I generally keep the material here pretty light, but tonight I have something a little heavier on my mind. Proceed with caution: the following is not for the faint of heart or queasy. I’m going to chat about birth. Mo’s birth. Don’t be mistaken, #2 is still patiently waiting on the inside.
There are no gory details, and certainly no birth pictures. However, men (and women) who prefer not to read about these things: consider yourself warned.
All things considered, Mo’s labor and delivery went very smoothly. It lasted roughly 9 hours (pretty quick for a first time) and my plans to go “as natural as possible” were pretty much met. I was on a Pitocin drip, but didn’t require any pain relief. Thank you Lord. However, as I reflect upon what happened after Mo was born, I can’t help but wish something very, very different for #2.
Unbeknownst to me, for the last several weeks of my pregnancy, Mo and I were fighting a fairly serious infection. As I started to dilate and efface very early, my womb transformed from the safest environment possible to a toxic bacterial sludge. Mo did the only she could to escape: started labor. She did this by passing meconium (a new baby’s first poop) while still in utero. Babies continue to practice the all important skill of swallowing until they are born. What do they swallow? Whatever’s in the amniotic fluid.
So, Mo was born with what we can effectively refer to as “poop water” in her mouth, nasal passages and stomach. Good thing that’s generally not a problem.
The problem comes when newly-born babies cough up that fluid and then breathe it into their brand-spanking-new lungs (also known as aspirating). Then they have fecal matter in their lungs, and that is a recipe for pneumonia.
The good thing is, my doctors and nurses were well aware that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. So, they were prepared to immediately suction Mo-bug as soon as she was born.
“Don’t be disturbed Caitlin. When she’s born, we’re not going to stimulate her to cry. Probably she will, because all the babies we don’t want to cry usually do. But don’t be alarmed if it takes a minute to hear her. We need to suction her first.”
Push, push, push. And then she was on the outside.
…Well, we’ll pretend it was that easy.
She and I, miraculously, transformed from one person into two people.
Of course she cried, just like they said she would. Andy cut the cord, and she was whisked away by the respiratory therapist and NICU nurses. Well, whisked to the other side of the room. But it felt like miles away. I wanted her on my chest. I wanted her near me. Thank God Andy was there and could stay with her.
She was suctioned and poked and prodded. Her itty-bitty stomach was pumped, and she was suctioned some more. When I finally did get to hold her, she had an itty bitty plastic mask on her face, forcing oxygenated air into her lungs. And then she was gone. Off for an hour of O2 treatment. Andy never left her side.
A nurse came in to help us bathe her and start breast feeding. I laugh now to think about it, because Andy and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Thank God for professionals. Regardless, it began to truly sink in that we were no longer 2. We were 3. A family…
A nurse came in a short while later and said something along the lines of “Her initial labs came back, and this is actually a very sick baby. We’ll need to take her to the NICU and start IV antibiotics right away.”
Remember the reason she started labor? That infection we hadn’t known about? She was fighting it. Her itty-bitty immune system was doing battle with a foreign invader.
And just like that she was gone again. On a different floor. Seemingly on a different planet.
From that point on I “commuted” from our floor to her floor many times a day and many times a night. Now, knowing what I do about motherhood, I cannot believe I ever left her NICU room. But at that time, in those brand-new-mommy moments, I didn’t know. I didn’t know I could stay.
She was poked, and poked, and poked. Her IV infiltrated several times till they found a good vein…in her head. She was gone once for a half hour while every nurse in the department tried to get a stick. I could hear her screaming, and I couldn’t do anything. Our nurse brought Mo back, (she, herself in tears) apologizing for taking so long and poking her so many times.
And I should pause here to say, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the care she received. I loved every one of those medical professionals who helped make my baby better. Each did the best they possibly could to heal our little Mo-bug. And in the end, they did such a good job that she was discharged the same day I was. That was an amazing blessing. I could not have imagined going home without her…
The stress I’m feeling now has nothing really to do with the hospital or the staff, or even Mo’s health.
The real problem is, I feel a lot of guilt. My body failed her. Through premature opening and ripening, what should have been the most sacred and protected time of her life, ended in toxicity and infection. Her first hours and days were spent being pumped, suctioned and poked.
I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re saying to me through your screen. It wasn’t my fault. There’s nothing I could have done. I did a good job. Her NICU time wasn’t that long. Not all her time there was bad, there was a lot of cuddling and loving.
I know these things. I just wish that knowledge changed the way I felt.
Especially because it’s happening again. My body is primed for delivery. Opening and changing. Baby, however, still likes her location. I would love for the first days of #2’s life to be drastically different than her sister.
So, if I could just ask for some prayers, that would be wonderful? Both for Little One and for me.
Lord, please shield this Little One from the outside. Place an extra barrier, where mine is failing. Coax her into this world sooner rather than later. Place your Loving Arms around me to heal my stress and help me to trust in your plan.
Thanks for the prayers. And, thanks for reading. Hopefully my next post has super cute pictures of our newest little Elder on the outside.