Click HERE to read Part I, which is labor through birth, and up to this point.
I ask that those reading tread lightly here. I'm not looking for advice, opinion, or judgement on my experience, I'm simply writing as I always do. With the intention to purge, to document, and with hope that someone who has gone through something similar finds comfort in my story.
The week after Charlie's birth.
There are things I heard that week in the hospital that will stay with me forever.
If this had happened a hundred years ago, he wouldn't have made it.
He calmed down when his mom came in.
Things look a little different this morning.
It was bad.
He was sick.
The fevers were a big deal.
I don't know how we got through that week. I guess the same way we got through labor.
You just do.
You just get through.
After his beautiful one minute and thirty six second birth, came a nightmare. We were thrown into a completely unexpected and unnatural experience as first time parents.
I still don't feel ready to write about his and I don't think I ever will, but as we approach the one month milestone, I know I need to get it out sooner rather than later. It's not as fresh as it was while I was living it, but that's a good thing for me at this point.
Charlie had just been born. We had two hours of sacred time. I was put in my wheelchair, my newborn baby in my arms, and we were taken up to my recovery room. Room 319. I remember eating the turkey sandwich I had ordered. I'd been waning a turkey sandwich for months. I remember nurses taking the baby to the nursery for routine testing. He was supposed to be right back. I will never forget the look on my husbands face when he came back into the room, my mom following behind. No baby. I knew something was wrong. I feel the lump of sadness swell in my chest just thinking about it. It seemed like an eternity for my husband to get his words out. "Um...he has to stay in there tonight." Something with the word respiratory. Something about him breathing too fast. The next thing I knew I was being put back into the wheelchair so I could get in there. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my parents.
Later my mom would say, "You know what really touched my heart? I could see Matt through the nursery windows, they were talking to him, and his face just fell. Then he leaned over and kissed Charlie."
My baby was crying. I put my hand on him and started talking to him. He calmed down. "He knows your voice" someone said.
My baby had just had an x-ray. There was fluid in his lungs. Could be amniotic fluid he needed to cry out, he hadn't cried much at birth, so they told us crying was a good thing. It could also be infection. There was talk again of our fevers at birth. There would be antibiotics. IV's. Poking and prodding. For one full week.
I don't remember a lot about the rest of that night. I could ask my husband to remind me of the details, but I'm not ready.
I do remember falling asleep on my back that night. It had been months since I'd been able to do that. I couldn't believe how abruptly pregnancy ends. There is no transition. Once the baby is out, it is done. No more heaviness in my pelvis. No more backache. No more side sleeping. No more craving chocolate milk and apples.
I had no idea this was the beginning of one of the worst weeks we could imagine. All in room #319. I had no idea I would experience the kind of anxiety and PTSD in this week that I had only felt one other time. In 2012. The most awful year of my life.
I think we were left with hopeful words when we went to sleep, but I was deflated. The plan was for our baby to never leave our side. This was supposed to be the happiest time. What was happening with our baby? I couldn't accept a "congratulations" from anyone after that. I didn't know what was in store. That's as much as I care to say about where my dark thoughts were drifting. We were woken by a nurse in the morning telling us that "things look a little different today." Even now, typing this, my heart sinks in my chest all over again as I remember what that felt like to hear. There was another x-ray. There was still something in his lungs. He was sick. Infection. Later pneumonia.
I could and maybe should have kept track of each day, but it would break my heart all over again to re-read and re-live it. I barely left one small hospital room for seven days. The nursery was right across the hall. I went back and forth, and nothing else existed. Eventually they let Charlie come back to our room, and sleep in #319 with us. Nurses would come in through the night. Pediatricians would come in each morning. Night, day, and life were constantly interrupted. They came in to flush his IV, for his vitals, and temperature. I soon found myself holding my breath as I waited for them to tell me the results of each. All day. Every day. He went to the nursery for his meds in the morning and the evening. Putting an IV in a brand new baby is hard. It came out often. NICU had to come up to put it in again. Poked and prodded. Poked and prodded. An IV in his hand with a diaper wrapped around to keep it safe. It still fell out. A dark bruise on his foot from an attempted IV. The IV in his scalp. No new mom should ever have to see her new baby like this.
By the end, it scared me how routine this was becoming. It also scared me how helpless I was feeling as I became dependent on another nurse or pediatrician to tell me things were okay, and tell me what to do. How was I ever supposed to trust my instincts now? How would I ever relax? How would I tell if he was okay?
There was the morning one pediatrician told us how bad it was, and how amazing of Charlie to let us know there was a problem so they could catch it. "Thank god for modern medicine. If this had happened one hundred years ago, he wouldn't be here. He'll be your little angel." I think this was day two. New mom. New baby. Day TWO.
There was the night the nurse took him to flush an IV and it took longer than usual. I went to look for him, and she was on the phone with the on-call pediatrician, asking what to do because he had a temperature. They had him stripped down to his diaper, rocking him, cooling him off. No. No no no. This can't be happening. This time I knew what it was. I trusted my instincts and I was right. He'd had his first bath. I had the heat up a little too high in our room and him bundled a little too much. Once he cooled down his temperature was fine. But this meant repeating the story to the pediatricians in the following days when they'd see he'd had a temperature and look alarmed. Then I'd start to get scared all over again.
There was the day when someone mentioned jaundice (false alarm). Meningitis (no meningitis). Him loosing too much weight waiting for my milk to come in. It was one thing after another. I felt like we could not catch a break, and I felt myself becoming crippled with fear. I can't stress enough how much the nurses came in through the night. Each time I'd be woken up from sleep, I'd wake terrified. I was waiting for bad news each time. My heart would pound. I'd feel sick. I was waiting for the unthinkable. I found myself with PTSD from that first night and the bad news.
And the dreams. I had three of the most vivid, disturbing, anxiety dreams. I was in a car, heading for a crash. I could see it coming and I couldn't avoid it. I was trying my hardest to stay in my lane but I was going into oncoming traffic. I woke up with my foot trying to slam on the break. I dreamt I was trying to run to my dad, trying my hardest to get to him in a straight line but I was so dizzy I started falling and tumbled away from him. The last dream I was swept away at sea.
I felt like I could lose my mind. My baby was constantly being taken away, and his sleep interrupted to be poked and prodded. I couldn't leave room #319. I couldn't fall asleep in my husbands arms. I was stuck with this tiny hospital bed, and he with an uncomfortable futon.
There was the day toward the end where two nurses saw me. Really saw me. Asked me how I was. They brought in little handmade hats and let us choose one. One nurse tossed me an extra on the way out. I was so fragile at that point. The gesture was enormous.
There was the night I was seeing things.
There was the day we walked to another part of the hospital and briefly outside. My heart pounding the whole time to be out of room #319, and more than just a few feet away from my baby. I truly felt I was on the verge of crazy. My life was now living in that room, waiting for nurses to tell me what was either wrong or right with my sick baby. My life was now going to the nursery for my baby's scheduled meds. How was there ever going to be life outside of this?
I'd look at my husband with him. He was so natural with him. I was blown away how his instincts kicked in right away. I felt so frozen with fear, I relied on him so much to help our son, and help me. He took the lead a lot. He was great with diapers, talking with the nurses, everything. I felt like he was so much better at this than me. I felt lost. I just didn't know what the outcome would be. But Id' look at him, and think, "this is his experience, too." Whatever was going to happen, he was going to go through it as well. And the unthinkable was just not going to happen for my Matt. It just wasn't. It just couldn't. Knowing he was living this too was maybe the only thing that kept me from truly losing my mind.
I cried all the time. I felt turned completely inside out. I also felt so full of love for both Matt and Charlie it hurt. Whenever Charlie was out of our room I physically ached. I've never known that feeling before. It literally hurt to be separated.
I could go on, listing all the jargon we heard that scared us. The traumatizing trips to the nursery, but I think I'm done. I'm just done digging it up over and over. It hurts too much.
At the end of the week I found myself so ready to be home and away from the interruptions of the nurses, that my desire to be done outweighed the stress I thought I'd feel to be without them. I was so worried I'd be dependent on them, but I was ready for it to be just the three of us. I was ready to figure out what that would even be like, one week late. I was ready to start to learn who my baby was outside of all of that, and let my own instincts kick in.
He'll be a month in two days. Now our week in #319 seems like a lifetime ago. I have my moments where I will feel a traumatic ping of something I experienced that week, but for the most part I'm doing great. I had to leave the rough beginning behind, and move forward. I had to let myself believe the doctors, that Charlie was healthy. That he would be okay.
That week did leave me as an extra worried and paranoid mom. Each day gets easier, but there have been times when I have felt at a bit of a loss and some panic, still wishing there was someone to tell me whatever he is doing is normal. I've had a hard time with other people holding him at times, or wanting to visit. I can still ache when he's just across the room. A part of me wants to hibernate with him forever.
I can never go back to who I was before Charlie, I can never go back to who I was before Charlie.
I can't even explain to you the hug between myself and my husband once we put the carseat in the car, oncethe nurse left, and we were free.
I'll never be able to put into words the sadness I felt when we came home. The bed still unmade. Just as we'd left. Who knew what was in store that morning I woke up at 2:30 with contractions. I felt heartbroken for the version of me I now was, versus just one week ago.
That's where I'll leave that part of the story. It's just time to be done.
Charlie is great. He is okay. He is strong. He is healthy. He is so beautiful.
It's never felt better to keep moving forward.
xo Charlies' mom.