There’s a story that I didn’t tell a year ago.
Maybe I didn’t have the balls to do it. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Maybe I felt that it was “too religious” or whatever. But I have to tell it.
Ty turned one on April 12, 2016. I wrote two blog posts about his birth and his first week home. But I didn’t include his time in the NICU. Perhaps I was too tired to write about it, having just spent a week waiting to leave.
A little over a year ago, I was mad at God. Pregnancy made me miserable. I said pissed-off prayers that contained more profanity than I’ll admit. And I just had one question for Him.
“When. Is. This. Baby. Coming?’
If I had a date, I could bear it. If I knew when he’d show up, I could handle it. But not a clue. Just contractions every day. Just misery every day.
The only answer that I received was, “Pack a bag.”
And all was quiet from above.
Pack a bag? Pack a bag?! That was IT!? What kind of bag? Was I going to have a preemie? Packing a hospital bag is waaaay different than packing a birthing center bag. Birthing center bags are only for a few hours. And hospital bags? Well, crap, I didn’t even know what I’d need. I’d never had a baby in the hospital.
Damon and I went to the grocery store. We bought things just in case he was a preemie. We found the remarkably small selection of boy clothes. We bought diapers. Suits. Toiletries. The works. Everything that I thought we might need in the event that Ty was born early.
But he wasn’t.
And I grew more and more angry. What the heck was the point of that “Pack a bag” answer?! To scare me?
Damon and I brought both bags with us the day that he was born. Ty was born when he was supposed to be born. He was term. He turned the right way. I only pushed for 9 minutes. He did everything that was supposed to do.
Except the little guy had fluid in his lungs. His oxygenation wasn’t high enough. I found myself walking out of the birthing center (remarkably easily) and driving to the hospital with the midwife, oxygen tank in the backseat, hooked up to Ty.
I remember what douches the ER staff decided to be to my dear midwife. One particular doctor insulted her credentials to her face. My midwife is an advanced practice nurse; the kind that can write prescriptions like a doctor. I remember being wheeled down the hallway to the NICU.
I remember my baby being hooked up to a plethora of machines, trying to pull off his CPAP mask (blows air up your nose, the little guy was strong). I remember the staff showing us the family support room, aka…room with a shower and a bed. I remember walking into the room, holding both bags.
Then it hit me.
Ty was born in the birthing center, but had to be transferred to the hospital. All of our stuff was packed that we needed for that week. But God had no way of letting me know that earlier. He had no way of saying to me, “Hey. So, he’s going to be born where you’re planning, but due to unforeseen circumstances, he’s going to spend a week at the hospital.” We often think that we’re these all-knowing, super rational people. We’re not. He had no way of telling me.
So, all that He said was, “Pack a bag.”
That week that I spent in the NICU was the most humbling week of my existence. It was almost as if God had me sit in that chair to think about how much I had been questioning Him. It was my time to be grateful.
There were babies there who might have never left; babies born at 24 weeks. Good news for them came in the form of “Your baby doesn’t have any brain bleeds that will kill them today”. There was a mom with a cath bag hobbling down the hallway on her husband’s arm. There were moms with swollen C-section marks, due to work in a few days. Dads wearing their business suits pacing the hallways, having returned to work weeks ago. Moms who didn’t get to hold their babies. For months.
I didn’t get to hold Ty for almost a whole day after he was born. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. My midwife came and checked my uterus and brought me a heating pad, because post-birth contractions are no joke. She was wonderful.
Haven wasn’t allowed in the NICU. She wasn’t even allowed in the family support room (which I threw a fit about to one of the nurses). Although, one of the nurses was awesome and told me “Go be a mom”. So, I brought Haven into the room with me and gave her some chocolate. We watched the Octonauts and took a nap.
I saw my little girl for maybe two hours a day.
I barely slept for four days. I cried every day. I rushed into the NICU, bawling, telling Damon “I have to go home. I have to go home!” It was the first time that I had stepped outside in four days, aside from fifteen minutes after he was admitted. I sobbed the entire way to the car, praying as I drove the twenty-five minutes home.
“Father. Thank you. Thank you. Even though things are really reeeeeeeally shitty right now.”
I went home and cuddled my sleeping Haven, leaving before she woke to go back to my sick baby. I hauled the huge breast-pump generator with me to and from the hospital for three days. I ate chicken-pot pies and berries that my dear mother brought for me. I ate lunches that my family brought when they visited. I kept to a strict schedule, pumping every two hours. My boobs swelled up. My milk was starting to flood in.
I was the lucky one. My son would be done after a week. My tear from birthing didn’t hurt…like at all. My milk came in just like it was supposed to. I ended up producing wayyyyyyy more than enough. Enough to give 20 lbs of milk to a friend who couldn’t nurse a few months later. That probably wouldn’t have happened had we not been in the NICU. The pump that the insurance gave me was weak. It barely pulled any milk out. I established the crap outta my supply. And I filled my bottles in 5 minutes, from start to finish. Our families took care of Haven, despite having busy schedules themselves.
And Ty got stronger every day. I had to hog-tie him into his receiving blanket to keep him from ripping off the wires and IV.
I got pissed off at the regulations that the NICU had. Ty would latch amazingly, but only suck for five to ten minutes. Apparently, they’re supposed to nurse every 2 hours for 15 minutes. Or something. I told them that he was sleepy, comfy with his mom, and happy. He didn’t need to be on a clock. Haven had been sleepy too. I had to put ice packs on her back to get her to nurse. My nurse was an awesome down-to-business mother of 6. She told the head nurse that I pumped faster than any mom she had ever seen. So, they would wake Ty up every four hours if he didn’t nurse. And he took a bottle easily.
Damon and I took Haven to the hospital cafeteria to have our first meal together since before Ty was born. We ate a pasta prepared by my family, that they’re always asking me how to make even though it’s just rotini, black olives, green onions, one lemon, sea salt, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese.
I went home from the NICU with my baby boy drinking wonderfully from his bottle, being cared for by this Lithuanian nurse who was much too peppy for working night-shift. I loved her false-eyelashes and excited disposition. The NICU nurses there were seriously top-notch. He was on room-air when I left that night, meaning “breathing fine on his own”. He had barely cried the entire time he was in the NICU.
I called the NICU every three hours to make sure that he was still breathing on his own. Damon told me to chill out, that he would be fine. I had spent the last 7 days watching those stupid machines. I called.
I returned to the hospital for rounds that morning. The nurse practitioner (head honcho nurse) said that they would maybe talk about him going home in a few days. The mother-of-6 nurse had told me that the overseeing doctor was one of the most lenient when it came to NICU rules. So, I naturally spoke up.
“He’s on room-air. He chugged down a bottle in less than three minutes. He doesn’t need to be here.”
The doctor turned to his team and said to start getting him ready for discharge. Not believing it, I asked what time. The doctor checked his imaginary watch. He said as soon as things were filled out.
“THANK GOD!” I yelled. Everyone laughed.
Ty had two more tests. He had to pass his hearing test and his car-seat test. He passed his hearing test. They put him in his car-seat for forty-five minutes, with the oxygenation measure on his finger. He passed. Easily.
The day-shift nurse and I fought with his dumb car-seat for like an hour before I finally Googled how to move the shoulder-straps down. She helped me carry the car-seat out of the NICU, where Damon and Haven waited for us. We walked out of the hospital as a family and put Ty’s seat into the car.
That was the week when I learned to trust God. He freakin’ knew what He was doing when he told me to “Pack a bag”. I always remember that when I’m questioning why the ef things are not going my way. He gave me a perfect little boy and boobs busting with milk to feed him with. It was my Hell Week, but He was with me every step of the way.
That little boy turned one a few days ago. Happy Birthday, Ty. You’re more than I could have asked for.