In September, I discovered I was pregnant with my sixth child. As soon the shock wore off, the excitement took over. This is his birth story.
A Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor recommended that because of my age (45) and other medical factors, it would be best for me to deliver at 38 weeks.
As my due date grew closer, I nested and made sure everything was just perfect.
What I didn’t plan for is every parent’s nightmare: that something could go wrong.
Labor started pretty uneventfully, and within a little over six hours, my son, Bryson Lock came into the world! I heard his first cry and got a good look at him when the doctor held him up in front of me. He was placed on my stomach and soon swaddled for me to snuggle.
But that cuddle time was cut short when nurses whisked him away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them tapping on the bottoms of his feet and sucking out fluids from his tiny body. The nurses suggested that my husband follow them over to the NICU.
Bryson was diagnosed with TTN, transient tachypnea of the newborn, which can cause a very rapid breathing rate. When I first saw my son in the NICU he was in distress, breathing quickly, grunting, and suffering while he adjusted to the world outside the womb.
Guilt washed over me. Did I deliver too soon? Hormones were surging so I was crying nonstop. My doctor arranged for me to stay in the hospital as long as possible so I could be right down the hall from my son. Discharged and leaving the hospital without my new bundle of joy was a sorrow I was not prepared to experience, nor was I prepared to answer questions from his eager and worried older siblings.
Each day, I saw him getting better in the NICU. First, the oxygen cannula that was taped to his face was gone, then the IV, and then the feeding tube. My notions about the perfect pictures, the ideal homecoming, fell to the wayside. All that mattered was that my baby improved, began to digest food, breathe without supplementary oxygen, and settle into the world.
After spending a few days under light therapy to lower bilirubin levels in his body (known as jaundice), he had experienced nearly everything the NICU had to offer. I found myself returning to the advice my doctor told me at my first OBGYN appointment, “Today is a new day,” he said. He was reminding me that this pregnancy, this birth, could be completely unlike any of my first 5. This was a new day. A new journey. A new baby. How right he was.
Today is a new day.
We get so caught up in decorating a baby’s room, sharing news on social media, planning gender reveal parties, we sometimes forget that birth really can be dangerous, that it really is a miracle.
Eventually, after one week we were given our walking papers and headed home to a house full of siblings eagerly awaiting his arrival. Today is a new day, and one I’ll never forget.
Things I learned while in the NICU:
- Designate a communication point person. My husband quickly set up text groups with close family to whom he could send updates all at once.
- Welcome help from friends and neighbors. One of my dear friends coordinated with my husband to set up a meal train for three weeks of dinners. When people still wanted to help–getting my first grader’s valentines done and turned into school– it was truly a miracle and such a relief to have help.
- Give yourself permission to take some time for yourself. The NICU nurses are highly trained and are okay if you decide to stay home and get additional rest or take a shower and give yourself time to heal. Remember to thank these angels for doing this critical work, particularly in times like these.
- Communication is key. My husband and I made a point to keep each other up to date on things at the house and in the hospital so we both felt like we weren’t missing anything.
- Each family goes through something different. It really helped me when I decided to let people in and explain what was going on. Many of my friends shared their own NICU stories, photos, and experiences which really helped me feel I wasn’t alone. And seeing their once-NICU babies as very tall, strong 16-year-olds helped a lot!