Matt and I were both in denial on the way to the hospital that Wednesday night.
I was still five weeks away from my due date and any plans for an early induction were still at least two weeks into the future. We figured we'd get sent back home after a few hours of monitoring in Labor & Delivery.
How wrong we were.
Hours earlier, I had been at the pool with Kamryn and Matt's brother. Everything seemed normal all day, with not so much as a twitch from my uterus.
I came home with Kamryn around 3:30 that afternoon. We ate dinner with Matt and then he went back to work.
Between 5 and 6 that night I had about four contractions. I started timing them around 6:30, and for the next hour I was contracting every 4-5 minutes. for 45 seconds at a time. They weren't horribly painful, but I did have to breathe my way through them. At 7:30, I called the doctor. He told me to go to the hospital. I asked him if he thought I could wait another hour until my husband came home from work. He said that he wouldn't risk it. Matt got the call to come home.
My hospital bag wasn't packed, but I had been setting aside some of the stuff I wanted to take on the dresser. I was under the assumption that we'd have plenty of time to prepare for the trip to the hospital, after all, the doctor had said he wanted to schedule an induction when the baby's lungs were ready. So packing the bag got put off, until that night. Matt came home and called his brother to come baby-sit for Kamryn and we started throwing everything in sight into our luggage. By 8:30, we were headed to the hospital. When we walked through the parking lot toward the hospital I had to stop to get through a contraction. A lady outside saw us and ran in to tell the front desk to bring a wheelchair out to me. I reassured the woman who pushed me upstairs that there was no need to hurry, I didn't feel like I was going to give birth anytime soon.
The Labor and Delivery unit was a madhouse that evening. Every pregnant woman in town had apparently went into labor and there wasn't enough nursing staff to go around. It took forever for them to get around to admitting me. By the time they did, the contractions were getting stronger. A nurse checked me and said I was dilated 1-2 cm. I was happy to hear that all this contracting was actually doing something, but 1-2 cm isn't all that exciting. Even though she commented that the baby's head was very low, we still thought we were getting sent home.
The contractions kept on coming, and pretty soon I was asking the nurse for an epidural. She said the doctor wanted to wait and see if I was dehydrated because that could be causing the contractions. They put me on an I.V. and fetal monitors.
Shortly thereafter, I started begging for the epidural. They checked me and I was 4-5 cm. The doctor finally gave the okay for the epidural over the phone after the nurse told him how much pain I was in. (I had went from just stopping to breathe through a contraction to screaming obscenities and pounding on the hospital bed in less than an hour.) Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist was already in the process of helping someone else enter the land of pain-free euphoria, so he was too busy to help me. I started feeling like I had to push and that's when the panic set in.
Maybe I wouldn't get the epidural in time and I'd have to do this naturally. Oh, shit!
I kept bugging the nurse between contractions, which were coming back to back at this point. "How long until the anesthesiologist gets here?" I whimpered. I didn't dare tell her that I was pushing for fear that she'd say it was too late for pain medication. I couldn't risk her sending the anesthesiologist and his magical bag of drugs away from my room. The thought was much too terrifying.
He finally arrived. And I think he was annoyed with me because I couldn't hold still. I was pushing all through the placement of the needle. The nurse kept telling me not to move, and finally I blurted out that I had to push so I couldn't stay still.
She did that thing that the nurses do when you are in labor and there is no obstetrician in the room. She told me not to push.
There is a reason they tell you not to do this. If you aren't fully dilated and you start pushing, you can cause the cervix to swell and this makes it harder to push the baby through. That said, It is IMPOSSIBLE to not push when your body wants you to push. And my body wanted me to push for a reason. As soon as the epidural was in, the nurse checked me and discovered that I was at 10 cm. Fully dilated. And the head was super low, which made it easier for them to place the fetal scalp monitor, since the belly monitor wasn't picking up the baby's heartbeat very effectively. This was most likely due to the fact that I was thrashing around from the pain of my contractions like a seizure patient, so I kept moving the monitors. I also managed to unknowingly rip an entire I.V. line out of my hand during a contraction, which no one noticed until Matt saw a gush of blood running down my arm.
It took 3 pushes to get him out once the doctor came. Everything happened so fast that there wasn't even time for the epidural to get turned on. Considering the fact that my back felt like someone had beat it with a baseball bat the next day, I probably should have just skipped it. But I didn't know that I only had 20 minutes of hell to go when the anesthesiologist finally showed up. And the contractions were total hell.
After the baby was delivered, Matt cut the cord and the doctor handed the baby to me. I held him for only a minute before one of the nurses took him so the pediatrician could look him over.
That's when reality sunk in. This little baby was five weeks early. What if his lungs weren't ready?
I asked my doctor how 35 weekers normally do. He sighed and said that little white boys usually do the worst.
I had just given birth to a beautiful, little white boy.
Even though his APGARS were both 9's, Bronx was having problems with his lungs. He was breathing way too fast. The pediatrician had him sent to the nursery. Matt went with him. I wasn't allowed to go until I had eaten something and gone to the bathroom. It was almost 2 hours before I could see my baby again. It was a horribly awful 2 hours.
I wasn't there, but they started giving Bronx oxygen before he even got to the nursery. Matt managed to snap a photo in the midst of all the chaos. It was our baby's very first picture.
When I got to the nursery, Bronx was in an oxygen tent. The nurses had him on several different monitors and there were wires sticking to him everywhere. Matt was sitting next to the warming table that the oxygen tent had been set up on and he was holding Bronx's little hand through a small open spot in the bottom of the tent. It was so scary to see my baby like that. I had no idea what condition he was in, the nurses hadn't really explained that much to Matt, and he was in as much shock as I was so whatever little they had told him hadn't made much sense. I sent Matt back to our room a short while later to sleep while I stayed with our new little miracle.
We took turns all through that night staying with Bronx while one of us tried to sleep back in the hospital room. Matt slept a little, I didn't sleep at all until the last night of our stay and that was Ambien-induced. I still don't know how anyone ever sleeps in a hospital. It seems impossible to me.
The nursery was full of babies that first night. Bronx was on one side of the room in his little tent, while the other babies were all in regular bassinets on the opposite side of the nursery. The other babies were all at or near term, all breathing regular room air. Those babies were being picked up and held by the nurses and the only reason they were in the nursery was because their mothers had chosen to send them there so they could sleep. Bronx had to stay at 30% oxygen (room air is 21%) so he couldn't come out of the tent. We couldn't pick him up, or feed him or change his diaper. All we could do is sit with him and hold his hand and hope he would pull through soon.
It was awful. The doctor came to check on him several times and it seemed like his breathing was pretty much staying the same. That was bad. His body was working way too hard to keep his lungs full of air and pretty soon there was talk of transporting him to a NICU at another hospital 45 minutes away. The hospital I delivered at didn't have a NICU and there wasn't much left they could do. The doctor said he would check on him one last time and if there was no improvement in the baby's breathing, then he would order the transport either via ambulance or helicopter. I found out a little later that almost all 35 weekers get transported to the other hospital. Matt and I were really starting to freak out. The transport would mean that a team of paramedics would take the baby to another hospital and Matt would not be able to ride along. He would have to do the 45 minute drive separately. And I would be stuck at the hospital alone for another two days or so until I was discharged. It was a nightmare to even think about.
Thankfully, that never happened. Even though the transport orders were written up and ready to go, Bronx never had to make the trip. When the doctor came back early that Thursday afternoon, he was amazed that the baby's breathing had improved enough for him to stay. Bronx's lungs were slowly adjusting to life outside the womb. He had even had a minor setback earlier that morning when my OB came into the nursery and noticed that the oxygen in Bronx's tent was at 22%. He commented that Bronx must be really doing well for the nurses to wean him down so close to room air so fast. Matt and I thought this was strange. None of the nurses had mentioned lowering his oxygen during their visits through the night and we had not seen them adjust anything. So we asked. That's when the nurse discovered that the oxygen tube had fallen out of the back of his tent. Who knows how long that had been going on. She fixed it and his monitors started looking a little better.
Turns out he just needed a little more time transitioning from my belly to the outside world. His breathing kept improving, so later on that night one of the nurses decided to keep the bottom half of his tent open after a diaper change. She didn't have any orders from the doctor to do this, but she said we could try it and if he didn't do so well we could put the tent back down completely. We went along with it because we were so anxious to get him the heck out of there. It could be hours before the doctor got around to trying this or anything else. So, the nurse left the tent open for a good hour or so. After that, she completely opened the bottom half of the tent. He did fine with that for another hour, so she pulled him out of tent completely and let him lay on the warming table for awhile. His respiration rate was normal and he was oxygenating well, so she called the doctor.
"What did you call me for...to brag?" The doctor asked when she called. He was impressed and a little surprised by Bronx's progress, so he gave the okay for Bronx to be picked up and held and I finally had permission to try feeding him. Matt and I were thrilled. I had only been able to hold him for a few minutes after the birth and Matt had not been allowed to hold the baby at all. So, finally after 20-some hours of waiting, my husband was finally able to hold his son for the first time.
It was so nice to be able to see his little face without the thick plastic from the tent in the way. The plastic made it hard to get a good look at him, especially because it would frequently get fogged up from all the humidity building up inside the tent. After Matt held him for awhile he passed him over to me and I fed him for the first time. He ate like a champ, so the doctor was called again. He gave the okay for Bronx to be moved to a normal bassinet in our room. As long as he stayed on the monitors.
That monitor turned out to be a lot more trouble than we thought. It was hypersensitive, so it kept going off constantly. The first few times we freaked, thinking our baby was in some sort of terrible danger (even though he looked just fine) and we hit the call button and asked for a nurse. Eventually, his monitor was switched out to one that didn't go off every five seconds and all was good.
Then, the last night of our stay, the nurses informed us that because Bronx was so small he would have to pass a car seat test. This meant that he would have to go to the nursery again and sit in his car seat for 90 minutes while hooked to the monitors. If all his monitors stayed normal, he would be allowed to come home with us on Saturday morning when I was being discharged. If he failed the test, he would need to be sent home in a special car seat that allows the baby to lie completely flat. We weren't allowed to go with him while he was taking the car seat test because the nursery was too crowded (it seems like everyone had a baby that weekend.) He passed the car seat test, and we were pretty confident that Bronx would be coming with us when we left the hospital the next morning. The only thing that was up in the air now was whether or not he would be sent home on the monitors.
Our confidence was a little shaken the next morning. Matt went off to work for a few hours before I was to be discharged and I started packing up all of our stuff. A nurse came in to check Bronx and she told me that she could hear a little bit of an irregularity in his heart. She said that the monitors were picking it up too. So now Bronx's homecoming was up in the air again. If the doctor agreed with the nurse's findings, Bronx would have to either undergo an echocardiogram or an EKG to determine what was causing the irregularity. I told the nurse that I had undergone a fetal echocardiogram at 22 weeks and I knew from those results that the baby did not have any structural defects with his heart. I told myself that over and over while I waited for someone to come to my room to take Bronx for the tests. The only person that came was the doctor, who gave him a clean bill of health. He said his heart sounded fine, his breathing was good and he could come home!
The nurse came and cleaned him up for us so we could put his going home outfit on. They wanted to stabilize his breathing, so they didn't clean him up completely after he was born, they just wiped him off a little. There was still goop matted in his hair! Poor kid.
After that, the nurse took out his I.V. (which took up his entire arm because it had to be immobilized with a splint so he couldn't accidentally pull it out) and she removed his monitors. That was a horrible experience. The probes on his chest were super sticky and they pulled his skin as she was taking them off.
Once the wires were off, the hospital photographer came and took his first professional portraits. Finally! I felt bad because she had stopped in our room on Thursday and I told her that he was in an oxygen tent, so he couldn't be photographed. Then Friday she stopped in again and I had to explain that he was on the monitors, so we still weren't ready. Saturday morning she came in and I had to tell her to come back after he was taken off the monitors. I'm so glad she was able to take his picture before we left. We used one of the shots on the birth annoucement and it turned out beautiful. I think he looks so angelic.
When we were done with the pictures, we dressed him up in his going home outfit. We had brought an outfit with us that I had picked up months ago, but it was newborn size. Way too big. So, while we were still in the hospital, I sent Matt out to pick up a preemie outfit for the baby. We dressed him in that, (and it was even a little big!) and we loaded him up in the carseat for his first ride home.
On the way home that day, we stopped and bought every preemie outfit in town. Sorry to all those naked preemies born after Bronx!