My life changed dramatically on Oct. 11, 2014. This is the date that I sat in my doctor’s office as they performed an emergency ultrasound for my baby. At the time I was around 35 weeks, but I wasn’t getting any bigger and my blood pressure was rising. I thought that they were taking precaution, until the ultrasound tech looked at me and told me that my baby was about 3 lbs. 7 oz. I kept thinking, this can’t be real. Then I remembered that they always say that the baby will gain about a half of pound every week up until birth, so I thought, OK, I can handle a 5 and 1/2 pound baby. Sure.
As I sat in the waiting room waiting to get my blood pressure re-checked, the doctor came out to get me, and then that’s when I knew this was more serious than I ever imagined. He sat me down and looked me straight in the eye and said, “you’re going to have an extremely small baby.” “I suspect that the placenta is deteriorating. I’m going to send you upstairs for a more intense ultrasound, so we can see the blood flow, breathing, ect.”
Again, that Friday afternoon changed my entire life. I sat in the waiting room and cried. This just couldn’t be happening. What am I going to do with such a small baby? I don’t know what I’m doing. This just can’t be happening. This is my first baby. We had a terrible time getting pregnant. Now, this. Why is this happening?
They called me into the office and performed the “extra special” ultrasound. The older woman conducting the test looked at me and said, I think the baby is about four pounds. Note that I keep calling it “the baby” as we had opted to not know the sex. And yes, the placenta is not nourishing the baby as it should. I sat there helpless. Stunned. Scared. My husband, Matt, was traveling back from a job site and was unable to be there with me. The neonatal specialist came in and we were able to call him on speaker phone.
“I think we need to induce on Monday,” said the doctor. “You will be able to nourish the baby more outside of the womb than in.” Just so matter of fact. This took the guess work out of when I would go into labor…the woman gave us the instructions for checking in, etc. and sent me on my way. Just like that.
I got home and was numb. I didn’t know what to think or what to do. I laid in bed with my pup, Lucy, and cried and cried. That night I started noticing that the baby didn’t seem as active. I didn’t know if it was my paranoia, or reality. I ate a huge chocolate chip cookie and that seemed to kick the baby into gear, so I went to sleep, only to wake up feeling the same nagging feeling.
I called into the office and the on-call doctor wanted me to come in for observation. I sat hooked up to the monitors and listened to the heart beat monitor beep by. The nurse, Alison, would come in every 20 minutes or so to review until the two hours were up and she again sent me on my way with instructions to come back in the next day for two more hours of observation.
That day we scrambled to get the nursery ready. We thought we had over a month to prepare for our bundle of joy. So, there I was feeling like my body did this poor baby an injustice and now I don’t even have their room ready. What kind of mother am I? This isn’t starting out well…
Sunday came and we went to 8 a.m. church and shared the news with our pastor. We stopped at Walmart looking for preemie gender neutral clothing. This baby wouldn’t be in new born clothes for weeks. I remember going home and working in the morning. I was trying to finish up a communication plan, as I wasn’t going to be going back to work for at least 12 weeks.
Like a good patient, I arrived at the hospital right on time to be hooked onto the monitors. Beep, beep, beep. The beeps kept coming as did the nurse. The last check was being done and that’s when the beeps spaced out further and the heart rate plummeted. The nurse looked at me and said, “you’re not leaving today and don’t eat anything.”
Before signing off on every post I want to share three things I’m grateful for:
– My husband
– My cousin, Kels
The nurse looked at me and said, “you’re not leaving today and don’t eat anything.”
Our nurse, Alison, who I must add was amazing, rushed to admit us and to get us down to ultrasound to check on the baby.
We arrived down to ultrasound. It was a cold, bleak room, with an even colder, sterile, ultrasound technician. I can’t remember her name, but I remember her face and that she had two boys of her own. I laid down on the ultrasound table for the third time in two days and waited for the results. Again, we were doing a more intense ultrasound that would look at blood flows, measurements, movement, and watch for practice breathing. These ultrasounds then get scored and you’re hoping for a score of eight.
With Matt by my side, I laid there with my heart in my chest and waited for the score. “Well, your baby has scored a 6/8,” said the tech. “We can wait for another 20 minutes to see if the baby takes a practice breath and then the score will be 8.” Well, we waited. Five minutes went by, five more, ten more and then she finally called it. “It’s not necessary to see a practice breath, but we usually like to see one.”
My heart sank again. What does this mean for my baby? Is the baby going to be OK? What did I do during these last 8 1/2 months for this to happen? From there we were taken back up and admitted to labor and delivery.
That morning the only thing I had to eat was a donut, but I was still unable to eat. I needed to wait for the on-call doctor to come by and make the decision of the next move. So, more waiting. I reached out to friends and family and tried to explain what was going on at this point, yet I really wasn’t sure. All I knew is that I stepped into a surreal life. I was supposed to be at home decorating this baby’s room, or dreaming up the perfect name, or cuddling with my dog on the couch.
But, instead I was in a cold labor and delivery room….waiting for a stranger to tell me the fate of my future and my baby’s. Finally, the on-call doctor dropped by. The doctor was a woman who was in her mid-fifties. I had never met her. She quickly looked over my chart and told me that we are going to start induction that night and that I could eat.
Lets be honest. At this point, did I really want to eat, no. But, I did anyways. I wasn’t dialated at all. After all, my body thought we had at least five more weeks before we were going to be welcoming our bundle of joy. We had to start with a medication called cervadil, which is inserted vaginally and is supposed to prepare your cervix for delivery. The first round lasts 12 hours.
I started this around 6 p.m. on Sunday evening. The insertion was very uncomfortable. With the babies condition, there was no option for any sort of pain medications or relaxers. I was on my own.
That Sunday when I left my house I didn’t think I would be staying at the hospital, so I hadn’t said goodbye to my dog, or packed a proper bag. Matt had gone back to the house to get my stuff, and my parents and my cousin, Kelsey, stopped by that night to check in on me and pick up the dog.
I remember laying in bed that night as they left. I felt completely alone and helpless. I remember crying and telling them that I was scared. Matt came back and stayed the night, as we still weren’t sure what would happen. If the medicine worked as it was supposed to, my cervix would soften, pitocin would be administered, and the doctor would break my water.
The night passed and the monitor connecting me to my baby kept me up all night. Beep, beep, beep. I kept thinking was that beep slower than the last one? Is that OK? Every now and then the nurse would come in and move me from one side to the other as the baby would become distressed. That beep was my lifeline. As long as I could hear that steady beep, everything would be OK.
Somehow morning came…and absolutely no progress had been made. The cervidal needed to be removed.
Three items I’m grateful for:
– New beginnings
– My parents
– My pup
The day our son was born…(part 1)
That morning I felt tired and foggy. The on-call doctor confirmed that no progress had been made and that we would try another round of Cervidil.
Matt helped me shower and get as comfortable as I possibly could before starting the next round. It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and we had a huge window in our room. That did seem to help a bit.
The Cervidil was inserted and again, we waited. My cousin came to spend the day with us. She was one of our guardian angels that day. She helped us pass the time for what I would remember as one of the longest days of my life.
The day came and went. I began to feel some contractions, but unfortunately the time was up for this round of medication and again, there wasn’t enough or I should say any progress made. The insert was removed and the we waited for the on-call doctor to come and give us our next steps.
Dr. Beard, who was my primary doctor throughout my pregnancy, was the on-call doctor that evening. He joined us and told us that we would try another round of Cervidil. And if this round doesn’t work we’ll try another one.
I started asking about a c-section. The last thing I wanted was an emergency c-section. I don’t deal well with surprises and the last two days had been enough surprises for my entire lifetime. The heartbeat had been been having ups and downs all day long, which were incredibly scary. The only thing we could do to help remedy these was to switch me from one side to the next, but it just didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t like gambling with this small baby and that’s what I felt like we were doing.
Dr. Beard explained to me that a c-section was not a great option for our situation. It was much safer to have this baby naturally, since the baby was small and early. If the baby came through the birth canal it would be much better for their lungs. With that being said it was time to start the third round of the Cervidil.
This time the medication did kick in and quickly. Soon, I was having contractions every few minutes that were growing with intensity. With no pain medications in my system I was able to feel everything. I thought that we were making progress…
My parents and Matt’s parents had arrived at the hospital shortly after the medication started kicking in. Matt’s parents were in the room visiting, when I noticed the sound of the beeps started decreasing and changing. The nurse rushed into the room and began moving me from side to side trying to increase the baby’s heart rate. She got the baby stable, left the room, came back within five minutes and said, “we’re taking this baby c-section.”
“We need to get you prepped now.”
Three things I’m grateful for:
– My health
– Walks around Lake Harriet
The day our son was born (part 2)
“We need to get you prepped now.”
Luckily by this point, my favorite nurse, Alison, was back. I had known her for two days, which seemed like a lot at this point, considering the nurses do change every 8-12 hours.
She prepped me immediately in the room and Matt had to leave to go and get prepped to go in the surgery room. My mom was able to come in and see me quickly before going into surgery. I was shaking, and scared. I didn’t know what to think. 30 minutes before this the doctor was telling me what a bad idea a c-section was. I just had to have faith that this was the right and only decision at this point.
I felt incredibly anxious. I asked Alison if there was anything they could give me just to calm me down a bit before having to get the regional anesthesia, which numbs only the lower part of your body — allowing me to remain awake during the procedure.My nurse tried to help me and to get something to relax me a bit, but the response from the doctors was blunt and brutal, “if she can’t handle we’ll have to put her out. There’s no option for any kind of a sedative.” I hated the fact that they talked like I wasn’t even there.
So, I put my “big girl” pants on and pulled myself together and they rolled me down to the surgery room. I remember it was freezing in there. My nurse let me hug her as they inserted the large needle in my back. Matt still wasn’t able to be in the room with me while they prepped me. They brought him in once the procedure started.
I got strapped down onto the table with my arms laid out on both sides and strapped down. They kept taking my blood pressure. I can’t even imagine what it was. Matt finally arrived and grabbed my hand. At this point both of us were shaking.
The NICU nurse was also in the room by this point as they were anticipating that they would need to move the baby quickly.
The procedure began and it felt like the strangest sensations. If felt as though my foot was asleep and it was coming back with feeling. I kept inquiring, but they assured me that it was normal to feel that way. I could feel the pressure of the pulling and suddenly I heard that cry. My baby was here. Finally here. The cry was the sweetest sound we could hear, as they were fearful of the lung development.
Our baby boy came into the world that night at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 13, 2014 weighing 3 lbs. 14 ounces. I got to see him for a short minute before he was taken directly to the NICU. Matt joined him there and I was left to “get stitched back together.”
The doctors and nurses continue to chat about the most “normal” things. Grad school, their colleagues, music taste, etc. I remember it was jazz music playing. The doctor made a comment about hating country music and I thought that seemed almost fitting, because it might be the one thing that would bring me comfort in this cold, sterile place.
The ceiling had mirrored lights and I had to keep moving my eyes anywhere else, so I literally didn’t have to see my insides. The doctor continued to work and I could smell the singe of him cauterizing something and the sound of him stapling my stomach.
Three grateful items:
– The hope of better days
It’s a boy?
After I was stitched up, I was moved back to the labor and delivery room for recovery. The nurse covered a bunch of questions and gave me instructions for how to heal and recover from surgery. As I laid there, it seemed surreal to me that I had just had a baby, the one thing I had been wanting for so long. The one the that I thought would complete me and make me never feel alone again, yet here I was alone with Alison.
My mom and mother-in-law, Janet, stopped into the room and wanted to know the sex of the baby. I told them that the baby was a boy and they both thought I was joking. For the majority of my pregnancy everyone was convinced that I was having a girl, so I guess they were more than a little surprised when our little bundle of joy came out a boy. We didn’t have a name to share, as we didn’t have a boy name picked out and Matt and I only had a couple of minutes to spend together before Owen was taken to the NICU.
I had to sit in recovery for an hour before I was able to get rolled down to see our sweet baby boy. I wish I had a photo to share, but I honestly don’t at this time. By the time I got downstairs to the NICU, my dad and father-in-law, Jim, were there and were able to hold this sweet little miracle baby. They were the two that had their flu shots, if you didn’t have a flu shot you couldn’t enter the NICU.
Even now thinking back, it’s hard for me to remember exactly how I felt at this point. Overwhelmed for sure. He was hooked up to monitors, had IVs, and looked so helpless. I felt helpless and I kept thinking, my life is forever changed.
The visit was short as he needed to stay protected and more tests needed to be run, so I was wheeled back up to the fourth floor to start my recovery and to try and get my milk in. With being early and having a c-section, my body wasn’t exactly sure what to do. The nurse came in brought me the breast pump to start stimulating milk production. Nothing came out the first time, but it was a start.
It was finally time to rest. Every couple of hours or so I was woken up to either get a new dose of meds, or have my stomach pushed on to make sure blood was flowing the way it was supposed to be. This was incredibly painful.
I woke up the next day and had to be wheeled down to the NICU in bed as I still had a catheter in. I hated not having the ability to walk down to see my own baby. I was determined to get that thing out of me. The nurse told me the only way was to be able to stand and walk by myself. This was incredibly painful, but 15 hours after my c-section, I was standing and on my way to see my baby, this time in a wheel chair instead of a bed…progress…
Three items I’m grateful for:
– My mom and dad
– My mother and father in law
– My aunt Shar – one of my soul sisters 🙂
The next 17 days…
I want to preface this saying that I know 17 days doesn’t sound all that long. But, to me, it felt like an eternity. I was living every hour (408) and every minute (24,480) on edge as I would wait for the next visit to the NICU, or phone call from the hospital.
The morning after our baby boy was born we decided that we should probably give this precious boy a name 🙂 Matt and I sat down and we narrowed it down to the three names that we liked best, Owen, Oliver, James. We already knew the middle name would be William after Matt and my grandpa. We were having a hard time deciding so, we decided that we would make an educated decision based on the meaning of each name.
Owen: young warrior” or “well born,” “noble.”
Oliver: The olive tree. The biblical olive tree symbolizes fruitfulness and beauty and dignity.
James: It means “supplanter,” one who follows.
We went with Owen William Allerson. This boy truly was a young warrior. Owen was born with what the doctor’s called IUGR (Intrauterine growth restriction) and all the doctor’s assured me that babies who are born this way are “fighters,” and our little boy was no different. These are the first photos that I took of Owen.
He was absolutely perfect, but he was tiny. Everything was developed as it should be just on a miniature scale.
The first day was a lot of sleeping for Owen. We didn’t even attempt to feed him at that point. Over the first 24 hours he lost a couple of ounces, so his lowest weight was 3 lb. 12 oz.
To say the first couple of days were scary is an understatement. Owen didn’t pass all of his newborn screenings, so there were some unknowns there that only time would reveal, but for an overly tired, hormonal mother all my mind did was play worst case scenarios over and over.
At this time, I was still working on pumping hoping to have something for Owen to eat once we could start feeding him. Slowly, milk began coming in and we were able to store it and wait for him to be ready.
Spreading the news and sharing Owen’s birth was a different experience for me than most mothers. I didn’t celebrate by putting tons of photos of my new baby on Facebook or Instagram, I wasn’t able to send a mass text to all our family and friends the minute Owen was born, as I was in recovery and literally had no idea where my phone was. Our parents and my cousin, Kelsey, were able to help spread the word, but I really felt like I just didn’t do this little guy justice.
Over the first few days Owen received visitors, but it was a bit limited as no children were allowed in the NICU and no adults without a flu vaccine were allowed either. We were so grateful for everyone who was able to come and meet Owen and for those who even went and got a flu shot, just so they could see him.
The first couple of days were definitely the hardest as more exams and tests were being done. Owen had a cat scan, multiple blood draws, and ultrasounds. Mostly everything came back fine right away, but there were a couple of red flags.
The first was his spine. I had left the hospital for a couple of hours to get some sleep and was woken up with a phone call from a doctor saying that they were concerned that Owen may have spinal bifida due to the length of his butt crack (not sure if there’s a more medical term that I could use), but that through me over the edge that day. I had never met this doctor, a complete stranger, is calling me telling me that my son may have a life altering complication and she delivered the news so matter of factly over the phone. She said that a special spinal ultrasound would be done that night.
That night we went to the hospital and waited for the ultrasound tech to arrive, and they never did. We were informed that we would have to wait two more days to have the scan done. More waiting.
Finally, the scan was done and they found that the spine looked good, but one of his kidney’s was smaller than the other. They weren’t too concerned considering his size and that he was IUGR as they were constantly referring to him as, but we wouldn’t know for another six weeks. I would have to bring him in again after that. More waiting. More unknowns.
Owen and I quickly got into a routine. I spent about 14 hours a day with him in the hospital. In the end, Owen was unable to nurse, so we opted to “pump” and bottle feed him. That way both Matt and I would be able to do it. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I was unable to produce a lot of milk, which left me pumping every three hours around the clock, but he was slowly gaining ounces as the days went by.
Initially, he was fed through a feeding tube. And slowly as his strength grew, we were able to wean him off of the feeding tube onto a very small bottle. When we first began feeding him it was 5 cc’s. By the time we left the hospital he was up 60 cc’s (2 ounces) per feeding.
In order for Owen to leave the hospital he needed to maintain his body temperature, be gaining weight consistently, and pass his car seat test among others. The 17 days slowly ticked by and before we knew it, it was time to bring our newest family member home.
Items that I’m grateful for:
– Owen William Allerson
– My faith
On Oct. 30, we were able to bring our sweet little Owen home.
That day the medical staff prepped me to be able to do all of the care that Owen needed at home. The first task at hand was to give Owen his iron that he needed to take due to his size. The iron was liquid, stinky, and to say Owen hated it was an understatement.
I sat with the nurse as she gave me the instructions on how to give Owen his iron and all of a sudden Owen started choking and the comforting beep on the monitors stopped and it was just a long beeeeeepppp. I immediately started bawling. The nurse grabbed Owen, and got him coughing and breathing again. I was petrified.
The nurse knew that was the day that we were going to bring Owen home. I remember her saying to me that Owen may be ready to go home, but is his mom ready for him to come home? That was a slap in the face. Right then and there I started questioning my ability as a mother. But, I wasn’t going to let my emotions or fear keep my baby from coming home.
The rest of the day there were a lot of meetings with doctors going over discharge stuff and meeting with the physical therapists, who talked to me about certain exercises that we needed to do at home. Lots of paperwork.
I went home that afternoon and Matt and I came back together to pick up Owen. My nerves were shot by this point, but I was very excited to bring our baby boy home. I had watched so may families leave before us in the NICU and every time I saw another family leave, my heart would ache wishing that i could bring our baby home and that night we were finally going to be able to.
This was one of the most eventful nights of my life, but it was a very uneventful departure. We gathered up all of the things that had accumulated over the last 17 days, went over the paper work again, and the nurse detached all of the monitors from Owen. The beeping had finally stopped. I felt like I had been listening to the beeping forever, even though it was a short 20 days between labor and the NICU.
The nurse came into take our family photo as we left the hospital and then we were on our way. Owen barely fit into the car seat. When we left the hospital, Owen weighed 4 lb. 9 oz. We brought Owen home on a Thursday night and a nurse would be coming to the house the next couple of days to do weight checks on Owen.
After that, we would be visiting the doctor’s office on a weekly basis for at least the next month or so to make sure he was progressing and that he was moving onto the growth charts. We were given pretty strict instructions that Owen was not to be around an children during his first 60 days of life, because it was a risk for infection. If that indeed did happen, the doctor’s assured us that he would end up back in the hospital.
The next day when I thought we were in the clear of getting phone calls from the hospital, my phone rang and it was the on-call doctor letting us know that Owen’s thyroid levels were off and that we would need to bring him back to the hospital the next day for another blood draw.
I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like we finally got to bring our baby home and now we’re going right back there. It ended up that Owen’s levels were higher than they should be and was put on medication until he was about six months old. Between the iron, the thyroid medicine, and feeding him every two hours I was exhausted. Every feeding was super stressful as I was always worried that he wasn’t going to be gaining enough weight.
– My church, St. James Lutheran
– Scones from Patisserie 46 (highly recommend trying it)
The next 12 months…
The next 12 months proved to be some of the longest days of our life. Owen started at an in-home daycare when he was 14 weeks old. I would have liked to keep him home longer, so he could build more strength and gain more weight, but unfortunately that just wasn’t a possibility with working schedules and insurance considerations.
Our daycare provider immediately bonded with him and I felt very comfortable with him being at her house after a couple of weeks in. This is actually hard for me to admit to the world, but I was a little relieved to be going back to work. Work is something that was familiar with me. I always knew what to do there. I always knew what was expected. Staying home with Owen was nothing I knew how to do or how to be trained for. I was drained every single day. Would I trade those weeks for anything? No, but again, I did feel some relief.
Slowly, we began to get into a routine. We were still feeding Owen on demand, so we were getting up in the middle of the night and feeding him for many months.
It didn’t take long for Owen to start picking up the germs at daycare and quickly getting sick. This was truly a nightmare. His first illness was RSV and a double ear infection. He was miserable. My poor baby wouldn’t eat anything. We had to feed him Gatorade just to keep him hydrated. He was throwing up around the clock and didn’t sleep for four days. It was so scary. Owen got his diagnoses of RSV on a Friday and the doctor said, “if he starts wheezing, bring him to the ER immediately.” To say that I was on edge that weekend is an understatement.
Luckily, Owen recovered from that, but that was just the beginning. Within the first year, he had four more double ear infections, two bouts of strep throat, bronchitis, pink eye, and numerous colds. It was honestly one thing after another and I was totally burnt out and exhausted. I know this is very normal for a child’s first year. But, every time that we went to the doctor, I felt this tinge of guilt as they would say, “well he’s more susceptible, he was IUGR and premature.” The little voice in the back of my head scolded me a little bit every time. If my body could have just provided what he needed maybe he wouldn’t be sick SO much.
I don’t want this year to sound all bad. We of course had all of the wonderful firsts that come with a baby’s first year. His first real smiles, his first giggles, the first time he rolled over, his first word (“ball”) and his first wobbly steps. We took trips to the lake, the zoo, went to birthday parties, took many trips to grandma and grandpa’s. I didn’t think it was possible to love a person as much as I loved our miracle baby. I didn’t think I could love Matt any more than I already did, but seeing him being the best dad to Owen made me love him even more. I can’t even put into words how much he loves that little boy. This little boy changed the husband and man that I had known for over 13 years in all the best possible ways.
Everyday I counted my blessings for this little boy and my husband, as I slowly began to lose myself and not even realizing it….
Three grateful items:
– Kindness of friends and family
– Endless support