They wheeled me into the NCIU. The doors were locked. We were given special bracelets that allowed us into the first set of locked doors and then another one to get through the second set. I was happy about the security but I just wanted to see my little man.
I was wheeled around the corner and there he was, laying on his belly with all kinds of cords and monitors that were beeping with just a diaper on. He was laying on his belly with his legs pulled up underneath him. He couldn’t come out, but I was allowed to put my hands into his incubator. I couldn’t believe he just had a diaper on but once I put my hands in, I felt the warmth. They had him under lamps due to him not being able to control his temperature. He had oxygen in his nose but no tubes down his throat.
I never understood the concept of love at first sight until I laid eyes on my baby boy. I felt more love in that moment than I knew possible, a true, lasting love that will never die.
The doctor’s came over to tell us how he was doing. Although he came in being called a “trauma baby” they said he was doing remarkably better in just those few short hours. He insisted being on his belly, it was the only way he was happy. His breathing was still sparactic but had already improved. They estimated he would be in two weeks and would recover fully. He had a deviated septum as a result of his position and being in my canal for so long, and although the bruises looked rough, they were just that, bruises and would go away within a week or so.
I asked about nursing and to my disappointment was told it may be weeks before he was able to try. They must have been able to tell how disappointed I was so they arranged for me to meet the lactation consultant so I could start pumping right away. they explained we could come and go as often as we wanted and the only time we couldn’t be in the nursery was for rounds. If we wanted we could observe from the windows but due to Hippa we couldn’t be in the room. He was sleeping so after about an hour I was encouraged to go try to sleep for a few hours and they would call me when we woke up.
My heart was torn. I didn’t want to leave him but I was exhausted. They assured me once again they would call as soon as he woke up. I was wheeled back to a recovery room and don’t remember falling asleep. The phone rang at 8am and he was awake! Not only was he awake, they told me we could try to nurse! I was beyond excited. I was going to get to hold my baby and try to nurse.
I sat in a rocking chair and he was handed to me. He was bruised and a bit swollen but he was so beautiful. He was mine. I was finally holding my baby. He was a bit lethargic but we tried nursing anyways. He fell asleep every few minutes and had difficulty latching but we tried for about 20 minutes until he was sound asleep. I enjoyed cuddling him, holding him and thanking God that he was here and we were both okay.
He needed to be fed every two hours and I had no intentions of leaving my baby anytime soon. We tried nursing all day but it was a struggle. He was loosing weight, 9 ounces that day to be exact so I was told we could continue to nurse but would either have to bottle feed or use a feeding tube as a supplement. He was so tired from what we had been through and all the medication I had been given, keeping him awake was such a challenge. Again, it was not what I hoped for nor what I expected but we had to do what we had to do.
I fed him his first bottle that night and starting pumping. It was hard giving him the bottle. I was worried he would have a hard time nursing but I knew he couldn’t loose much more weight and I certainly didn’t want a feeding tube. Pumping was a lot of work to get started, a lot of work. In fifteen minutes I would only get an ounce. It hurt. I was sore, swollen and tender but I was determined!
I made friends with the other pumping Mamas, even though we had our own stalls. I learned to be thankful that my baby hadn’t been here for weeks on end or even months! Every drop I could give him would be added to his formula and I could nurse every other feeding. I didn’t expect my milk to take days to come in but he was early. When it did come in, it really came in. Soon the soreness went away and I was pumping without issues but I attribute that to having amazing support and encouragement. Don’t give up! Seek our support, it is so worth it!
Although we did continue to have to supplement with a bottle every other feeding for a few weeks he got to the point where eventually he wouldn’t drink it. He knew what was best for him and what he wanted. No nipple confusion for my little man.
We finally heard from my family and found out our town had been hit by a tornado shortly before Austin was born. We were now without power at home but other than trees, had no damage to our home.
After he had been in the NICU for fours days he was allowed to come to our room and see how he did. He was jaundice but his breathing was doing so much better. After a few short hours of heaven, it was short-lived. He had to be taken back to the NICU because of his body temperature and jaundice. His little hands and feet were purple from how often he had to be poked. He no longer needed oxygen or an IV but needed to be under lamps and heat. My heart was so torn, again but I had not been discharged yet myself and didn’t want to leave the hospital and have to bring him back.
The next few days were mainly waiting for his body temperature to regulate and his jaundice levels to come down. I was there for every feeding but one. The day came for me to be released but Austin’s had not. We were able to stay in one of the NICU suites for one night while it was open. The next night it was needed for parents who would be taking their little one home with a breathing machine. It allows them independence to learn the machines they will be taking home while still be close enough for help. We were headed to a hotel the next night. I came back for every feeding but the one I missed. I was just exhausted but still disappointed.
We were very surprised but so excited that we were told they thought he would be released to us that day! It had been six days and we expected longer but I was of course beyond excited to be able to take our little guy home! Then a social worker came to meet with us to tell us the baby could not be released to us. I was heartbroken. She explained that since we had no power and his temperature was such an issue we could not go home with him. Once we had proof we were staying at a hotel, we were given permission for him to be released to us. Our stay at the Embassy Hotel was amazing, they treated us like royalty.
I could add so much, much more, but needless to say we learned that you can have a plan but you can’t rely on it. Life throws us twists and turns and the unexpected happens. In the end, nothing turned out quite like I had hoped but one thing. I was able to bring my 4lb 1oz baby boy home. He was tiny, he was bruised, but he was a fighter and that is all that mattered.