I woke up at 3:30 a.m. puking on the side of the bed. My husband, Jason, jumped up and rushed over to my side to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t. I had been experiencing lower stomach cramps all day but I just assumed it was ligament pain or the baby running out of room. I knew I didn’t have long before our son would make his grand entrance into the world but I still had three weeks left. Luckily, I had an appointment later that day with our doctor and she could tell us what we needed to do. Jason covered his face with his shirt as he tried to clean the vomit that was soaking into the carpet. I just didn’t have the strength to do it myself. It was obvious that the Mexican food we had earlier didn’t agree with me. He then helped me get over into the bathtub and lovingly washed my hair for me. I could tell he felt nervous and thought I probably should go ahead and see the doctor when the office opened. I played it off assuring him that I would be fine until my appointment later that afternoon. I continued to rest on the couch until it was time to make the hour long drive to the doctor. While riding in the truck, I felt a huge sense of peace. After months of being nervous and just a general fear of the unknown, I had a soothing calmness wash over me in waves. No matter what may lie ahead, I knew everything would be alright.
I was overwhelmed with emotion when the doctor looked at me with both excitement and shock and asked, “Did you bring your bags? Cause you’re having a baby!” I was in full blown labor and already 5 centimeters along. They were baffled as to how I was even up walking around but I felt pretty normal and just wanted to get it over with. The doctor directed us to go straight over to the hospital to get checked in. Jason pulled the car around while fumbling to call all of our family to let them know our baby would be here that very evening.
It didn’t take us long to check in and head up to the Labor & Delivery floor. I had never stayed in a hospital before but the staff and nurses made sure we were comfortable and well cared for. About the time they got my intravenous line started, our family started pouring in. I was glad to be surrounded by those that loved us and would soon love our son tremendously too. When it was time for the doctor to come into the room, our family went to the waiting room. Jason stood at my right side and gripped my hand tightly. We like to joke because during that intense moment when I was pushing our son into the world, he squeezed my hand so tight that I yelled for him to let go! The doctor laughed and it changed the seriousness of the situation for a brief second. Shortly, that laughter changed to concern as our son began to aspirate meconium. The doctor made the decision to do a quick vacuum extraction and just like that our first born son entered the world.
From my bed I could see, my husband watching closely as the nurses sucked his lungs out. They bathed and swaddled him and handed them to Jason. As he held him, it was like the planets had aligned. He was finally a Father, something he had wanted to be for as long as I’d known him, and he was a natural at it. It was finally my turn to hold the perfect little boy that I had carried inside my body for almost nine months. I can still remember the way his eyes searched for me when he heard my voice. I felt as if I’d finally fulfilled my calling in life. A few family members came in and were overjoyed to welcome the newest addition to our family but their visit was cut short by a nurse who had come to take the baby to the nursery for further evaluation. Jason left my side for the first time since being admitted to the hospital to go be next to our son. As I lay in the hospital bed, I felt I could finally rest since my job of getting the baby here was complete. A little while later, Jason came back to the room. The look of an excited new father had disappeared from his face and he was on the verge of tears. He explained to me that our child’s blood sugar had nearly bottomed out and they were waiting on the doctor for further instructions. But how?? I was just holding him! He was fine and healthy! Is it something I did wrong? Was my baby going to be okay??
A short while later two nurses opened my door and came in. They were from NICU. They stood at the foot of my bed and explained to us that our baby was fine but he would spend some time in the NICU to be closely monitored. He was working too vigorously when he was being fed which was causing his blood sugar to plunge. They promised us he was in the best care and that the most important thing we could do was get some rest. I trusted what they were saying but a million questions filled my mind. I was numb. Jason went down to the NICU. I was unable to go since I was sick so he sent me a picture on my phone of our baby boy. His eyes pierced my soul and it was like he was saying “Help me, Mommy!” Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt helpless. Jason came back into the room and curled up into a ball in the chair next to me. We weren’t able to say much to each other. He was hurting. He hurt for our son who lay down the hall from us. He wanted to be able to do something..anything..to make our son better. He wanted to take our baby home where we could devote every ounce of our attention and love to him. But it would be nearly three weeks before that day would come.
The next few weeks were a blur of beeping moniters and syringe feedings. We lived for the back and forth between hotel and hospital visits. Having my husband, Jason, there was a saving grace. He held our son closely and rubbed his head. He looked like a small doll laying inside his large, masculine arms. Jason made sure none of his cords were tangled and that we always said a prayer over our child before leaving him. He stayed close to his issolette when our son had to undergo the billrubin lights. He sang to him as he rocked our boy and every now and then the corner of his mouth would curl up into a tiny grin. When the nurses would ask if we wanted to feed him, we jumped at he chance. We had an ongoing chant playing in our minds to “Suck, swallow, breathe!” We only had a certain amount of minutes to get him to drink all ounces or else it would be another setback resulting in another night in the NICU.
Away from the hospital, Jason continued the unwavering support. He made sure I had everything I needed as far as medicine and was as comfortable as possible. He made numerous phone calls to nurses to check on our sons progress. He even toted our dirty clothes up and down the halls of the hotel to the laundry area on the first floor. While he was forced to embrace this tough situation that we were in, he still made sure that his wife and son were his first priority. I will forever be greatful for the man that stood next to me during that first night I became a mother. I hope our son will know how much we fought for him in those beginning days. I want him to know of the unbreakable strength his Father had on the night he was born. The night my husband became Father to a preemie.
I am sharing my story from the NICU in hopes of raising awareness for the millions of families like mine affected by premature birth. November is Preemie Awareness Month. In honor of my son, I hope our story is shared and inspires others!