And Then She Was Here

I remember the overwhelming relief that swept over my body once the choice had been made to do a c-section. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days.

They unplugged the pitocin, gave me some ice chips, and let me rest for a few minutes. I remember my body shaking uncontrollably, and the fatigue settling in as I waited to go to the operating room.

The hallway lights were bright as they wheeled me down to prep. They got the spinal going and told me to lay down.

I was asleep in seconds.

They nudged me awake so I could see the baby, I told Allen, "You stay with the baby!", and then I passed out.

The next few days are a blur to me. I know Allen was with me for a time; he remembers watching me come out of recovery and being very worried as the normal effects of the drugs caused me to have the shakes. I remember him telling me the baby had done ok at first, but then her breathing had declined, and they'd whisked her away. He then told me she'd gotten really bad, and was on a ventilator; that we couldn't hold her. Her heart wasn't working right and they were giving it time to "grow up" for a few days before they did surgery. That he'd spent every minute he could with her, would run to check on me, and would run back to the NICU. 

Here she is at 6 hours old. She was still holding her own with just a little oxygen at this point.
 Twenty-four hours later, he asked me if I wanted to see the baby. As he wheeled me down to the NICU floor, he tried to prepare me for what it would be like. She was on a lot of drugs. She would be asleep. She had tubes coming out everywhere. Her heart still wasn't working right and they were doing tests to find out if she would need surgery. We shouldn't touch her much because her nerve endings weren't fully developed, but we could cup her elbow or arm, for example. He showed me how to call the front desk area, give them our code, and enter the exterior hallway. Then, he showed me how to properly scrub in so that we woudln't introduce germs to the babies.

We rounded the corner and the various beeping sounds of the monitors became louder. Into the door we went. Allen pointed to the second station. There she was with her own little name tag on a bright yellow star, Alexis.

My first time meeting Lexi.
 The nurses were reverently busy. Time stopped. They came over and welcomed me. Our nurse, Joan, told me about Lexi. How she'd responded to the drugs. How she would "levitate" if they tried to lower her dose. How shocked they were that a 35-weeker was as sick as she was. I remember so clearly feeling cheated out of my time with her.  And sad that someone else had been caring for her. Someone else had been getting to know her. Someone else had learned more about her than I had.

I tried to open my mouth to say, "Hi baby", but nothing would come out. I choked back sobs, trying to maintain some sense of composure.

At the "baby beach".

They let me stay a full 5 days at the hospital, rather than kicking me out at the normal 3 day mark for c-sections. Words hardly describe the feeling of leaving a child behind as you drive away from the hospital. The whole event is very surreal. You know you've birthed this person. You know your heart is with them because the void is so big in your chest you can barely breathe. But, you're getting onto the freeway and everyone around you is acting normal. Like nothing has changed. And you get home and the news is on, the water still runs, the horses need fed, and the world is still turning. All the while, you're bubble has come to a screeching halt and everything you know to be true and tilted just a little in your mind.

Allen went to work. He wanted to save up time off for when Lexi would eventually get released. I couldn't drive because I was on pain meds from surgery. Our ward family stepped in and would give me a ride up to the hospital. Allen would come after work, and we would go home together.

Our Angel of a nurse, Joan.
They told us to "move in" and get comfortable. We brought our own blankets, books to read to Lexi, clothes, and boppy to help us feel more normal about the situation.
Lexi in the "little baby" side of the NICU.
This is us together on March 27th. She was four days old.
 One thing you'll never get anyone in the NICU to tell you is the exact day your baby will go home. They tiptoe around the answer saying things like, "Well, it just depends." or "Girls usually do better than boys, but Lexi has surprised us a bit. It might be a while." or "The safest thing to do is assume you'll be here until your original due date."

We tried to accept that we would be there for a while.


LaNell Riddle said...

You're making me cry! Wow... I remember my experience with you in the NICU and how worried I was, yet comforted that things would work out OK. Love you all!

marti said...

Gosh, I so vividly remember coming to see you after she was born. I cry every time I talk about it with Brian, recalling me saying "Hi, new Mom", and you sobbing,"Marti, she's so little...", and then you just fell apart. You looked like glass, so tiny and fragile, stuck in that stupid wheelchair, and all I wanted to do was scoop you up and tell you everything would be ok. You were devastated and there was no way for me to fix it. Poor Allen looked like death warmed over. He did a hell of a job keeping it together, though. He prepped me for what to expect in the NICU, what all the numbers on the machines meant, the whole nine. The first time seeing her was like kick to the gut. All the wires and cords and beeping from the machines. You almost had to search for her under all of it. But as awful as it was, I cherish the memories of the time spent sitting with her every night after work. She would hold my pinky while I sat with her and watched all the little babies in the NICU. The nurses were so fantastic with them, and with us. There were some amazingly special "firsts" for me with Lexi that I sometimes wish would have been captured on camera, but when I really think about it, I'm grateful it was just the two of us. The first time holding her, the first time feeding her, the first time she made eye contact with me. Heck, even the first diaper change. It was always so quiet and peaceful, and the nurses were great about letting me stay with her (let's just say they "forgot" what visiting hours were quite frequently). I'm sure there were lots of people they did that with, but I honestly can't recall. Truthfully, I don't really remember anything other than Lexi. Talk about tunnel vision. And man, leaving was the hardest thing! Gut wrenching to say the least. I don't know how you did it. She wasn't even my newborn and I felt like I was leaving my heart and soul in that place every night. I could barely make it to the car before I would start bawling like a big wimp. What a whirlwind, and it felt like forever. Fooooooeeeeeeevvvaaahhhhh.

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What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.