Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life Begins. Part Three.

The next two days are a bit of a blur. I was still on quite a bit of medicine, and getting nauseous all the time. When I woke up Tuesday, October 12th, my new nurse came in and tells me it is time to go see my baby. The first attempt at getting up and in the wheelchair is a fail. I was the weakest I have ever been - It took three people to help me from the bed to the wheelchair. My blood platelets had dropped even lower - around 60 I believe - and I sat in the wheelchair for 10 seconds before turning completely white and almost throwing up again. Back in the bed I went. The nurse gave me some nausea medicine through my IV (no idea what it is, but best stuff ever) and after waiting a while, I was able to make it in the wheelchair and, somehow, down to NICU 3. I could not stand up or hold him yet, but I could just be there - looking at my innocent, helpless baby. He had IV's, oxygen tubes, feeding tubes, and monitors everywhere. I was quickly getting sick and was not able to stay long, but I savored every second of being with my baby.

Later in the day, I was able to be transferred to the recovery suites. I was beyond exhausted and slept most of the day - while Tanner made his trips up and down the elevator visiting with Fisher and me. Tuesday night was filled with visitors - although I was very out of it and probably not as social as usual, the outpouring of love kept me going. I could tell everyone was trying to be careful with what was said since I was in a delicate situation, and I think I did a great job of masking the pain I was feeling - physically and emotionally. Tanner was in NICU all the time with Fisher and took tons of pictures of him for me to see.

On Wednesday, I pushed myself and was able to get in the wheelchair and Tanner took me to visit Fisher again. This is the first time I was able to hold this baby I had spent 9 months growing - when he was 2 days old. He knew instantly I was his mommy and I knew instantly that I was in love. I know I cried the entire time, but it is a moment in my life I will never forget. Even though he was not even 6 pounds, I was still in quite a bit of pain and was only able to hold him for a few moments. Then, it was Tanner's turn. This is a moment that reinforces I have the most amazing husband - he waited to hold his son until after I was able to hold him first. After talking with the NICU nurse, we made the decision that Tanner and I would be the only ones allowed to hold Fisher. The more rest he got, the quicker he would grow. His wonderful grandparents understood, and continued to visit him constantly - talking and singing to him.

Wednesday evening is also the first day I was able to go for a mini walk. My dad was really pushing me to get moving - he was worried I would get weaker if I kept lying there. So, when I was having a period where I felt well enough to get myself up - off we went. It was quite the production. Tanner pushed the wheelchair over to me, helped me up, and I walked behind the wheelchair pushing it for support - hunch back and all moving at the speed of a 98 year old. We did not make it very far - just outside of our room actually. I would go back to bed and rest for a while and off we would go again. It did not take me long to be able to make it to the end of the hall and back.

 Our first picture as a family

By Thursday I was moving around and feeling noticeably better. I had my whits about me again - a good thing and a very bad thing. I was getting better and officially did not require a blood transfusion, my blood pressure was still high, but much lower than before. We went to see Fisher a few times and I was able to give him his bottle (first time) and hold him for a while. I moved to the recliner and had my first skin to skin time with him - something we both desperately needed.

The nurses told us they would be bathing Fisher later that day, so we found out what time and went back down to watch him get a bath. Since we were there (and I was not able to stand for that long), the nurses made Tanner give him his bath! It was so great to see and Tanner got some great practice! It's hard enough to bath a squirmy baby - imagine bathing one with tubes and wires going everywhere! Then it was time to put on a diaper and get him dressed - that part was a little tricky and Tanner looked quite confused! The nurses were wonderful and walked him through the entire thing - including where to put which wires.

The guilt I was feeling was quickly growing out of control. I felt guilty for having him early, he was not ready and it was my fault. I felt guilty that he was lying in NICU all alone and I couldn't be there for him like a mother should. The thought of my tiny baby boy alone the night he was born was killing me. I was terrified of what was happening to him - of what he was having to deal with as a newborn. Everything I had planned and hoped for had gone wrong. I could not have a natural delivery, I did not get immediate skin to skin contact, and I was not able to nurse - all I could do was pump every 2 hours, religiously.

These are times when I love my family more than ever. Tanner never left my side. Every single morning at 7:30, my dad was there to visit with me and then to sit with Fisher for a while. Then my mom would come spend the day organizing my room and catering to my every need while also making her visits to sing to Fisher. Then my sister and brother in law would come to hangout with us and watch movies. Even though they were not able to see Fisher, they were present. And I needed that more than they will ever know. I have an amazing family.

Along with respiratory distress, Fisher also had jaundice requiring phototherapy, 2 heart murmurs, pneumonia and hypoglycemia - to name a few. By the grace of God - he was actually in much better shape than the original evaluation and would not require a blood transfusion. He was improving everyday and was slowly getting tubes removed and his oxygen lowered. He was even able to be moved to an open air crib. He passed the hearing test as well as the car seat test (premature babies have to sit in a car seat for a while - maybe an hour - to make sure their lungs are strong enough for the ride). God is so good - faithful and strong. Fisher is an amazingly strong little boy and proved it to me more each day. I was still healing and was not able to be in NICU as much as Tanner, so he would bring me things - like his first bottle and a clean diaper. I held onto these two things like there was no tomorrow - actually, I still have them in his keepsake box.

Friday I was finally well enough and my levels had balanced enough to be discharged. I was allowed to stay for nesting, but I had started to enter depression and decided (with the help of Tanner and my dad) that I needed to get out of the hospital. I was quickly entering the darkest stage of my life and I need to be pulled out of it. But, I could not possibly bring myself to go home. Our house was waiting for Fisher, and I was not able to bring him there. So, we stayed with my parents. Words can not describe how wonderful my parents were during this time. I still needed help showering, getting in and out of bed, and getting dressed. I cried non stop. I blamed myself for everything. I could not understand how to go on without Fisher safely in my belly. I felt so alone - I had a constant companion for 9 months and I felt like he was taken away from me.

Everyday, I woke up and went to see Fisher with Tanner in the morning. Then my mom would take me in the afternoon. Then Tanner would take me again in the evening. We would feed him, give him his baths, do anything we could just to be present for him. He was improving every day - and starting to show that fiery personality he still has. His roommate in NICU 3 was a baby boy born at 27 weeks. This family had a long road ahead of them and it made me realize that no matter how destroyed we were, someone else is dealing with a greater burden. And just to prove yet again how faithful our God is - this mother had an emergency c-section at 27 weeks due to pre-eclampsia. Her blood pressure at the time of her delivery was what mine was on the day I was discharged. I can ask a thousand times why this had to happen to me, but then all I can do is praise God that it happened so late in my pregnancy. On Monday, when he was one week old, he was moved to NICU 2 - the less critical, about to go home unit! Such a blessing. Our little soldier was going to be okay. Also, he was finally taken off oxygen - well, he actually kept pulling it out, and that is a sign they are ready to breathe independently. Monday was also the first day I was able to nurse. My little boy latched right on - something I was thrilled about since he was started on a feeding tube and then a bottle.

On Tuesday, we were told that we should nest in the NICU area that night because our little boy would be going home on Wednesday. Best. Day. Ever.

We went straight to my parent's house to pack and get dressed to go get our boy. Then fear set in. How would I take care of this little baby? Would I know what to do? Would he love me? Would he resent me for having him early and not having that immediate bonding time? My family assured me that I would know exactly what to do and that Fisher was going to love me with everything he had. I left my parents house, crying, ready to go spend the first night with my baby - at 9 days old.

We arrived at NICU that evening and were shown to our little room (a pull out sofa and TV) and were given Fisher. I will never forget the feeling we had when the nurse walked out of our room and, for the first time, it was just the three of us. We knew right away we had the best baby we could have hoped for and that everything was going to be just fine. We had each other and that is all that we would need. The night went on without a hitch and, just like my mom told me, I knew exactly what my baby needed.

 No more wires or tubes!

On Wednesday morning, October 20th, we woke up and could not contain the excitement! We were taking our baby HOME. We went for lunch and then attended the NICU discharge class - very informative. Then we met with Dr. T who went over all we would need to know. We were given his vitamins and paperwork that has to go everywhere Fisher goes. If anything ever were to happen, we would show this paperwork - I guess since he was premie, they need to know certain things about his birth. They made our follow up appointment with our Pediatrician and also an appointment with his cardiologist to check the murmurs.

It was finally time to go home. NICU has the most amazing nurses I have ever encountered. I was finally able to put Fisher in his going home outfit (they are not allowed any outside clothes while in NICU, so this was his first time in his own clothing) and then one of the nurses walked me to ring the Lullaby bell. This was a special moment for me. I cried every time I heard the bell go off, because I had not been able to ring it for Fisher. I finally got the chance to announce that he was here and healthy - at 9 days old. My baby was going home. We took several pictures, including some with his nurses, and said our goodbyes. His nurse escorted us down to our car and made sure Fisher was safely tucked in his car seat. These nurses get very attached to the babies, so they were proud and sad all at once saying goodbye to a baby they helped nurture - a few tears were shed.

We were off. Tanner drove - the most scared he has ever been driving - and I rode in the back seat so I could stare at Fisher the whole way. When we got home, my mom was there waiting for us. She had been grocery shopping and decorated the house for our homecoming. My dad arrived shortly after and we were all able to share and enjoy their first time holding sweet Fisher. It was such a special moment that I know none of us will ever forget. My sister and brother in law came over later that evening and met Fisher for the first time. They were immediately over the moon.

 The next week was amazing. We went to his first check up with Dr. K on Thursday morning (side note: never have an 8:00 am appointment the morning after you bring your first child home) and he met his Great-Grandma and Aunt. He spent time with his YaYa, PawPaw, Auntie and Uncle. We spent every second with our little boy - making up for lost time.

 First bath at home
Whatcha thinkin about?

Tanner was starting a new job, and had to go to work the Monday after we got home. He had a total of 2 weeks off - thank goodness. God is amazing with his perfect timing. Tanner had applied for and just gotten a great new job. He gave his 2 weeks on Friday, I had Fisher that Monday, and Tanner had to take his 2 weeks notice as vacation! My mom came over every day the first week I was home alone with Fisher. She did my laundry, dishes, and all the cleaning - I could not have made it without her.

Mom took us to the cardiologist appointment where the doctor (actually it was my doctor from when I was little because I also have a heart murmur) checked out Fisher and noted that his 2 murmurs are innocent and should be nothing to worry about. However, he did mention that since my first child has a "heart defect" that the chances of my second child having one is greater - but still extremely low. Still coming from a difficult situation, I took the news hard.

Since I was a c-section patient, I had to go see my OB for a 2 week follow up. Mom also took us to this appointment. I was healing great and my blood pressure was getting closer to normal. The doctor did warn me that I would be considered high risk on my next pregnancy, and since I had HELLP with my first that my chances of having it again with a second pregnancy would be higher - but still extremely low. And there are no preventative measures or treatments. Again, I took the news hard. But slowly, I started pulling things together. I could not change anything by worrying about the future - all I could do was take care of the precious baby I had right then.

Thursday, October 28th, my mom was with me in the afternoon and I noticed there was some blood in Fisher's stool. I called the Pediatrician and was told that a very small amount of blood in newborn stool can be normal, but if there is more then I need to call back. Tanner had a funeral that night, so he was going to be home late, but I didn't want my mom driving home too late - so I told her to head on and I would be fine. About 5:30 I went to change Fisher's diaper and it was nothing but bloody stool. I called the after hours service for my Pediatrician and was called back within 30 minutes. The nurse got all the information and then called the doctor. She called me right back and told me I needed to get to the hospital immediately - that the doctor already had a room waiting for me.

Great. I was home alone (and Tanner's phone was on silent since he was at a funeral) and I had not lifted the car seat or driven since my c-section. Usually I am a disaster when trouble arises, but something came over me and I did what I needed to do. I gathered Fisher's diaper bag, tucked him safely in his car seat and off we went. On the way, I talked to my mom, dad, and sister - everyone (but Tanner) knew what was happening and were ready to be wherever they needed to be. Finally, Tanner sees that I have called 100 times and called me back - now he is freaking out and rushing to the hospital. We have a lovely little chat about not caring where you are - to ALWAYS answer your phone.

As promised, when we arrive, we walk right in and are escorted to our room in the pediatric unit. Dr. E was on call and quickly came in to evaluate Fisher. He needed to take a few samples and have an IV put in to administer antibiotics - they were concerned it might be a virus such as salmonella. However, it being a virus was worst case scenario - Dr. E was fairly sure it was an allergy. He told us we would be in the hospital for a few days because the cultures needed time to show any growth.

My parents went to our house to grab us some clothes and to pick up the dog. While we were waiting for them to get there, it was time for Fisher to get an IV put in - since his veins were so tiny, the best source they could get was the side of his head. It was horrible. My heart was completely broken - this little boy had been through enough.

Again - peace that passes all understanding - we make it through. We were in the hospital until Monday, November 1st. Thankfully, all Fisher had was a milk protein allergy and I had to go on a dairy free diet and we would give him hypoallergenic formula. Since we were in peds during Halloween, there was quite a bit going on and several groups stopped by for a visit - including the Chick-fil-a cow and scarecrow : )

Looking back, I can not believe we made it through all of this! It's like I entered my favorite month of the year, and woke up and it was November. Happy note - I had an October baby! Not quite like I envisioned, but October nonetheless. I am thrilled to report that we have had just amazing times since our first challenging month. Of course there are typical bumps in the road, but that it life. And it's a beautiful life. God has smiled on us and blessed our family beyond comprehension. I learned more in the month of October than I ever thought possible - mostly I learned that I am strong.

Life begins.


  1. What an amazing story Sarah!! Your family sounds a lot like mine. They are such a blessing!! I am so very glad everything has turned out ok and Fisher is safe and sound now!! Hope everything is going good in Talley!! I miss all you guys!

  2. You’re such a good story teller. LOVED it! And my what a journey!

  3. OMG. Girl, I have been in tears for the past 20 minutes straight reading all of this!! Gosh! You need to let Fisher meet his future girlfriend (Emily) & we need to do lunch one day soon!! :-)

  4. Oh, Sarah, this is such a heart breaking story of your journey. I have been in tears the whole time reading this. I love you, Fisher and Tanner and if there is ever anything you all ever need just let me know. God is amazing and as he brought my family through our own hard times having twins, he will always be there for you!!!!!