Monday, June 14, 2010

Conner's Birth Story Part 2

So I left off explaining how Conner was taken within our first hour together for some additional testing. We were just getting settled into our new room, Conner was in my arms, and I was just staring at him. He had his eyes closed and was pressed up against my bare skin. He was breathing so fast. He didn't appear to be any pain, just very tired. I remember thinking that he has to be fine; he just has to be... there is no other option. I was just so exhausted and relieved that nothing else mattered except for that moment between me and my new son.

Within 30 minutes, there was a knock on my door and a nurse walked in. She took Conner out of my arms, put him in his bassinet, and wheeled him away. I watched my son leave the room without knowing when I would be able to hold him again. We had no idea what was going on and if he was in any trouble. We were so worried. I just remember talking to Dave and trying to make sense of Conner's breathing. I tried to get some sleep as Dave assured me that everything was going to be fine and Conner would be back soon. I fell asleep for a few hours and woke up to another nurse wanting to come in to talk to me about Conner and check my incision. She basically explained that they took some x-rays and blood tests, and that he would be held in the Special Care nursery overnight. The pediatrician that was present at his delivery would come and talk to us as soon as the x-rays had been read. We were told we could go and see him and we were warned that he would be covered in monitors and wires, and that his head would be under an oxygen mask. We were warned that it may be a little scary seeing him like that and to prepare ourselves.

We arrived at the nursery only to see our son exactly as described. He was in a bassinet under a warming light with wires stuck all over him monitoring his heart rate, O2 absorption, and breathing rate. He was receiving fluids through an IV and his head was under an oxygen mask. I was so sad... that is the only word. I was so worried and sad and felt an indescribable pull towards him that I could not satisfy. He was sound asleep and so little.

The doctor that was present at his birth was reading the x-ray and came to talk to us shortly after we went into visit Conner. He informed us that Conner was diagnosed with a pneumothorax. When he took his first breath, it was so strong that it punctured a small hole into his lung causing an air pocket to form in between his lung and the tissue outside his lung restricting his breathing capacity. They had additional concerns also. They were worried that because of the condition, he was not absorbing enough oxygen, that he would not be able to breastfeed as he would not be able to master the breathe suck swallow instinct as he was struggling to breathe, and that he may develop an infection. We were shocked and had so many questions. We were told that the doctor could go in with a special needle and clear the air that had accumulated and that would help improve his oxygen intake and breathing capacity. It would be up to Conner to regulate his breathing and up to the antibiotics to fight any infection. We approved the procedure as we were so anxious to have him healthy and back into our arms.

Conner made it through the procedure and was held in the NICU overnight. He would receive new blood tests and x-rays in the morning and we were told to get some sleep. I have never felt so guilty and torn when I left him behind. They told me that for him to stay strong I had to stay strong and that I had more work to do by producing colostrum and milk for him to regain his strength. I needed to rest and eat. We went back to the room where I was taught how to use the breast pump and took my next round of medication. My mother in law stopped by with food for Dave and I just couldn't face her. I was so sad and so worried and so confused by the day in general that I just didn't have any energy for anyone. She left behind a photo album that she had made of the pictures she took moments after Conner's birth and when I looked at them I broke down. I completely lost it and cried harder than I ever have in my entire life. I truly thought that I could not handle what had been handed to me. I doubted my strength and my ability to deal with the situation. Dave just held me and let me cry and told me that we would get through it and that Conner was going to be fine. I really don't remember the rest of the night. The nurses gave me a sleeping aid and I was out until the next morning.

The next day was especially hard for me. I woke up with this sense of urgency that I could feel in my bones but I was in so much pain that I was moving slower than I ever had in my entire life. All I wanted to do was spend time with Conner so I made it out of bed, ate my breakfast, pumped, and bee lined for the nursery. When I got there I felt instant relief. Conner was sleeping peacefully on his tummy and the room was dark and quiet. I just sat there staring at him. Dave was off spending time with his dad who had made a four hour trip to visit us. He was trying to keep visitors at bay so I could focus on Conner. I sat there for about an hour just staring and staring. A nurse came by shortly after to check his vitals and asked me if I would like to hold him. I instantly lit up and of course was thrilled. I sat there for two hours straight with him stroking his head, talking in his ear telling him of all the things we have to look forward together and kissing his cheek. The nurses gave me my privacy and only checked on us when necessary. It was a wonderful moment for us... we got a chance to bond a little and he was able to hear my voice and know I was there for him. I left him to sleep that night knowing that things were going to get better. The doctor came in and informed me that his pneumothorax had disappeared completely, his x-rays showed increased lung function, his O2 absorption was improving and his blood tests looked great. They decided to put him on antibiotics as a proactive measure to fend off any infection that may creep up. They said their biggest worry was pneumonia as fluid could have collected in his lung as a result of the puncture. We were not out of the woods yet. Conner was still on an IV, not breastfeeding, under an oxygen mask and hooked up to the monitors. He would stay in the nursery for at least two more days.

When I got back to my room Friday night I was feeling better. I had taken the doctor's update as good news and as improvement so I was feeling optimistic and excited. I remember spending a lot of time on the phone with my mother in law updating her on the situation and just hearing myself say all the improvements out loud really made it less scary. I slept well again knowing I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Dave's brother and sisters were coming to visit and I would be able to feed Conner.

Saturday was great. I woke up feeling better. I was able to take a shower and walk around with a little more strength. I could get in and out of bed easier and was feeling less pain. My appetite had come back and I even put on a little make up. I ate, pumped, and went down to see Conner. He was wide awake this time and he was hungry. The nurses said that he was ready to start eating but they were still worried that he was breathing too fast and he still would not be able to master the suck swallow breathe reflex. He would need to breastfeed and they were considering a feeding tube. The tube would be inserted into his nose and the food would be delivered via syringe. This for me was especially hard because I was aching to feed him myself and I knew the breast milk would benefit him immensely. I complied because it was what was best for Conner. We left him for a bit to allow the doctor to insert the tube and came back to a hungry baby. I was allowed to feed him myself and sat with him in my arms slowly delivering his nourishment through a tube. It was tough and he was not connecting the hunger to the food in his belly so it took awhile for him to realize he was full. It all worked out for the best though and in no time he was sleeping in my arms like an angel. Dave's family came into town to see Conner, so they all stopped down later to take a peek. I really didn't want to pass him around to everyone yet so I held him while everyone stood around me and got a chance to see him. It was a good day. I went to bed that night sad still but with hope in my heart.

Sunday was my favorite day. I woke up very early excited that it was my first mothers day and I was told that the antibiotics were being discontinued and the feeding tube was coming out. I would be able to breastfeed him. I wanted to make this day especially memorable so I called my mother in law and my mother and asked them if they could make time to come to the hospital. As my mother's day gift to them, I wanted them to each be able to hold Conner. After I breastfed him for the first time that day, Dave's mom finally got to hold him. She was so thrilled that she was able to do that it really made her feel like a real grandma. She had really been looking forward to that moment. My mom and sister were able to come and hold him too. It was a great day because I was able to see Conner in a healthy light and I was able to spend time with the two moms that I love. The rest of the day is a blur, but I just remember sitting there with him in my arms feeding on exactly what he needed to gain his strength and I finally felt that crazy loving bond that only a mom can feel for her child.

Monday was our last day. Conner had fully recovered in record time and we were told it would be our last day. I went through all the discharge information as soon as I could to get myself all straightened out so I could focus on getting Conner home. The day was nuts. I was back and forth with getting ready to go home, breastfeeding, and talking to the nurses and doctors about what needed to get done before we could leave. We were thankful for all the hospital staff's work, but we were so anxious to just be home. The pediatrician on call that day came in to update us on our son and told us he had one last hurdle to jump then he would be in the clear. We had opted to have Conner circumcised and if he made it through the procedure he would be given the green light to go home. Turns out my little man is a champ and made it through with flying colors. We were able to take him back to our room for the first time since he had been born and we all just took a nap together. Later, we went back to the nursery for pictures, a bath, and some last minute advice. I mostly just remember the feeling I had of pure elation and excitement that I was finally able to bring my son home.

At about 4pm we loaded up the car strapped Conner in and made our way home. We made our way into our house as a new family one member bigger and a hell of a lot stronger. It was a long road home but we made it safe and sound.

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