Apr
25
2009

  FYI-- I Wasn't Worried

I can finally post a bit about what was going on the week we were in the hospital, I really didn't have much time then. One thing I've been hearing is that this whole episode must have been really hard on me, not knowing if my baby would be ok, etc.

The thing is, it wasn't hard on me in that way at all, since I knew he would be fine. It was hard on Terry in that way, since he was the one both at home and in the ambulance where he watched him not breathe for about 30 minutes. If I'd have witnessed that, I might have had second thoughts myself.

But I was blessed by the intuition right from the beginning that he would be fine, so I was always calm and never worried all week. When William was born, he was pretty much floppy and dead-looking. He wasn't blue, his constant heartrate worked to give him good color since his blood was circulating ok. But the baby wasn't moving. The midwives were giving him air through a bag, and holding him up, turning him over, turning him upside down in case something was in his lungs, but to no avail. He was just floppy and inert like a little CPR doll. Now, both midwives and Terry were freaking out, big time. I could tell they were terrified, but I wasn't. I just put my hand on his head (I was lying on the floor next to him) and told him what a good boy he was, how much I loved him, and that I was sure someone would help him breathe and he would be just fine. I talked to him reassuringly the whole time until the paramedics arrived. How could he not be fine? He was wiggling around in my pelvis even during the final minutes I was pushing him out. Full of life. The whole not-breathing thing was just so unfathomable, it didn't make any sense. So I figured it was just one of those weird things, a minor glitch that would be diagnosed and fixed within a few hours, and he'd be back home with me in a few days.

I was upset once I was at the hospital at the length of time it took before I was allowed to go to the 7th floor and see my son (over four hours). I thought it was incredibly wrong that I hadn't even seen my son since he was born and no one seemed to know exactly his current condition. But I wasn't upset because I was worried that he wouldn't be ok, but that he was being deprived of early contact with his mother, which was one of the reasons why I wanted a home birth in the first place. The best-laid plans of mice and men. . .

Once we were allowed in the NICU, I was confused that all the doctors and everyone were acting so concerned, I just figured all their procedures were precautionary and they'd find out he was fine all along once he started breathing. It was like I was in some alternate universe from everyone else since they were all worried sick and kind of grim at first. The doctors and nurses were talking about all the seizures they thought he had, pointing out that he was holding his thumbs wrong in a way that indicated brain damage, saying the fact that he was rooting (which I thought was a good sign) was really some kind of epileptic lip-smacking, etc. I was unconvinced that their observations really meant very much, they didn't seem like that big a deal to me. Every time a doctor gave us an update about this or that test (Terry was much better able to keep track of all the doctors and test results than I was), and they would ask if I had any questions, I would always ask, "so, based on these latest test results, have you seen anything that precludes the chance that he hasn't suffered any permanent damage and that he'll end up being a perfectly healthy little boy?" and they always said that there was still that chance. So I was satisfied, and continued waiting impatiently for them to finish up their protocols so I could take my son home.

I found out that in return, my own behavior had confused one of the midwives. She said that she was really worried that something had gone terribly, terribly, wrong, and she was starting to freak out, but she saw me just lying there talking calmly to my son, so sure that everything would be ok, that she got confused, and figured if the mom wasn't freaking out and was sure that everything was going to be fine, then maybe there was something she was missing, and that the not-breathing-floppy-kid really wasn't a deadly emergency, and that everything would be fine. Whatever was going on, the midwives did exactly the right emergency procedures until the paramedics arrived. They later said they just fell back on their emergency training since they'd never had such an emergency before in over a thousand home births they've attended over the years. But that training is what made it easier for me to decide to have a home birth initially. We did ask when we interviewed them what happens if anything goes wrong, and they explained the procedures they'd perform in various situations, and if the problem persisted longer than 90 seconds after birth, the next procedure was to call 911. And that's exactly how it happened. Terry and I both had gone over the situation in our imaginations back when we first were deciding to have a home birth, and decided we could live with that, so we weren't entirely unprepared when it actually happened. We were never under the impression that nothing could go wrong at a home birth, only that the odds were so low (historically, about 1 in 1000) that we could live with the risk. And that even if something did go wrong, the odds that it would be something that required immediate treatment only available in a hospital and not in an ambulance was even rarer. As it turned out, William had about a six-hour window in which to be chilled, even if he had suffered seizures in utero (which was unknown at first, but the MRI eventually showed that he hadn't).

I chalk it up to hormones, Holy Spirit, mommy fog, who knows, but whatever the reason for my unshakable faith in my son's ultimate good health it certainly made it easier for me to get through the week. The hard part emotionally was not worry that he would be fine, since I knew he would, but I felt terrible empathy for him, being subjected to all the medical procedures when it would have been much nicer for him to have been at home in bed with me. Not being frozen alive on a chill mat with almost no human contact for his first introduction to life. That part was really heartbreaking. My only consolation was the hope that he wouldn't remember any of it, and so would not be haunted by the strangeness of his entry into this world.

Physically, however, it was pretty hard on me standing around his bedside or sitting on a stool in the NICU all week, so that was the hardest part. My ladyparts did not get a chance to recover, they remained sore and swollen all week, the swelling in my feet and legs actually got worse than they were in the last days of my pregnancy. I was tired but didn't get much of a chance to nap or even get much sleep since we had the 25-minute commute to and from the hospital, plus I had to pump when I was home even overnight. I needed to drink a lot of water to help with milk production, but I wasn't allowed to have a cup by his bedside, so that was more walking I had to do, just to get a sip of water throughout the day. Only the staff had a bathroom in the NICU itself, so I had to walk all the way out of the department and down the hall every time I needed to go. And I was sore and tired with every step. I didn't complain to the staff there, since they're set up to help babies, not mothers, but I am shocked that they don't have at least some easier accommodation for women who just gave birth. But that's the medical way, their first choice is always to sacrifice the mothers to make things easier for the baby. And besides, I guess most of the kids they get in there are preemies, and mothers who push out a couple of 2-pounders are not in the same world of hurt that a woman who carried her baby to term and pushed out a nearly-nine-pound, 23" long baby. Not that I'd rather trade places with them, since they've got an emotionally much harder row to hoe because their little babies are going to be caged up in the unnatural environment for months, while I knew within the first two days that my little guy would probably be out in about a week.

Now that we've been home and I've been in bed for nearly a week, I'm feeling better. Probably more akin to what most new mothers feel at the end of their first week (rather than second week), but I'm just guessing about that. I've probably gotten a lot more sleep than many women, since I stay up through the 11pm feed, then sleep straight through when he wakes up around 4:30-5am since Terry takes care of the 2am feed with a bottle. I've got a whole freezer full of breastmilk from the week I pumped before William was allowed to eat.

Now that William is home, though, I am probably a little more paranoid about him having to go BACK to the hospital than I would be if he hadn't spent a week there already. We're definitely not letting him come near any other kids until he's six weeks old, and I think we're more hesitant to let him leave the house to go anywhere in public than we would be otherwise. Although I am considering maybe trying to take him out to dinner next week if I keep him in his sling while we eat. That way, no one can touch him or even breathe on him or anything like if he were in just in his carseat. I don't have anything going on next week, so I'll probably stay around the house, but the week after that my social life picks up again, so I'll have a chance to get away from home for a few hours on several days. I don't know how I will feel about that, since I've not been separated from William since we came home, but I suspect I'll manage fine. Terry takes really good care of him, and William doesn't mind taking bottles when I'm not around.