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 hallowing feeling of seeing his frail little premature life in the NICU and remember how deeply scared I was those seven days.
My experience of child birth 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 obstetricians 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. 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 cared enough for him because I had never been a “baby person” or cared much about newborns prior to being pregnant. 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 one little sad thought spins out of control and leads you down the primrose path of depression? Nearly three hours had passed and we finally asked to go see him 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 coating from inside my uterus on his skin. He was under the oxygen hood with IV, monitors, as tags hooked up all over him, I lost c. 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. Since his first thirty six minutes of life we had not been able to hold him for the first four days of his life. Those days felt like weeks. My schedule was a three hour cycle of pump breast milk, eat and have a couple 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 awhile I was ashamed to consider 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 him, asked him how he was feeling or made sure he was okay because me, his best friend was in my own world of tears. 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 breath on his own, finish a two ounce bottle within ten minutes, had passed the two hour carseat 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 night stay at the hospital. I have never experienced such solemnity as I did Joeys first week on this Earth. Post partum and anxiety hung around after we left the hospital making me sometimes irritable, moody, sad, angry, distant and mean to Jacob and a bit crazy. I don’t know weather the strict feeding, sleep training, breast pumping schedules helped or hurt my anxiety but at the same time I stopped pumping, at six months, was when I felt I was finally back to my normal crazy self. The emotions, hormones, fears and doubts of motherhood can make you an absolute nut but looking back I understand the complete love and passion for my little boy that caused such other strong emotional reactions. Having a child is not easy and no one can ever be completely prepared but my advice is make sure you have a husband who is willing to deal with your crazy and comfort your depression because when I look back on the beautiful gift The Lord has granted us I can only hope that Joey will be the man his father proved to be.