My son was born on March 4, 2019 at 10:26am via repeat c-section. One of the happiest days of my life turned into one of the scariest days of my life in a matter of seconds. I saw Nicholas for about five seconds when my doctor held him up over the drape just after birth. Without warning, he was whisked away to a pediatric team waiting to check his vitals.
During my previous c-section, my husband was very involved- running back and forth between my daughter and me. This time, he stayed by my side, as the pediatric team was not inviting him over to take pictures, “We’re concerned about his breathing. He’s swallowed a great deal of amniotic fluid and is having trouble clearing his lungs.” There I was on the table, drugged, numb, and completely helpless. “What is happening?” I kept asking my husband. “What are they doing to our baby?” He didn’t have the answers. As the doctors were closing up my incision site, the pediatric doctor finally came over and gave us the news I was not ready for, “Sorry, but we need to take your son to the NICU.” I watched my son exit the room with the pediatric team as I was wheeled to the recovery room. “Go with him” I said to my husband as I choked back my tears. I couldn’t believe what was happening. And I didn’t quite understand it.
There I was, laying in recovery. Completely alone. I was still groggy from the epidural and trying to process what was happening. I began searching online to learn about his condition. Nico had “transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN)” which is a respiratory problem of babies that begins after birth and lasts about three days. This is something that frequently happens to c-section babies. When a baby is delivered vaginally, his/her chest is compressed, which forces all of the amniotic fluid out. Immediately mom guilt struck me, “Is this my fault?” I started running a million scenarios through my head.
Finally, my husband joined me in the recovery room and updated me on Nico’s condition. He was stable, but needed to remain in the NICU. He was receiving oxygen and needed to remain in the incubator. I was moved to a room where I waited for more news.
I had to wait about twelve hours before I was finally able to see my son. Since I had a c-section, I had to remain in bed for at least twelve hours. It was the longest day of my life. All I wanted to do was touch my baby and make sure he was okay.
I was finally able to visit my son around 10:00pm. He was in an incubator. He had a nasal cannula taped to his tiny little nose, and a feeding tube in his mouth which led straight to his stomach. The only way I could touch him was to put one of my hands inside the incubator. He wrapped his tiny little fingers around my finger and all I could do was sob uncontrollably.
This wasn’t the birth I had planned. I had envisioned such a different day. I had dreamed of my daughter visiting us and excitedly meeting her little brother. I pictured snuggling with Nico and bonding as I nursed him. Instead, we spent our first night apart. I went back to the maternity unit, which was the worst possible place to be. I had to pass by all of the rooms and see the mothers with their babies. I couldn’t sleep, and spent the night listening to the babies crying in the rooms next to mine. At least I wasn’t the only one wailing all night.
The next day, I was given a breast pump and told to pump every two to three hours. Every time I tried, I wasn’t producing a single drop of colostrum. I breastfed my daughter for nine months, and I felt like an absolute failure not being able to do the same for my son. I felt like giving up so many times, but I continued to pump throughout the day and night.
On day two in the NICU, I asked the nurses when I would be able to hold my son. They promised me that if I waited a few more hours until his next feeding, I would be able to hold him. I waited patiently until 11:00AM and headed back to the NICU. Finally, twenty-four hours after his birth, I was able to hold my son. Despite all of the tubes taped to his face, he was absolutely beautiful and I was so in love with him.
By day three in the NICU, Nicholas was improving. He was still feeding through a tube, and I had finally started producing some colostrum. I was so eager to have some skin-to-skin time and to try to breastfeed my baby. The nurses and doctors asked me to be patient. They didn’t want to do anything to stress the baby. I headed back to my room to rest.
Nicholas’ doctor stopped by with a daily update, “Has anyone told you about his heart murmur?” Clearly, the look on my face said no. I fought back tears. First, the rapid breathing. Now, something is wrong with his heart? “We’re going to do an echocardiogram and the cardiologist will follow up with you”, the doctor said.
As soon as she walked out of my room I headed back to the NICU. “He has a heart murmur?” I asked his nurse, as I choked back tears. He reassured me that they are usually not very serious and go away on their own. My husband was home taking care of our toddler, so I was all alone with this information. I waited anxiously as they performed the exam, and then again as the cardiologist read the results. “The exam shows no sign of heart disease,” the doctor informed me. I breathed a sigh of relief.
This was the same day my doctor discharged me from the hospital. Nico would need to stay in the NICU. Being discharged and having to leave him behind was absolutely gut-wrenching. I couldn’t believe I was going home without my baby. The only thing that kept me going was knowing I would be home with my daughter. It was so hard being away from her. My heart was broken and each half was with my children – one at home and one at the hospital.
As soon as I woke up on Thursday morning (day four in the NICU), I called the hospital for an update. Nico was doing a lot better. By the time I went to see him at 11am, they had removed the oxygen and feeding tubes! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I finally got to see my son’s face without tape and tubes all over it. He was so handsome. The nurses encouraged me to do skin-to-skin and to breastfeed him. He latched on right away! The nurses and I were all so proud of him.
The doctor came by and gave us the best news we were waiting to hear all week – Nico could go home! We went home and celebrated with our daughter. I felt a sense of relief after so many days and nights of heartache.
On Friday, March 8th, we picked up our baby from the hospital and brought him home. Isabella was so excited to meet her baby brother. My husband and I were ecstatic to have our family together. We were complete.
Did you have a similar experience? Have you ever had a child in the NICU? Please reach out and let me know in the comments section!