Today’s fact: Prematurity is the leading killer of America’s newborns. Those who survive often have lifelong health problems, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss.
During Luke’s first 20 hours, I only spent one tiny little minute with him. That still makes me incredibly sad. You can read the full birth story HERE. My c-section was completely unplanned. You see, I’m a pro on delivering the old-fashioned way (well, with an epidural!) One push, maybe two, and done. I could write a book. Then, came Luke. After the initial shock of hearing I was having a c-section, I resigned myself and plowed forward. What else was I going to do? The delivery comes to me in snippets. Moments in time, somewhat strung together, but not really cohesive. It felt like an episode of ER where the camera keeps changing angles.
The anesthesiologist stroking my forehead and saying reassuring things.
Me shaking uncontrollably and trying, unsuccessfully, to stop.
My OB telling me she was making the incision.
The intense pain I felt as they pulled Luke from my protective uterus to the real world.
His first cry.
Scott yelling out, “It’s a BOY!”
The NICU nurse practioner wrapping him up and asking if I wanted to take a look.
Me telling Scott I would be fine, while he dashed off to the NICU with Luke.
Stitching, more reasurring words, bright lights.
The ticking of the clock overhead.
I was wheeled to recovery and all I wanted to tell the nurse was to shut up. I had so much to process. My brain could not take it all in. I was ticked that the whole world knew more about my baby than me. I had carried him for 36 weeks and now, there was nothing but stitches and pain where he once resided. And that d**n shaking. It just wouldn’t stop. Actually, I think that’s what helped me start to bring order back to my brain. I focused on getting the shaking to stop. I briefly remember Scott coming in and telling me Luke was on room air. But, selfishly, I couldn’t think about anything more than getting to the next minute, then the next, then the next.
The first 24 hours were horrible. I will not go there today. But, just before lunch on Saturday afternoon, I was given the all clear to see him in the NICU. Scott got me settled into the wheelchair, covered me with blankets, and and wheeled me upstairs. He gave me a brief handwashing lesson (that’s a whole other post) and then we rounded the corner to Bay 2. At the end, in an isolette, hooked up to a bazillion monitors, lay the reason for my many months of prayers. Sweet Luke Timothy.
The nurse was just changing his diaper when we arrived at his bed. He looked so small. I had spent so many weeks wondering what a baby that small might look like. Now I knew. I held him in my arms and for just a moment it all felt right. The horrific 20 hours prior somehow didn’t seem that bad. If they had let me, I would’ve spent hours just holding him. As it was, I only got 30 minutes. He couldn’t be away from the warmer longer than that. And, while I tried to nurse him, he wasn’t catching on so quickly. For me, I think that’s the part that hurt my heart the worst. It was weeks before he latched on and nursed like a champ. Me and the breastpump became BFFs. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hate the sound of a hospital-grade pump. As I type, the familiar “whoosh, whoosh” sounds in my head.
As we left the NICU that day and headed back to my room, I remember briefly glancing around the room, feeling pity for all those other NICU moms. For the twins that were born at 29 weeks, their mother still hadn’t held them. For the 33-weeker next to us. He was having horrible eating issues. For the 30-weeker across the bay. Her mom had preeclasmpsia and she had been in the NICU for 9 weeks. How sad. That wouldn’t be us, of course. Our time in the NICU was going to be short. We were just a feeder-grower. Our parking pass even proved my point. It expired in two weeks. See? No one expected us to stay long.
Shame on me for being so smug. Shame on me for being the judger. Shame on me for being so naive. Every life in the NICU lies in the balance. There are no guarantees.