The nurse came to my room instead to tell me that the pediatrician saw that he was breathing quickly and would need to go to NICU to be further evaluated. I was surprised and alarmed--my perfect boy should not be going to the NICU. The doctor came in to explain the problem. He said that there were three possible reasons for labored breathing: TTN, an infection of some sort or pneumonia. He thought it could be just his lungs adjusting to breathing but that he needed to rule out something more serious. He assured me that he took separating a mama and her baby very seriously and would never do it unless there was cause for concern. He said that he would be brought to me for feedings and could come back and forth while they evaluated him. I said ok, my heart heavy.
C was having lunch with his parents when I called to tell him the news. He was as surprised as I was. A bit later the lactation consultant came in to ask me if I wanted to pump while G was gone, to help stimulate my milk production. I said ok and was able to pump out 7ml of colostrum. She gave me a log to record sessions and asked that I pump every two hours. I was certain I would be feeding my baby shortly and wouldn't be pumping, but I agreed.
Once my epidural wore off I went to the NICU to see my boy. The walk hurt my stitches and being around a room full of fragile babies made me sad. My baby looked like a giant in his clear plastic prison. I was surprised to see this:
He was on oxygen and had an IV in his foot and wires everywhere. It killed me to see my baby boy with a tube stuck in his nose. The nurse told me that he was being monitored continuously and that he needed extra oxygen in order to breathe properly. They were giving him antibiotics until they were sure there was no infection and they had sent some blood tests off to the lab. I couldn't believe it. I trudged back to my room. I stayed there with C, trying hard to rest and relax and missing my baby with every fiber of my being. I felt like I was in limbo.
Part of why NICU may have freaked me out: I was premature and had to be in myself for two months. I weighed 2lb. 14oz. and was on oxygen and monitored until I reached 4 lbs. While I'm grateful I survived, I am sad that they first two months of my life were spent with nurses and not my mother.
We were assured the whole time that his life was not in danger, they just needed to rule out anything serious but that did little to ease the fact that I had not seen my baby since I delivered him. Meanwhile I was very well taken care of: friendly nurses, room service, fresh linens, every tiny need filled while my greatest need went unmet. I was told I couldn't breastfeed in case the milk was aspirated into G's lungs, which would be bad. His breathing was still rapid and labored. I longed to hold him.
I walked back and forth over and over again, scrubbed in and saw my baby. I was finally able to hold him. Navigating all the wires and tubes was horrible. I felt helpless.
I pumped 8 bottles, 65ml of colostrum in total. I dutifully logged each one and delivered it to either the nurse's station or the NICU. G had an IV tube that kept his blood sugar stable but he was not getting the perfect food my body was making for him.
After 24 hours of being without him I had a breakdown: I NEEDED my baby and he needed me. I walked as quickly as my stitches would allow to the NICU. I found my least favorite nurse there, at my baby's bedside. She asked if I was staying long enough to hold him and I exploded. I told her as calmly as I could that I felt left out of the decisions regarding his care and had not been updated by a neonatalogist since he was admitted. I told her that I wanted to breastfeed him and if there was no solid reason for him to be there that I wanted him to come back to my room. She went to get the doctor.
I told him the same thing and he explained point by point why they wanted to keep him under observation. He had no fever, no signs of infection but he was still breathing rapidly and they wanted to keep monitoring him. I cried when I told him I had no idea what my baby even smelled like and that being away from me was not going to help his breathing, his body was used to being in sync with mine. He softened and apologized and promised me there would be answers shortly and that he would be released as soon as possible. I was then cleared for breastfeeding.
I nursed him every feeding and had planned to stop around 10:30pm so they could give him my pumped colostrum while I got some much-needed rest. My stitches ached from the many walks to and from the NICU and I was exhausted. By 4:30am he had eaten all of it and I went down to nurse him. I was surprised to see the oxygen tube removed when I got there. I went back for the 7:30am feeding and was told that he was recovered. His IV was gone and the only thing left were the heart rate and breathing monitors. They were waiting for the bacteria culture results and if they were negative he was free to go home with me right away.
We prepared for our discharge: I took a shower, packed up my things and ate breakfast. C took a nap and his parents came by to help us load up. It all happened so fast. We got back for his next feeding and his test was negative. He did have mild jaundice but nothing to delay our departure. We finally got all the wires off of his tiny body and completed everything we needed to leave.
Finally, after being apart and having to summon every ounce of Mama Bear strength I possess to get answers, and get my baby back: we were going home to start our lives together. Do I think his quick recovery would have happened without contact with me and breast milk? No. I knew in my heart that a baby with an almost-perfect Apgar score and a healthy pregnancy and delivery just needed his Mama to get started. I can't cure cancer with my boobs, but I can nurture my child.
**I do not blame the hospital for being cautious and I am grateful for the care we received there. Even though we had a rocky start, I consider my pregnancy, birth and delivery an absolute success. The doctors, nurses and staff all worked very hard to take care of us and I do not want to imply otherwise. It was hard for me to have him apart from me, but I do not think they were wrong in their assessments.