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Challenge: NICU Parenting

The 'Hood I thought I prepared for...but this one left me stronger than I ever imagined

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Our journey the first time started with a very routine visit to my doctor.

Weight, CHECK! Up another 5 pounds. Me: grumble, sweet Nurse T: her classic side smile, but all other vital signs: CHECK!

Next was a "quick" visit with my doc, whom I love, and honestly at that point had really grown to appreciate because he was very real. He discussed my history of LEEP and kept on top of it, and genuinely treated me like he cared about what happened next. I knew (assumed) this one was going to be short because our "BIG" ultrasound was the next week, but because of my history, we had this little pop-in just to make sure we were on track.

All was good in the neighborhood until my doc (thank goodness he is so intelligent) decided to do a vaginal ultrasound to check my cervical length...historically, my previous doctor had done a number on my cervix with my LEEP procedure and I was left with very little to begin with... so, after a few minutes it was determined my cervix was inadequate to carry our son on its own and although the window of opportunity was seconds from closing in, we scheduled a cervical cerclage for that Friday. The wave of emotions was more than I imagined, but being in healthcare, I had sort of prepared for the worst.

January 31st, 2014, I went in for a cerclage at almost 21 weeks. I never left a hospital bed until Reidie was born on March 15, 20014.

My contractions started in recovery from my cerclage. I knew it didn't feel right...I told the sweet (male, non-OB/GYN) recovery nurse, "I'm having contractions-this isn't normal". To which he noted in his charting, and went to call my doctor and Reid's dad. At that point they were about 12 minutes apart. Then 10, then 8, then 5. I knew at 21 weeks this wasn't good, so I demanded my doctor come back. Even in my stupor from the meds I was able to feel the pain of real contractions...and was whisked to the triage of the labor and delivery unit. My nurse, whom I'll never forget, was incredible. We went through all the technicalities and then she was on top of everything for about maybe an hour? (Forgive me, Ive had 2 NICU babies in 3 years ;)) I sat up to reposition myself and felt a GUSH. Like when you know you're menstruating and stand up for the first time in a while? That. So I told Mandy, and sure enough that was my rupture. At 21 Weeks.

The first week they didn't expect me to make it. Well, him really. But, I am a child of God and my faith carried both me and my son...I made it to 22 weeks. Through the weekend. My own doctor gave me a ticking time bomb. I diffused it.

We were moved from the hospital we were in because they were not equipped to handle babies born before 28 weeks. The hospital we were transferred to and would spend the next 7 weeks at was just around the corner...but I must note: it was the coldest day in San Antonio's history and this was the first time I'd seen daylight in a week! So on the stretcher and into the ambulance I went for my first ride in 20 degree temps!

We arrived at our home for the next 6 1/2 weeks...scared, emotionally spent, but eager and ready to prove some people wrong. I drank GALLONS of water trying to make sure he had enough fluid to make it to the next week. Wednesday was our turning of the week. I hate Wednesdays now. PTSD is real, and I have it for Wednesdays...

No one tells you the rest of the world doesn't stop when your whole world does. During my tenure at the hospital I worked from my bed, so I saw clients, accountants, had weekly meetings, opened mail, did payroll, etc...We were there through the Super Bowl and The Olympics, and even had Valentine's Day dinner on those super classy hospital tray tables.

My doctor and specialist each came in every morning at 7am to monitor progress, and I had ultrasounds at my specialist's office every Wednesday, which was a treat because I got to ride in a wheelchair out to her office which was in the same building, but got to see other human life! It was the little things that got me through the most isolating time I think I have ever experienced. She would check my fluid and give me a new goal to look forward to for the week: make it to the next. Miraculously my fluid level never dropped drastically low, and toward the end it had actually started to cause some concern because it was too high...go figure.

The morning my problem started was the day after we hit 28 weeks (the major huge goal). I just felt bad...I was contracting here and there, and felt almost flu-like. The nurses were concerned by the afternoon because even after lots of fluids and not moving all day the contractions continued and started to feel more intense. The collaborated with my doctors and that night I was moved to labor and delivery so that I could have one on one care and be monitored more closely. They threw every imaginable drug at me to stop labor, but by now it was Friday and I was puffy and tired from everything they were giving me, plus not being able to sleep with all of the in and out and monitoring and was like my body was saying it was time, but only sort of. I'd have runs of contractions, then they'd fizzle out, then start up again. My doctors were on the fence about what to do and consulted with several other specialists until they finally gave us the choice: we can re-break your water and induce labor, and you'll have a very fragile 28 week "wimpy white boy", or we can keep doing what we are doing and see if this will stop. But, my temperature was sitting at a low-grade 99-100 degrees so something was brewing, we just didn't know what. We decided to wait, but now it was Saturday, 28 weeks-3 days. Nothing changed for better or worse, so we prayed and prayed and made the gut-wrenching decision to induce labor. I got my epidural, crying and praying the entire time, and then my doctor broke my water. It was the worst feeling of my entire life...the epidural never really took, so I could feel everything. I kept telling my nurse he was coming, I felt like I was having a BM and it was time...they didn't fully believe me because this had been less than an hour, but called the NICU team in anyway. They were getting set up when I felt another HUGE contraction and said the same thing, and that they really needed to get a doctor in there. About three minutes later he was crowning, and I told a nurse she better get down there because he's coming...sure enough, there he was, born on the bed with only the nurse and the NICU Team...he let out one little squeak before they whisked him away and went to work to get him intubated, etc. He had pretty good tone and color which was incredible, but was having some trouble breathing so they took him to the NICU while the on call doc made his way in to finish up and then my doctor came shortly after that to do all the after-birth stuff...I didn't see Reid again until his dad called me on FaceTime about an hour after he was born and he was the sweetest little guy with big eyes and tiny little hands. He weighed 2 pounds, 12 ounces and was 15.5" long.

The next few days were rough. They moved me to my post partum room and I requested to start pumping immediately so he would have milk when he was ready. I hadn't been out of my hospital room in 7 weeks, except for my wheel chair rides...when it was time to be discharged I had the most uneasy feeling like I didn't know what to do....I had to remember how to drive, and walking into my house I felt like a visitor almost. It was surreal. But, we made the trip back and forth and would sit with him for 58 days in the NICU through all the ups and downs the NICU gives you.

My best friend had her baby in the hospital where Reid was born last year, and I had to catch my breath walking in there to go visit them...PTSD following a NICU stay is very real. I pray every day for the babies and their families that are on this journey, because it isn't an easy road at all, and changes you forever.

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