This part of Harper’s birth story is more difficult for me to write than Part I, because this is a story about the unexpected…I still get teary-eyed thinking about it today.
I had a wonderful birth experience and a beautiful 8 pound, 3 ounce baby who ended up being whisked away to the level II NICU about an hour or so after she was born. I feel so fortunate that I got to do some skin-to-skin bonding with her beforehand. I’ll cherish that forever.
After she was born, both she and I had spiked fevers for a brief period of time and no one knew why. The neonatal response team was called to my room and because I wasn’t group-B strep positive and didn’t have any other known infections, she had to be taken to the NICU to be started on IV antibiotics as a precaution while doctors ran 24 and 48 hour blood cultures. By the time she got to the NICU she wasn’t having any temperature spikes, so that was good news.
My husband went with her to the NICU—I wanted him to, I felt so powerless and I didn’t want our newborn to be alone. It all seemed to happen so quickly. One moment we were in this blissful state admiring our sweet baby girl and the next she was being taken to the NICU. I was still recovering from the birth and epidural and there I was alone in my labor and delivery room. I had never felt so alone in my life, ever. I remember just crying in my hospital bed alone and praying she was okay.
While Kevin was in the NICU with Harper I continued to be in a state of shock. I had a complication-free pregnancy and a healthy delivery and she had a 9 Apgar score when she was born so I thought we were in the clear. My hormones were in overdrive and all I wanted was to get out of that room and go and see our little girl but I wasn’t allowed to leave until I could walk again.
When Kevin got back to the L&D room, I asked my nurse if we could be moved to the mother/baby unit. I told her I felt fine and that I could feel my legs (that was true). She knew I was anxious, I had cried in front of her about 20 minutes prior. I asked if I could try to walk and go to the bathroom so she and Kevin helped me out of the bed. I was able to use the restroom and as I got up to wash my hands I started to feel really dizzy. Then, everyone’s voices began to sound like they were in a tunnel. I had to sit down in the wheelchair and rest for a moment. The nurse insisted that I eat before we transferred rooms. She was right. I realized I hadn’t eaten since early that morning before we went to the hospital. I felt a lot better once I ate and we were finally able to move to the mother/baby unit, though we were without our baby.
Our hospital practices family-centered care so babies room-in with parents but we couldn’t have her with us until she was cleared from the NICU. So we settled into our new room and I asked my nurse for a breast pump so I could try to express some colostrum to feed to Harper in the NICU. Fortunately our hospital is very pro-breastfeeding and they offer pasteurized donor breast milk for babies so her first feedings were of my colostrum and donor breast milk which I’m incredibly thankful for as studies show that those first feedings are so crucial for the development of baby’s intestines.
I was able to pump a syringe of colostrum and Kevin took me in a wheelchair to the NICU to visit Harper. I saw her laying there with all of the monitors and an IV and it just broke my heart—but at the same time I knew she was getting the best care and I am a “better safe than sorry” type of person so I’m glad they were being precautious. Still, it was really hard to see her like that and to know we had to go back to our room without her.
We didn’t get much sleep that night. We were both still stunned at what happened. Why did we spike fevers? Was she going to be okay? When would we see the results from her blood cultures?
The next day we returned to the NICU where I worked with a lactation consultant to feed her. She had issues with her latch from the start so I continued to pump colostrum. We got the news later that day that Harper could come back to our room and continue get her IV treatments there. Thank goodness. We just wanted to be with our baby.
Having her back in our room was wonderful. I loved being able to hold her and feed her without all of those wires. Later that evening we got the news that her billiruben levels were high and so they administered phototherapy right there in our room. I felt sad seeing our baby girl go through so much those first couple of days of life, but I was also simultaneously grateful for the care she was receiving.
Though it was hard to go through, I feel lucky that I had such a supportive partner to go through it all with. It’s totally cliche, but my husband was my rock during those first few days of Harper’s life. He still is!
After Harper’s phototherapy was complete, her pediatrician visited us in the hospital and said he thought we could go home that evening. We were elated but also worried because we hadn’t yet gotten the 48 hour blood culture results yet—but the 24 hour results came back negative so our pediatrician was confident that the fever was completely random and that there was no infection. He ended up being right—her 48 hour cultures did come back negative.
We took her home the evening of May 29th and the next morning, I woke up realizing it was my 30th birthday. My “golden year.” I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to be at home as a family of three. It was such a blessing to have her home, my dream come true.
We took her to the pediatrician’s office on my birthday to have her billi levels re-checked and they were still elevated but not enough to continue phototherapy. She had also lost weight so our pediatrician wanted us to just focus on feeding her and making sure she was having enough wet and dirty diapers.
It’s been three and a half weeks now and we are all settled in at home and Harper is doing great. Even though her first few days of life were a bit stressful and full of uncertainty, I’m still happy with my birth experience because all I ever hoped for was that we would be able to take our baby home and start our life as a family, regardless of what happened on the way there.
Thank you for reading and for all of the wonderful comments and support many of you left when we were in the hospital and over the last few weeks.
I will definitely also be writing a post about postpartum recovery as I know that has been highly requested.