Days 1-2: After an entire 17 hours of labor, all I wanted to do was hold and kiss my baby and begin my breastfeeding journey. But I couldn’t. Due to the stress that my son experienced in the womb, he was placed in the NICU where he was unable to eat. So for the first few days of Third’s life, I did a lot of pumping while he did a lot of crying. He was so hungry, and there was nothing I could do to help him. It was so hard to watch. My heart ached, and I felt so helpless. The NICU stay is extremely difficult for a mom.
Despite the difficulty, I still made my way down to the NICU, husband right by my side, to love on and bond with our baby boy through skin-to-skin contact. The time I spent having skin-to-skin contact with my son was so sweet. Gazing down at him as I could hear and feel his little breaths on me was nothing short of amazing. However, it was a little stressful for me because I knew he wasn’t breathing regularly. And with all of the tubes and such connected to his little body, I was always so afraid that I would accidentally mess something up and bring harm to my baby. My husband Vecente (V) assured me that I couldn’t hurt him, but I was a new mom with high anxiety levels. It was also stressful because I was obsessed with watching the numbers on the respiration monitor.
There were goals written on my son’s chart, but my main concern was his respiratory rate (RR). The normal RR for a newborn is 30 to 60 breaths per minute. Our son was experiencing rapid breathing, and when he was first taken to the NICU, he was constantly breathing faster than the normal range. I just wanted to nurse him and allow his hunger pains to subside, but he couldn’t nurse until he was taken off of the oxygen. And he wouldn’t be taken off of the oxygen until his respiratory rate fell and stayed within the normal range. I would stare at the respiration monitor as my heart dropped every time his RR would increase. All we could do was pray and wait for his situation to change. As a mom, it was extremely difficult to watch my baby in the NICU knowing that I couldn’t help him.
Day 3: I was dreading leaving my baby at the hospital and driving thirty minutes to our house. We were on the waiting list for a Ronald McDonald Family Room, but nothing had become available. After my two-night stay as a patient, I would be discharged. Little did we know, God was working behind the scenes.
The day we were supposed to go home, V informed me that due to the low volume of babies being born, they were allowing us to stay in our room until further notice! I was also able to continue to order my meals from the cafeteria. I was super excited about that because the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes were HITTIN’! The joy that I felt was indescribable.
We spoke with the NICU nurse that afternoon, and she informed us that Third’s respiratory rate was in the normal range and I could nurse him. Cue the tears! Our son had reached the ultimate goal, and I was able to begin my breastfeeding journey. The nurse was there to help me get started, and my son latched on like a pro! We could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Day 4: When we went to see the baby that morning, we asked about a release date. The nurse said she would check with the doctor and let us know, and we continued our visit with Third. We would go into the NICU every three hours and spend about an hour with him. If it were up to me, we would’ve been in there all day. However, V made sure that my time was limited. I thought he was being insensitive, but looking back on it now, I realize he was trying to protect me. I cried almost every time we went to the NICU. V saw the emotional and mental toll that it was taking on me, and he was trying to keep me sane. The sad part is I did not realize this until right now as I’m typing. Wow. I owe him a BIG thank you.
When we returned to the NICU for our evening visit, the nurse informed us that we could possibly take our baby home the very next day. That was the best news I had heard all week! All Third had to do was continue to maintain a normal respiratory rate. Piece of cake!
Day 5: Finally, the big day had arrived. Our little guy was going home! We got ready for our early morning visit with the baby. When we got to the NICU, we were informed that our son had thrown up during the night. It only happened once so they were just keeping an eye on it and letting us know. She told me to go ahead and nurse him and we would see what happened.
Third latched on and nursed as normal. When he was finished, everything seemed fine. Not even a full 60 seconds after he was done nursing, he projectile vomited. Every ounce of milk he drank came up, and it was a bright green color. This happened as I was holding him in my arms burping him. Needless to say, it freaked me out. This NICU stay had just gotten that much more difficult for this mom.
The best day ever turned into the worst-case scenario. Not only were we told that our son would not be going home, but we also had to vacate our room and leave him at the hospital. I felt like someone had punched me in my stomach and knocked the wind out of me. His respiratory rate had gone back up, and he was back on oxygen and could not eat. We were back at square one. He had been doing so well, and we thought the issue had been resolved! What in the world was happening to our baby??? Unfortunately, no one could answer that question clearly for us. We got all of our things packed and headed home to shower and rest. I had been having a some trouble breathing, but I figured it was the exhaustion. Once I got some rest, I’d be fine.
V wanted pancakes so we went to IHOP. As we were sitting there, my breathing got worse so I called my doctor. When she said, “Go to the emergency room immediately,” we canceled our order and rushed back to the hospital. I was terrified. We spent the entire day in the hospital as they ran several tests on me. All I could think about was my son. At some point, V went upstairs to check on him. When he left, I laid there and prayed until I fell asleep. The results of all of my tests came back normal. It turns out that I was not eating and drinking enough to keep up with the amount of pumping that I was doing. I was literally sucking the life out of myself. So we grabbed some food before visiting the baby. I was relieved, and it was a lesson learned!
Day 6: Third had x-rays done to see if he would need to undergo surgery for what they suspected to be a volvulus. The thought of my newborn baby being cut on sent me into a panic. To calm myself, I prayed, worshipped and quoted scriptures aloud as we waited outside of the x-ray room.
Tears ran down V’s face. I knew exactly what was happening. He had been so strong keeping it together for me and had not processed the situation for himself. He was just as afraid and exhausted as me, and he finally broke. It was now my turn to be there for him.
The results of the x-rays showed that there was no volvulus. We were relieved and happy but left without answers. Again, we prayed and waited.
Day 7: Our son improved again and the oxygen was removed, but I could not nurse him. The nurses took the breast milk I had pumped and strategically bottle-fed him. They started small and gradually increased the number of ounces per feeding until he was able to nurse again.
Days 8-9: After being bottle-fed, Third had trouble latching. It was heartbreaking and frustrating, but I could not give up on my baby. On the bright side, we got hit with a double dose of great news. We were told that a Ronald McDonald Family Room had come open AND we would be able to take our son home that following day. They also offered us an extra night so that the baby could room in with us.
The next day, I woke up to a breakfast croissant and a Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks. My husband knows how to get me ready for a great day! Once given the green light, we got our little guy dressed and took him home with no answers as to what caused the regression or the bounce back.
Would you believe me if I told you our son ended up back in the hospital in less than two weeks? He randomly projectile vomited one Sunday afternoon and was breathing fast. Long story short, we took him to the emergency room and spent hours watching him get poked and prodded while he cried.
This round was harder for him because he had gotten used to eating regularly and the tests were more invasive. He cried a lot and so did I. It was as if he was being tortured, but there was nothing we could do about it. Fortunately, every test came back normal, but he was admitted into the PICU due to his rapid breathing. He spent three nights there, and we went through the whole process all over again. To this day, my husband and I are the only ones who know all that we witnessed and endured with our son’s health. What everyone DOES know is that our son is happy and healthy, and he does not look like what he’s been through!
There are three things I know: I have a supportive husband, a strong son and an even stronger God. For Third’s little body to be put through so much, he handled it like a trooper, and I will forever admire him for that. And there is no doubt in my mind that I would not have made it through this tough time without my faith in God. Prayer and worship were the only things that would get me back on track when I felt like I was going to lose it. When I didn’t have the strength to pray, my husband prayed for me. Needless to say, our faith combined was too much for the devil and his weak attacks.
Satan, Zero. God, EVERYTHING!