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Challenge: NICU Parenting

My as I know it

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The as we know it. Coming up with the title wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. 'Life as I know it' has completely changed. My mother has said for years that I've had a lucky life that I've never had it hard. Well, through this experience I don't think that applies any more.

My husband and I found out we were pregnant in August. I wanted to do something cute to share the news with him and my parents but I was too excited so I instantly blabbed it out. All were excited! I did do something cute to tell my parents the gender though. I made cupcakes and filled them with blue pudding. I have it on video for future use . :) From the beginning, this pregnancy was a tough experience. I had debilitating cramps. Nothing like period cramps...there were times when I couldn't move due to the pain. Of course, this concerned me but I was told that if they aren't accompanied with bleeding that I shouldn't be worried. I worried any way. I also got bronchitis very early in the pregnancy which worried me because of all the coughing but again I was told not to worry because he was fine. Do you see a recurring theme yet? The two times I went to see my ob/gyn my blood pressure was abnormally high. The last appointment which was on Dec 19th it was ridiculously high. So high, that the doctor said if I was further along she would actually induce me, but instead she asked me to keep track of it and if it continues to be high she'd put me on medicine. Well, I did what she asked and in the two weeks after I only had one good reading so I stopped monitoring it simply because it was depressing me and making me worry even more. I picked it back up on January 12th and it was far worse than it's every been. I told my best friend and she suggested that I call the Scott & White hospital nurse line. While on the phone with the nurse, I told her all my symptoms which were of course my high blood pressure, blurred vision, and the fact that my son hadn't been moving as much lately. She reapplied by asking me if anyone was there with me because she wanted me to go to the Emergency Room right away. Well, that wasn't at all what I was expecting. We, of course, followed her directive. Once we arrived to the ER, the nurses immediately directed us to labor & delivery. In the triage of l & d, they took my blood pressure and took a urine sample. My blood pressure was awful yet again and as for my urine it contained protein which if you don't know is a bad thing when your pregnant. After they gave me the results, they informed my husband and I that I'd be admitted for 24 hours so that I could be monitored. Yet again, not at all what I was expecting. I thought I'd go and they'd prescribe me some blood pressure medicine which would in turn fix the issue. Once admitted they began a treatment of magnesium to rapidly lower my blood pressure. I have never been in the hospital besides when I was born so needless to say I had never had a magnesium treatment. It was quite strange. My body instantly turned hot. It wasn't like when you are outside on a summer day in Texas. It was like a hot cup of coffee going through my veins. The next day at about two hours after the 24 hour mark the doctor came in to give us the results of the 24 hour urine test. Luckily my parents, best friend, and husband were there for support because yet again I got news that I wasn't expecting. Instead of telling me that I'd be sent home on bed rest for the remaining months of my pregnancy and the protein in my urine was just a fluke I was told the complete opposite...They informed us that I had a severe form of preeclampsia and that to insure the health of me and my son I'd have to remain at the hospital until the birth. They, of course, (as did I) wanted me to stay in the hospital for at least another 7 weeks but that wouldn't be the case. In the six days between me being admitted and the birth of my son, I ended up with bruises all over my arms from the multiple IVs, got 'hospital' pneumonia, had multiple x-rays of my chest, and several ultrasounds to check on my baby.

On the 18th, my sister had come to stay with me fairly early so that my husband could go home and take care of a few things. While he was gone everything turn to crap and life as we know it changed...that morning my blood pressure wasn't controllable. I remember them trying multiple IV drugs to lower my blood pressure as well as the magnesium but nothing was working. About midday, I guess because of all the medicines, I started to throw up and my thoughts and mind began to get very cloudy. At that point, the doctors informed my sister and I that I'd be having my son that day. I was devastated. It was too early for him. He was only 25 weeks and 6 days old. It was hard to accept. I blame myself even though I know it wasn't my fault, but I feel like a failure as a mother right from the beginning. As a mother, I'm supposed to protect my baby and I was unable to do that.

After we got the news about having him, my sister did all the necessary calling. And soon after my parents, my best friend and her husband, and my husband arrived. You could feel the emotion in the room. We were all worried and concerned for Liam and by the looks on all their faces they were concerned about me as well. I was whisked into the operating room to begin the procedure. It took about an hour and half to get the epidural and the doctors to perform the caesarean. I was able to take a glimpse of him but I wasn't able to take a good look until the next day. My husband followed him into the NICU and was able to take video of him kicking wildly. I wasn't able to see him until the next day so watching the video was a nice concession.

When I first met him I couldn't believe his muscles. He looked like a little body builder! I thought he would have dark hair like myself but he had a whole head of strawberry blonde hair and blonde hair all over his body. He was beautiful!

The nurses informed us that since he was born so early that their job was to try to mimic the environment that he had in my belly so, they only touched him at certain times of the day (hands on time) and they are very careful on how they touch him. One of the nurses mentioned that it's our natural instinct to try to stroke and caress, but when dealing with micro preemies that's the complete opposite of what they need. If we stroke and caress, it would stimulate them far too much. During hands on time, they take his temperature, change his diaper, change his dressings if needed, x-rays (if needed), and feed him. Initially, my husband and I only felt comfortable taking his temperature. When he was first born, he had all sorts of wires and tubes and we were both apprehensive with even touching him because we were worried that we could hurt him. Once he got rid of the IV lines and the PICC line we took a more active role.

The first day I met his nurse she explained all the ins and out and what the first week typically looks like and what this whole journey would be like...she said the first week is called the honeymoon period. The way I understood it was that he will look better than he actually is the first week and then the real Liam will surface. Luckily, Liam's honeymoon lasted longer than a week. His honeymoon lasted nearly 4 weeks. That fourth week was just plain awful!

One of the first things the NICU nurses kept telling me was that this whole experience would be much like a roller coaster. I didn't believe them until around week 4 because up until then everything was going quite well. He had been having slight positive changes in his vent, had been doing wonderful on his feedings, and had been gaining weight at a good rate. All wonderful steps in the right direction.

The day when everything did a complete 360 and our roller coaster did a nosedive was a day I had arrived a little later then I normally do. I got there right before his 2 o'clock hands on. Within about five minutes after completing his hands on, the nurse practitioner had come in to give an update on how he was doing. As she was talking, Liam's heart rate started rapidly lowering as did his oxygen...his lungs had clamped down not letting air in. Britney, the nurse practitioner, immediately told our nurse to call a respiratory therapist and then they both made moves to resuscitate him. It was awful to witness. My son had stopped breathing, turned a shade of blue/purple and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him. There were a total of five episodes like this one in a 24 hour period...two of which I witnessed. There are no words to describe the emotions we were feeling while this was happening. My firsts thoughts were of failure...Liam shouldn't be going through this! He should be in my tummy safe from the world but instead he was out in the world being asked to do things that his little body was not quite prepared to do. He's been a fighter from the beginning and he fought through this infection like a Prize Fighter for that I am thankful.

It turned out he had a gram negative bacteria in his lungs. They immediately started a seven day treatment of antibiotics and that started working instantly.

For the first few weeks after Liam was born, my days and my nights were filled with tears. I was saddened by the things that my son had to go through...being poked daily-sometimes multiple times per day, x-rays, being intubated, being extubated, cranial exams, eye exams, multiple blood gases, PICC lines, IVs, and so many other things. It hurt to see him like that and it still hurts today thinking about all he has been through.

There have been a few people that have been worried that I might be depressed. One of which called my ob/gyn and set up an appointment for me because she was really concerned about my well-being. I went to the appointment and my dr. gave me the spiel on the difference between depression and mere sadness. She basically said if I was crying all day everyday that I likely had depression. I completely disagree. Honestly, I think my emotions fit with what we have been going through. In my opinion, I think it wouldn't be normal if I wasn't reacting the way I did. I was functioning. Perhaps I wasn't taking great care of myself initially but it was truly a hard time.

Nowadays life has been filled with more smiles than tears. I love seeing him get bigger and bigger. I absolutely love his little smiles and giggles. I love that he gives his papa high fives before he goes to sleep at night. I love that his eyes get happy when we drive up to school. The beginning was beyond hard but his future is beyond great and I can’t wait to see what is in store for my miracle.

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