit or hold my son until late the next morning. Once I was finally up and able to walk (only a little bit, so I had to take a wheelchair with me), I was finally able to visit my son. At this point, Lennie was an 'old pro' at visiting our son, so he was able to show me the ropes.

He was sooo little!

After I was (thankfully!) taken off of the Magnesium, I was moved to a postpartum room on Saturday afternoon. While it was farther from the NICU, it was a nice room. Everything had still been swirling around me, but I'd say that the hardest times were on Saturday and Sunday for me. The postpartum room was surrounded by rooms with healthy babies who were in with their new parents. I didn't sleep at all on Saturday night, and was incredibly frustrated that I couldn't go down and visit my son without it being an ordeal (pushing wheelchairs, coordinating with others, etc.). The crying babies on either side of me definitely did not help the situation!

A note for new moms here: if you can't sleep or are uncomfortable, speak up and tell your nurses about it. Repeat after me: Ambien. After I was clued in to this opportunity on Sunday, I had one of the best nights of sleep, and was able to get my whits about me again. (Although, this did come after everything finally hit me and I had a really good breakdown/cry session.)

I was checked out of the hospital on Monday morning, but our son continued to need a feeding tube and was "right on the edge" of needing to be under the lights for being jaundiced. (Fortunately, his numbers never got into the range where he'd need that treatment.) I thought that it would be difficult to leave the hospital without my son, but at the same time I was completely at peace with it because I knew that he was in good hands. We stayed at my parent's house for the night since it was closer to the hospital, and Lennie was able to go back to work on Tuesday. I got to go and visit the NICU, so all was well.

On Tuesday afternoon, I met Lennie after work at the NICU for our son's evening feeding. When we walked in, the nurse said "I'm sorry that I had to feed him early, but go and take a look at your son!" When we walked over to his area, we discovered that our headstrong son had removed his feeding tube on his own, and was sleeping peacefully. What an amazing turn of events! We got to sit and hold him, and as we left the nurses said that he would probably be going home in 48 hours if he continued on the path that he was on!

Lennie and I returned to our house for the first time on Tuesday night, and it was an almost surreal experience. It had been over a week since I had been in my own home, and our friend Alycia had scurried around behind the scenes getting us "baby ready" at home. It was amazing to see all of the work that she had done!

On Wednesday morning, Lennie had decided to drop by the hospital before going to work. That's when I go the craziest call from Lennie -- our son was going home that day! Lennie told me with a big smile in his voice that I needed to bring clothes and the car seat to the hospital with me so that our son could do the "car seat test" (where he has to sit in the car seat for 45 minutes without any distress) and then possibly be discharged. To say that I was out of bed in a flash would be an understatement!

My mom and I went to the hospital in a daze, clothing and car seat in hand, and joyfully learned that my son had turned the corner and was eating like a champ. The day was filled with education from the nurses, nerves from me, and utter joy as my son passed the car seat test without blinking an eye. (And my Mom took 100 photos along the way -- thanks Mom!)

When you get discharged from the hospital with your new baby, the nurse escorts you down to your car. She inspected our car seat (and gave us some great pointers), and then sent us on our way. My Mom and Dad drove us out of the hospital parking lot with my son by our side. As we drove along, my Mom was chuckling saying, "my how things have changed since I took you home from the hospital! I think that I had you in my lap for the few miles home!"

Yes, how things have changed. How they have changed indeed!

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