This part of our birth story was probably the most different from what I had expected when I first got pregnant. Because of his diagnosis (congenital diaphragmatic hernia) I was not able to spend more than a brief moment with my brand new baby. No skin to skin, no breastfeeding, nothing. I am so glad that we were prepared for this up front because otherwise I would have completely freaked out. He was taken out of the room to the NICU team who were waiting to intubate and stabilize him, knowing that he would need to be transferred to the children’s hospital for surgery and recovery. Josh went with him and stayed by his side the entire time as planned. Meanwhile, because I ended up not asking my mom or mother in law to come into the room for delivery, I was left by myself in the insanely brightly lit operating room with only my doctors and nurses for company. To make matters worse I was bleeding. A lot. In fact, they were having an extremely hard time stopping the bleeding and delivering the placenta, which as far as I know usually happens naturally shortly after birth. I was told that my blood loss levels were getting dangerous, my uterus was not contracting enough to stop the bleeding as it should, and they wanted to give me a tiny dose of pitocin to encourage contractions and hopefully fix the problem. At this point I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do, I was alone, and I could see the blood literally soaking the entire bed (they had to actually move me to another one shortly after this) so I agreed. The last thing I wanted was to lose consciousness or something before I got to hear how things were going over in the NICU. I was riding the waves of emotion: elation, exhaustion, worry, and a little bit of panic. I just wanted to get this over with. Delivering the placenta was nothing short of horrible; the way she had to push down on my uterus (side note: no one told me they were going to be doing that to me every hour or 2 and it hurts!) was super painful and there was a fragment of placenta that was detached from the rest which made the whole thing take a little longer than usual I think. I really couldn’t feel anything from the small amount of pitocin they gave me (except for the pain where the IV went into my arm) but thankfully it worked and they were able to wheel me back to my room where my family was waiting for me.
Surprisingly, I was not super depressed or freaked out during this stage. Josh was sending me pictures and updates on baby who was stable and doing okay. I was also kind of on an adrenaline high (despite it being like 6 am after a full night of laboring and no sleep) and just chatting with my family, rehashing the experience and what it was like from their end, waiting so long for me to push him out. Finally they were able to bring my boy in to see me! He was in an isolette and surrounded by a mess of tubes and wires but I was able to reach in and touch him and talk to him for a few wonderful moments. He was so small and precious and I ached to hold him but of course that was not possible yet. I had to say goodbye to both my baby and my husband as they headed off for their ambulance ride to the children’s hospital. I was sad and scared, but so glad that Josh was able to be with him and encouraged by the strength he had already shown in his less than 2 hours of life. I had been reassured that I would be able to join them as soon as possible but first I needed to prove I was stable myself.
Everyone but my mom left and the nurse came in with a breast pump and showed me how to do that for the first time. That was a totally surreal experience! Then I was told to rest, rest, rest. Apparently I lost an amount of blood that was just barely under the level where it would be necessary to have a transfusion. I would be lightheaded for days and was super weak and tired so I slept as much as I could for 2 hours or so until the next nurse came in to check me and remind me to pump. This happened a couple of times and after I stopped needing help to get up and walk to the bathroom, they told me they would start preparing me for discharge. My doctor came in to tell me specifically that if it wasn’t for my baby being in another hospital, there is no way they would have let me go that day and to make sure not to push myself too hard. I felt like crap but I was so anxious to see my son. It had been about 8 or 9 hours since his birth now and I had barely seen him at all! I was able to shower, fill out the birth certificate and other paperwork, pick up my prescriptions and get the heck out of there in the next 2 hours to make the short drive over to the hospital where the rest of my little family was.
By the time I got IDed and allowed up into the NICU, it had been almost 12 hours since my son was born and I was absolutely dying to be reunited with him. He was pretty sedated (because having a giant tube down your throat is obviously super uncomfortable) and he was covered in even more wires than the last time I saw him, but as soon as I came close and told him “mama’s here baby” he opened his squinty little newborn eyes and gazed at me with a look of complete trust and love and total recognition. He knew me and I knew him and as our eyes met it was almost like we were still one body, as we had been mere hours before. I touched his fuzzy little head and kissed his sweet, soft cheeks and, even though we had a long journey left to take until he would be healed, in that moment everything was right.