The NICU is a terrifying place to be, especially if you're a first time mom. I never EVER in my wildest dreams thought my Anthony would end up there. After all I had an AMAZING pregnancy, well, except for the 5 months of morning sickness.
As a result I only gained 20 pounds throughout my entire pregnancy. That's great considering what the ob/gyn doc recommended along with the fact that I was a thicker babe to begin with. I never had edema (swelling) or had any issues with hypertension or GD (Gestational Diabetes). I even did prenatal yoga so that I could be in tune with my body. I took birth classes. None of that helped to prepare me for the NICU.
I was set to give birth to Anthony in South Miami Hospital the beginning of December. He had other plans and ended up arriving on November 24th, Thanksgiving that year. Jokingly a friend and I back then said he would be a turkey baby, sure enough he was. I woke up that day with pain but decided I could bare it for a while. I got ready; showered and did my makeup (YES, I was one of those) as I prepared to go to the hospital. By the time I got there I was dilated to 4 centimeters at which point the hospital didn't let me leave. As I continued to progress in my labor, the nurse regularly performed the exam on me. Fetal doppler was fine and Anthony was not in distress.
At one point the nurses asked me if I wanted an epidural as the pain became more constant and unbearable. I reluctantly agreed, I was administered the epidural and the pain began to slowly subside.
What happened next was single handedly the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me in my life. My water breaks as expected and I think nothing of it. When the nurse comes back to check me, her face has a look of terror. You know that look that someone gives you when something is wrong. She did her best not to alarm me. With her hand still inside my womb, she called a "code blue". I had seen enough Grey's anatomy to know something was terribly wrong.
The next thing I know I am being whisked away to an emergency c-section of which I had been adamant that I did not want. I had made a birth plan and thought I had it all figured out. It's that saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans". After all of the tugging and pulling, in exactly six minutes Anthony was born. At this point I see his father look at me, that same look the nurse had. A scared look but he was doing his best not to frighten me. I did NOT hear Anthony cry, I knew babies were supposed to cry. Why wasn't he crying? I couldn't see him over the tarp and was frantic not hearing his cry.
When I woke up I found myself in recovery, groggy and desperate to see my son. The doctor explained to me that what happened to me is called umbilical cord prolapse. The umbilical cord came out of the womb which caused Anthony to lose all oxygen supply. This was the need for the emergency c-section. As a result his APGAR score (score given to babies when born) was extremely low. Anthony was born blue and had to be revived. His lack of oxygen caused him to have seizures. In a necessary measure to save him the hospital lowered his body temperature and placed him under a special "blanket" which helps to cool the body. This was done so that his brain cells could be saved and prevent any further cells from dying.
We did not know the extent of the damage caused, only that his state was critical. I was in extreme distress and they advised I "rest" before I saw him. This only increased my desperation. I went to the NICU level II despite having been in extreme pain; the true love of a mother. He was a huge healthy beautiful baby boy having weighed in at 8 pounds 13 ounces. He had the shoulders of a quarterback and was completely covered in afterbirth. The nurses explained they could not clean him up because of his emergent state.
I was released from the hospital a few days after but I couldn't go home. I could not fathom how I had gone to the hospital pregnant, waiting for my baby boy only to have to leave empty handed. I paid to stay for a few more days in the maternity ward until I realized his stay would be a bit longer. I was not able to hold Anthony in my arms for 20 days. I can not still to this day explain the hurt I felt.
Anthony eventually graduated from level II to level I after which he was released some time later. He was the very best Christmas present I got that year, having been released almost a month after he was born.
I can not tell you how much that hospital saved both of our lives. They saved my Anthony; for the next year we went to physical therapy at South Miami Hospital in order to make sure he met all of his milestones.
Anthony's story is amazing; one that I still can't believe actually happened. The hospital has since then contacted me and even did a follow up story for their newsletter.
I never knew what hope was until it was all I had left. I look at him now and still wonder how we both went through hell and back and survived.
I wanted to tell my story in hopes of educating other women and mother's but also because five years later I have finally come to terms with it. Every year during the holidays I am just a little more thankful than perhaps most. Having been given the best gift of all, a healthy beautiful little boy.
If you have a NICU experience or a difficult birth story please feel free to share. Sometimes talking about it, makes it that much easier to come to terms with. All birth stories are beautiful and deserve to be celebrated.