I wish this was one of those birth stories where it’s a beautiful delivery, and you’re on your way out of the hospital in two days with. But, sadly, it did not go that way for us. We struggled through a seven-day NICU stay and experienced a huge range of emotions—the joy, the love, the pain, the nerves, the guilt, the sadness, but most of all, the happiness of getting our little Ivy into our hands.
I was overdue by two days, and I was upset. I had listened to my doctor (even though every person said, “Don’t listen to your doctor!”). I had been 100 percent effaced and at three centimeters for about three weeks now, and she told me I would “probably deliver early.” Nevertheless, I was still optimistic and full of anxiety about when all of this labor stuff would start happening. Finally, on the morning of October 1 as I was getting ready for work, I felt it. “It,” as in I knew this had to be “it.” A contraction—finally!
Like a good new (anal) baby mama, I started timing. They were getting closer and longer—but not unbearable (yet). My husband, John, and I decided to head out and try to induce labor quicker by walking around downtown on a gorgeous October fall day.
And it worked.
The contractions were starting to get really bad, so we headed home. I timed them again. They were about 60 seconds long and about two minutes apart, so I was definitely in active labor! We packed up and headed to the hospital around 6 p.m.
At the hospital I was in a totally different state of mind. I had gone from going with the flow through the contractions while walking around downtown to, holy shit, this is happening, and this freaking hurts! When we got to the birthing room at around 6:45 p.m., I had progressed to 6 centimeters. I had hoped for a quick labor like my mother’s experience, so I was ecstatic that I was progressing quickly. And these contractions were strong.
I had read the book and taken a class on hypnobirthing, so I was all prepared for my natural labor. I was quite determined to succeed. Trying to breathe and focus was my ultimate task. Throughout birthing, I knew I wanted to stay mobile, so I kept venturing around the room to keep gravity down and get baby moving (as fast as possible) through the canal. I actually weirdly liked the pain. I was used to striving to reach my goals and being very focused throughout my athletic running career, so I was able to get into this mindset of what I needed to do and how to manage the pain.
John was so helpful! I remember the back pain being the worst, and it really helped having John push on my lower back to counteract the pain. He acted as my own coach, pushing me through and doing everything he could to help me deliver our baby girl. He was dynamite.
The pain got worse, but my focus and breathing got deeper. Pretty soon my body knew what to do, and I was pushing. They checked me, and sure enough I was a 10. My body instinctively knew, and I started pushing with the contractions like my body told me to.
I’ll admit I was not a stellar pusher. This is where I would opt for a redo if I could. I pushed just hard enough, but I was so scared of tearing or pooping that I held back a little. I would push, and she would come out a bit … then go back in. Ugh. Finally, the doctor said to push in between contractions to keep her in position. So I held the push and eventually got sick of that, so I just pushed my hardest, and finally, finally, our baby girl was out after an hour of pushing.
Our little brown-haired, dark-eyed, beautiful baby was here. Ivy Rebecca Koch, was born Tuesday, October 1, 9:11 p.m., 7 pounds, 9 ounces.
We were so excited! We delivered a baby! I immediately laid her on my bare skin to start the “Golden Hour” of skin-to-skin contact. I carefully analyzed how dark her eyes were, how she had soft little hairs all over her body, counting to see her 10 fingers and 10 toes. She was all here in perfect form.
Our family had formed. We made this little baby together. We are now a family.
This was pure euphoria.
Then, it all changed.
The nurse came over after about five minutes of bliss holding her and gazing at her, and said Ivy’s oxygen levels were low. She was at about 83 percent, and they liked the babies to be more than 90 percent. They had to take her from me to monitor her levels. I reluctantly let go.
After about five to 10 minutes, her levels weren’t rising, so they decided to take her to the NICU to do further testing. But, on the way there, her oxygen levels raised a bit, and they were able to bring her back to us. I held her tight, and this time did not want to let go. She had to have an oxygen mask on her to help her out a bit, and that’s the only family picture I have post-delivery. I see everyone’s perfect family pictures, snuggling with their babies, and I only have this picture. I felt so robbed.
We got about two minutes of holding her, and her oxygen levels started dropping again. This time, they took her from me, and what lay ahead was the worst emotional experience to ever happen to us.
I didn’t get it. I did everything by the book. Why was this happening? Intense feelings of guilt took over my body and mind.
I got all cleaned up and wheeled to the terrifying NICU. The first sight of her was complete shock. She had a CPAP on and was placed in an incubator. It was heartbreaking and extremely scary. It looked like I had the sickest baby in the world.
The neonatologist came to explain that she had fluid on her lungs, which was causing her oxygen levels to be low, called transient tachypnea of the newborn. They had placed her on the CPAP to help keep her lungs open during breathing, and they started an antibiotic to help get rid of the fluid and infection.
They explained that sometimes with a fast delivery, all of the fluid sometimes does not get squeezed out, and she might have inhaled it. They also had to break my water as I was pushing her out, and she could have inhaled that. Apparently this just happens sometimes. It would be fixed quickly with the antibiotic. I still felt like it was my fault. I was responsible for building my baby and taking care of her in there, making sure she had the best environment to grow.
The next few hours were hard. I had planned on breastfeeding, and I couldn’t do that. With the CPAP she had to have a feeding tube with formula, and that was very depressing. Again, everything I had read and heard was so strong towards establishing breastfeeding right away. I wanted her to get this “liquid gold.”
After day one, her oxygen levels were much better, so they took her off of the CPAP and gave her the breathing cannula to be safe—that was a huge relief. I loved finally being able to see her cute face without all that scary headgear on!
Then on day two, she got the cannula and feeding tube out! She had so many sores on her face from the tape that held the CPAP and the cannula on. I was so sad for her precious soft baby skin. (On a good note, I finally got to breastfeed!)
Her levels continued to improve with the three-day antibiotic. Unfortunately, after three days, the levels were good—but not great. The doctors advised us to extend it to the other option, the seven-day antibiotic. The next four days were rough. Her IV to administer the antibiotic came out, and they had poked her five times in various places to get it back in. They were all unsuccessful. Finally, the nurses decided on a scalp IV, and that worked—a big IV right on top of her head.
My morale continued to be at a drastic low, scared of what was going on in her little body. In addition, she also had higher levels of bilirubin, so she had to be under a special light to lower those levels. Does it ever stop?
We were almost to the finish line of the seven-day antibiotic, and then, the doctors came in. They explained that sometimes with these cases of newborns and babies that have fluid in their lungs, they can’t tell whether the infected fluid had traveled up to the brain or not, which could mean meningitis. They advised getting a spinal tap, or lumbar puncture (lp), to check. No, no, no. I did not want to have this done to Ivy. How was I going to make my baby go through that? We eventually decided to do it—a “better safe than sorry” approach.
On day six, several nurses, specialists, and the neonatologist gathered in the room to administer the test. They had to squeeze her into a very tight ball to stick her spine out. She cried. The neonatologist poked the enormous needle in her spine, and out came red blood. I knew that wasn’t spinal fluid. It should be clear. The doctor explained he must not have gotten in the right spot. What? Kill me now. Really.
They finally got done, and I held her so tight. I don’t ever want to make her go through anything like that ever again. The team left, and I was stuck with an intense headache after this whole experience. I held onto Ivy as tight as I possibly could.
Finally, the day arrived when we got to leave. We got word that the meningitis test was negative. (Thank god.) She received her last dose of antibiotic, they took the (ugly) IV out of her scalp, we took some photos, and we left as quickly as we could.
That was a glorious feeling. Ivy seeing the sun for the first time and taking a breath of clean fresh air put a huge smile on my face. We survived, Ivy. We survived. I will take you home, and we will start our lives together—the way I wanted. Safe and sound and full of love and snuggles.
Although her NICU stay was a low-level emergency, it felt like such a difficult battle. Overcoming that hurdle was a grueling experience, and I wish that every family could just have a healthy baby boy or girl. I felt robbed of so many “firsts” that I had looked forward to. First family photo, first cuddle session, first night sleeping together, first nursing session and more. Even not getting that skin-to-skin contact or getting to breastfeed right away still breaks my heart.
Thinking ahead, I am already nervous about my next delivery (whenever that day comes) because I want it to be so different than this. I want it to be the beautiful delivery, the beautiful family photos and to be on our beautiful way out of the hospital in two days with our brand new beautiful baby. Until then, I’m just happy that we have a smiley, healthy, perfect baby girl now. We love you so much, Ivy. And even though your entrance into this world wasn’t the easiest, your it meant the world to us.
Kaylee shares her adventures as a new mom on her blog, Apple of my Ivy.
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