Our account of induced labor, pre-mature birth, the NICU, and postpartum depression.
One year ago from tonight I gave birth to our itty bitty 5lb 5oz son Joseph. Today I take an extra opportunity to thank The Lord for our manna from heaven, our gift on high, Joey. In thanksgiving and reflection I cannot help but recall the hollowing feeling of seeing his frail little premature life in the NICU and remember how deeply scared I was those seven long days.
My experience of pregnancy was wonderful up until 36 weeks. I had kept strong by walking and lifting weights while regulating my heart rate and had gained about twenty-two pounds which is on the low side but still a healthy weight gain. When we received our 36 week ultrasound review, the nurse stressed that our son had always measured small but was now noticeably at a significant growth plateau from the ultrasound a few weeks prior. With this distressing news our team of midwives and obstetrician took immediate heed. After four days of tests, consults and judgments the professionals decided it best to have an emergency induction. We had a few days of knowing this may be a necessity to avoid his health possibly declining, however when facing induction and possible Cesarean Section after having an all natural birth plan with midwives (in a hospital) for eight months you can’t help but feel unsettled by the sudden variance of plans. To put it plainly we were not prepared for his arrival quite so soon. Due to his size in the ultrasounds our midwives believed his due date would be closer to December 4th over his original expected due date of November 29th and they warned me many times first baby’s are usually late so we were prepared and taking bets on December 9th-13th. I wasn’t even big enough to be sick of pregnancy yet so his emergent arrival was nothing short of shocking.
November 8th we checked into the hospital to induce labor.
Labor was calm and smooth with only my husband and I at the hospital. I declined the drugs for seven hours of active labor but eventually was so tired after nineteen hours since induction and eight centimeters along that I needed the medicine to allow some rest and reserve energy for to push when it became time. After pushing for about thirty minutes Joey came into the world. Combine a new, anxious mother with a tiny yellow newborn who was visibly overworking to get oxygen into his feeble body and you would understand my immediate response to shut out the world.
Thirty six minutes after Joey was born he was removed from our delivery room and brought to the NICU.
The single moment they took him from my chest was when the sadness set in. I remember speaking to God through thoughts and looking for comfort to know he was alright. He had not been strong enough to try to breastfeed so all of the guilt of not immediately being able to provide for my son hit me abruptly. I had been producing for months and had read everything there was to read. I knew the importance of feeding right away to establish a bond and start nourishing my son.
Getting to hold my son for a mere twenty minutes or so was the first chip in my fragile hormonal solitude. Not being able to breastfeed immediately was the second. I began questioning whether Joey knew I was his mother and after three hours of him being gone from our room I had a sad feeling that maybe I wasn’t connected to him or maybe I didn’t care enough for him because I had not previously been a “baby person” like many other baby crazed women. Then I just knew it had to have been my fault that he came prematurely and unhealthily because there were days that I had forgotten to take my vitamins and the days I was so sick I couldn’t eat, I must have malnourished him. I did have a cup of coffee a day, not every single day but many of them throughout my pregnancy, that must be it.
Do you see how these sad thought spin out of control and lead you down the primrose path into postpartum depression?
As new parents we didn’t know what to expect for after birth routine but after nearly three hours had passed we called a nurse in and demanded to see him. He was in the NICU. It was heart-wrenching. My hormones and I had spun this web of sadness and fear and then I saw my jaundiced little boy who still had the waxy protective pre-mature coating that had not yet shed on his skin. He was under the oxygen hood with IV, monitors, and tags hooked up all over him, I lost my control and started bawling. Jacob was strong for the three of us and took care of telling everyone to stop texting and calling me and told them I wouldn’t be seeing anyone. He updated everyone on Joeys status, when he did a bit better and then a bit worse. Joey was down to 4lbs 14oz and was having rapid chest compression’s while trying to get oxygen. On Joeys hardest day the level had been in the thirtieth percentages of pure oxygen, much higher than the air we breath at generally eighteen percent oxygen.
After the first thirty-six minutes of Joeys life we were not able to hold him for three days.
Those days felt like weeks. I became obsessive about pumping milk because it was the only way I could help him, it killed me that the nurses and doctors were in more of a position of his mother than I at this point. I stock piled the largest supply of milk the lactation specialist had ever seen produced while in the hospital, we ended up taking home quite a bit of frozen milk. My schedule was a three-hour cycle of pump breast milk, eat and have a couple of bottles of liquids, walk down to the NICU and then sit beside him and cry. Sleeping was had little by little but my nerves were high and I was so terrified that he would have an emergency decline and I would be asleep while my baby suffered and died. These were the thoughts that circled my brain, yes it’s dramatic but it was more than that and for a while I was ashamed that I was weak enough to have had postpartum depression. Jacob held me while Joeys little hand was wrapped around my finger for days. No one held Jake, asked him how he was feeling or made sure he was okay because, me, his best friend was in my own world of sadness. The hospital was a saving grace because they allowed me to stay in my room the entire time Joey was at the hospital. Five days of being under an oxygen hood was wearing us down, we wanted to be able to put Joey in his first outfit and take our little one home. At one point I mentioned that he was my child and I should have the right to take him home whenever I want and Jake suggested I leave the delivery floor and walk outside to get some fresh air and clear the crazy out of my brain. He was right, being pent-up in recycled air for five days made me a little cooky and thankfully I was aware I couldn’t provide better care than his doctors and nurses so we skipped going to jail that day. Lol After his seventh night at the hospital he was finally cleared to go home because he was able to breathe on his own, finish a two ounce bottle within ten minutes, had passed the two-hour car seat breathing test and abided within the law that legally requires a baby to be five pounds to ride in a car seat.
November 15th 2012 at 9:20 am EST we got to take our baby boy home.
Jake was so strong and nurturing during our eight-day stay at the hospital. I have never experienced such solemnity as I did Joeys first week on this Earth. Postpartum blues and anxiety hung around after we left the hospital making me sometimes irritable, moody, sad, angry, distant, mean to Jacob and irrationally crazy. I don’t know whether the strict feeding, sleep training, and obsessive breast pumping schedules helped or hurt my anxiety but at the time I stopped pumping, Joey was six months old, was when I felt I was finally back to my normal amount of crazy self.
The emotions, hormones, fears and doubts of motherhood can make you an absolute nut, but I understand that the complete love and passion for my little boy was what caused such strong emotional reactions.
I also now see that God possibly aligned everything. When Joey was in the NICU my breast pumping obsession began, continuous over pumping gave me the jump-start to over produce milk which I then started to freeze, date, and log in a binder. Once Joey started solids I contacted the hospital lactation specialist who pointed me in a good direction to donate 1,400 ounces of calorie and protein rich breast milk as well as 35 ounces of colostrum (yellow nutrient and antibody rich pre-milk that comes in for the first days of breast feeding). That’s a total of 90lbs! I was practically a Holstein. My milk donation was split between a newly adopted child experiencing digestive issues with formula and a set of pre-mature twins who’s mother couldn’t produce enough to nourish them. Proof that The Lord works in miraculous and mysterious ways.
Having a child is not easy and no one can ever be completely prepared but my advice is to make sure you have a partner or supportive group of friends who are willing to help with and comfort you in the chance that you encounter the baby blues, and to not hide from your situation. When I look back on the beautiful gift The Lord has granted us I can only hope that Joey will become an affectionate, attentive, passionate, and supportive man like his father.
Read more about Joey’s induced-labor story here.