My Son’s Birth Story: NICU and Going Home
My husband and I spent the next two nights at his parent’s house. He wanted someone to be around all the time in case anything happened to me. Plus, his mom could check my blood pressure regularly.
I couldn’t lay down flat yet due to the pulling on my incision, so I slept in the recliner in the living room. I was still pumping every three hours trying to get enough milk stashed to feed my baby.
Thursday, I spent the day on the phone with our medical sharing company, Samaritan Ministries, clarifying our claim and navigating my way through some changes they made that affected our policy.
I hadn’t received bills yet in the mail, but I could still start my claim by uploading the bills from my midwife.
I spent the rest of the afternoon pumping and sorting our mail: sending out bills and trying to arrange an interim for my church secretary job.
That evening I slept in the chair again.
Friday, my cousin volunteered to take me back down to the hospital where our son was. Thankfully, there was a Ronald McDonald House next door so I was able to reserve a room indefinitely.
The Ronald McDonald House I knew had a kitchen, so I packed enough food to get me through a week or so. It was the middle of harvest on the farm, so I didn’t know if my husband would make it down again until the next Sunday.
We got to the Ronald McDonald House that afternoon and checked in. It was amazing! The staff was so polite, wonderful and understanding. The house itself was beautiful and homey.
After unpacking and getting settled in a bit, we went over to see my baby and bring him the milk I’d been pumping.
My brain was still so fuzzy and definitely not fully functioning so I really struggled with finding my way to the NICU. And I walked slow. And my reaction time was slow. Everything about me still felt so. slow.
Partly from the magnesium, partly from the seizures, partly from all the blood pressure and pain meds.
That weekend I felt awful and like I would pass out. Because I was no longer a patient, the nurses couldn’t check my blood pressure.
My cousin drove me across town to Shopko with a public blood pressure machine. It was low even for me so I cut my strongest pill in half. I knew if I didn’t do something I’d end up passing out in the hall at 3am with no help.
Sunday, my husband came and we went out to lunch. We felt a smidgen normal. Whatever normal was anymore. He took me to Shopko again to check my blood pressure. Still not great.
Monday was my follow-up appointment with the OB. It was in the other wing of the hospital so I left my room a half hour early to make sure I got there in time.
It was a long walk that winded me but I had time to rest before I got called back to my appointment.
The OB laid me back to check my incision. She sat me back up and I told her I was going to pass out. She went and got me an orange juice and a Sprite. I chugged both of them and felt much better. The OB took me off all blood pressure meds that day!
I was so thankful! Finally I was off everything except the occasional Tylenol!
Back in my son’s NICU ward, the nurses were talking about discharging my son. They knew no details because everything was contingent on the doctor’s rounds later that day. But according to my son’s blood sugar records and no more stop-breathing episodes, he would be ready to go home soon.
That night I got to “room in” with my son. There was a small hotel-like room up the hall and I took care of my baby that night all by myself. With the nurse call button right there, of course.
My phone alarm was still set to go off every three hours to pump and feed my son. Due to my nervousness, I hardly slept in between my alarms. I heard every little squeak and sigh from my son.
And cleaned up tons of spit up.
Tuesday morning I called my husband and told him our son would likely be discharged that day. He made plans to come with the car seat and some clothes. Thankfully he had the pile of baby shower gifts to dig through so he didn’t have to go buy something.
A NICU nurse told me to make sure our car seat was legal to hold a 4 ½ pound baby. She said most car seats are only rated down to five pounds and our baby wouldn’t be discharged until we had a legal car seat.
Another phone call to my husband confirmed that we needed another car seat.
The nurses sent me down to the help desk and I was able to buy a generic car seat from the hospital that was rated for a four-pound baby.
I took the car seat to the NICU. Before any baby is released, the nurses have to do a test run. They placed our baby in his car seat all buckled in with his monitors still attached for the same amount of time as it would take us to get home: one hour, 45 minutes.
My husband arrived shortly after our son’s trial started. He took me down a few floors to get lunch at Subway. While waiting in line I heard a voice behind me say, “I’m glad to see you upright. You’re looking a whole lot better than the other day.”
I turned around to see a kind-eyed, snow colored hair man standing behind me grinning. I had no clue who he was so I didn’t think he was talking to me.
“You don’t know who I am,” he continued.
“Uh, no,” I stammered trying to push the fuzziness out of my mind.
“I’m the neurologist who analyzed you and gave the okay to be discharged.”
I didn’t know what to say as the color crept up my cheeks. By all appearances, my mind was in no shape to be discharged.
Thankfully my husband started laughing, the doctor started laughing and I joined in! Oh, the irony!
Our son passed his car seat trial and was given the okay to go home. We still had to wait a few more hours while the doctor finished his final round with him.
In the meantime, my mom was having thyroid surgery in another wing of the same hospital. Her surgery had been planned for months but I’d forgotten about it with the birth of our son.
My husband pushed me in a wheelchair for the 15 minute walk to my mom’s room and we visited for a few minutes. The coincidence of three generations in the same hospital at the same time!
After visiting my mom, we went back to the Ronald McDonald House to pack up and check out. My husband did all the hauling for me while I cleaned my room.
What a blessing it was to be able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House! The staff were super friendly, the amenities like a hotel and the back deck so relaxing. Every weeknight had supper catered from a local business so I only cooked breakfast the whole time I was there. Leftovers were abundant and the staff kept the cupboards stocked with pantry items.
Staying at the Ronald McDonald House was way better than any hotel could’ve been!
Back in NICU, I fed our baby a bottle while a nurse took the car seat down to my husband’s truck and properly installed the base and showed him how it clicked in place.
The ride home was surreal. We were on our own now. Parents with a baby in the back.
I love the idea of a fourth stage of pregnancy because it is so important for mama to take time to recover.
With orders from NICU nurses and doctors to not go out in public for three to six months, I settled into a slow, homebound routine.
I loved it.
No schedules. No demands on me. No expectations of me. Just take care of baby.
We were flooded with meals from church ladies. My husband’s family made two batches when they were making supper and usually brought us one.
And thank you notes. Lots of thank you notes needed to be written. Thankfully, I had all the time in the world.
Except that I slept a lot.
I was still pumping every three hours for my baby. Feedings took an hour at least because I had to heat the bottle, change baby, feed baby (he took a long time to drink), burb baby (and even longer to burp), clean up spit up (projectile usually), pump and wash all the pumping parts.
Sleep never came in big chunks of time those first three months.
As much as I tried to get my baby to latch on, he wasn’t having it. I would try occasionally with not much luck. So I tried hardcore to get him to nurse for a week. He lost weight and that scared me too much to keep trying.
In between kangaroo time and sunbathing in our large living room windows, not much got done in my awake time.
I kept up on the dishes and made breakfast and supper. My husband did some cleaning for me and I could do laundry.
As my incision healed, I took my baby on long walks. Indian summer hit for a few days and we loved being outside.
We had our first tractor ride as a family near my son’s due date when he was six weeks old. And finally, everything started to feel perfect.