*This has nothing to do with his NICU stay but I do want to share that my doctors said during my surgery that they, "Don't understand how I got pregnant." During surgery she told me that she would perform another tubal and "sterilize" me and "Hopefully that will work for you." I was laying on that table like, "Whatchu mean "hopefully"...."*
After surgery I was taken back to my room for recovery. If you have ever had a c-section you know that your time spent immediately after surgery can be a little iffy. You're not really sure what to expect as you come down off all the anesthesia. This is the first time that I didn't throw up after a delivery. I was feeling really well until the medicine started to wear off and I got a case of the shivers that was so bad. I was literally freezing the way I normally would during surgery. At that point I wasn't sure if the warm blankets helped me or hurt me because I still ended up with the shakes.
That was the worst of my recovery though. I was wheeled off to my postpartum room where I'd be until I was discharged. Once I was there I immediately started pumping to get my breast milk supply going. My husband came back from the NICU and he wheeled me over there to see our baby. He was tiny. I remember feeling so broken hearted and defeated to see him that way. In his little "spaceship" bed plugged up to so many monitors and a feeding tube.
After meeting with the doctors of the NICU they explained to us that the NICU journey is a day by day thing. They would be testing him, giving him ultrasounds and different tests (like an eye exam and a hearing test) to make sure that even though he was born early that he had developed those skills in utero. His doctor told us that the main thing that keeps a healthy baby in the NICU was learning to suck and eat. Moses was born at 32w6d. We were told that most preemie babies will begin to suck at around 34-35 weeks of their gestational age. My heart just started to sink because that meant we could expect him to be in the NICU for at least about two weeks at the very least.
I was discharged from the hospital after a couple days. Normally you have that rush of excitement to be finally going home with you baby. I felt awful. I can not really put into words how depressing it is to give birth to a baby and not take the baby home with you. I was so sad. Mainly because I wasn't ready for my pregnancy to be over. Even though it was a tough time I really wanted to allow him to keep growing until at least week 37. I felt so guilty for not being able to give him a better start. I still feel guilty about that actually.
During his time in the NICU his bilirubin numbers fluctuated. He went through light therapy several different times before he was able to be in his crib without the lights. (The above pic is why we nicknamed his bed a spaceship.) Moses never had a problem breathing so that was a blessing. It took him a little time to regulate his body temperature. At this time he had a feeding tube in his belly button.
Somewhere around his ten day mark things began to shift. He was able to be in his bed without the lights and he seemed to be holding his temperature which meant that I could start attempting to feed him once during the day and night. His feeding tube was moved to his nose and we started giving him the chance to learn to suck. The NICU had a therapist come teach us how to hold him to encourage him to stay awake for his feedings. Preemie babies are so tired from all of the developing that they do so in the beginning he would sleep right through his scheduled bottle time.
It took a lot of practice and a lot of patience to work through the feedings. I had been hoping that he would be home for Thanksgiving and I could tell that wasn't going to happen. His doctors were really pleased with his progress and told us that the only thing that was keeping him in the NICU was his inability to eat. Moses had already gained enough weight to go home (he was a whopping four pounds), he could regulate his body temp so all he had to do was take all his feedings. At first I was attempting to nurse him because that's what I've always done. During the day when I couldn't be there his nurses were giving him expressed breast milk in a bottle. My husband and I decided that we would switch to doing bottles only because we didn't want him exhausting energy (and possibly losing weight) during nursing sessions. I asked the nurses to change his feeding schedule to fit my pumping schedule so we'd be on the same schedule whenever he came home.
Slowly but surely he started taking the bottle better. He was moved to an "open air" bassinet. That's a big deal in the NICU. It was such a nice surprise to see him outside of the spaceship for the first time the day before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day we were so excited for our visit. The holiday just didn't feel the same without him being home even though he'd never been home before. When we walked into the NICU we were greeted with the most amazing news. Moses had taken an entire bottle at his feeding that morning!!!
All it took was that one bottle and he soared through the rest of his feeding stages. The feeding tube in his nose was removed. He had an eye exam to check the development of his retina. Everything checked out okay. Next was another ultrasound of his brain to check for bleeds. The vessels of the brain are very fragile so the doctors check them again before sending a baby home. His day seven ultrasound showed no bleeds but this second ultrasound showed some very small grade one bleeds. The doctors assured us that those types of bleeds heal themselves but that he would need a follow up ultrasound after he was discharged. He would also need an ultrasound on his hips because he was born breech.
He had his hearing checked a few days later and passed. We were scheduled to have an overnight stay with him after he passed his car seat test. The overnight stay went well and on December 6 Moses was discharged from the hospital.
So far all of his follow up appointments have gone well. His follow up eye exam showed that his eyes were developing perfectly. He has his follow up ultrasounds for his hips and brain this week. I am praying that those go well. He has doubled his birth weight and is now weighing right at six pounds. The NICU did such an amazing job of getting him on a schedule. He's still on that same schedule of eating about every 3 to 4 hours and sleeping for pretty good stretches of time.
So that sums up our NICU stay. I still can't believe he's been home for almost a month now. He'll start therapy for preemie babies around six months to encourage his development to be on track with that of a full term baby. We are so thankful for the doctors and nurses that took such good care of him. We are also thankful for all of the prayers. There is nothing like having a child in the hospital. Watching all the parents go through their own journeys with their babies was hard. I still pray for the families that were there when we were.
In the next post for this series I'll share some tips for getting through your NICU journey. I'll also share more of the feelings I experienced after he was born. Thank you for reading his story.