Nurse: “Ok, let’s get you hooked to this IV and get the antibiotics started.”
Me: “Excuse me? IV? Antibiotics? I am having a natural birth and my birth plan states I do not wish to be on an IV. I don’t mind you puting in the heplock for just-in-case, but no IV unless needed.”
Nurse: “Yes, I know, but you are strep-B positive and you need the antibiotics in your system 4 hours before you give birth to protect the baby.”
Insert shocked look from me, my husband, and my best friend.
1. No one called me, or let me know at the visit following my strep-B test, that I had tested positive and would need to be on an IV.
2. I had labored as long as I could possibly stand it at home and walking around Wal-Mart and the local mall. There was no way I had 4 hours left of labor.
And, we were right. 1.5 hours later, Lucas Harrison was born. It was the perfect birth. Hard, yes, but quick, natural, and empowering. We spent the next twelve hours bonding with our son, getting lost in bis beautiful eyes, amazed at his strength, and looking forward to taking him home the next morning.
We were warned during the IV discussion that if I didn’t have that antibiotic in my system for at least four hours there would be a chance of the baby becoming infected and that at 12 hours post-birth he would need to be tested. We were assured it was rare for a baby to actually need treatment, but if he did he’d have to spend 48 hours hooked to an IV with antibiotics, after which he’d be tested again. If he was still in danger they would keep him an additional 7 days.
Still, none of this prepared me for the heart wrenching that would grab hold of my entire being, when the nurse came to take my newborn from me, after tests indicated infection. I wouldn’t describe the initial feelings as fear, as I didn’t yet know how this infection could affect him, or how helpless I would feel when I finally saw him on the IV. All I knew was that my baby was being taken from me. The kind nurse gave me a few minutes to sob while I sat on the side of the bed, holding onto Luke’s little bed for support. She gently encouraged me to pick him up and hold him a few minutes and I did.
I don’t know how long that lasted. It seemed mere seconds and he was being wheeled out of my room. My husband held me and I wept.
That was 4am. Come 7 the nurse returned to tell me Lucas was awake and hungry and if I wanted to go see him I could, and that I could nurse him, and that we would be able to visit him in the nursery as often as we’d like. We could hold him too. Off we went! We peered through the nursery windows and tried to guess which of the 3 babies were ours. One had way too much hair. The other two looked just like Lucas and one was on an IV. I was sure it was him. Then my husband saw the name on the crib. Not our baby. Where on earth was OUR baby???
We knocked on the nursery door and were let in. We were instructed to wash well and were handed yellow gowns to put on. Then we were led to a dark corner of the nursery that you couldn’t see from the windows. Our baby was alone in the corner.
First of all, let me say, I don’t even pretend to know what parents go through when their child is born prematurely, with defects, or conditions requiring special care. I have no idea what it’s like to spend weeks or months scared for my child’s life. I only know that when you’re not expecting complications and you’ve just had the most beautiful birth you could hope for, seeing your baby attached to an IV and 4 monitors is not easy. It’s downright terrifying. And, you will cry.
Had my husband not been strong for me, I probably would have lost it. There lay our son, pale, lethargic, and pitiful, wires coming from 5 different directions, stuck to his tiny body with little plastic rounds of medical tape. When they said IV I knew it would be hard to see. I guessed he’d have a tiny hep-lock in his hand or arm, but I had no idea he’d also have so many monitors, or that in the 3 short hours since I’d seen him he could go from being so strong and healthy to looking so sick. A nurse explained what was happening, then she carefully gathered up the wires to one side and placed my baby in my arms.
Every 3 hours for 2 days and 2 nights I would return to that corner to hold and nurse him. The first few times I was discouraged, maybe even a bit resentful. I wanted to say unkind things to the staff at my doctor’s office for not telling me about my test results so we could avoid this. I wanted to just take my baby home. I wanted his big brother to be able to hold him. I wanted to finally be the little family of four that we’d been dreaming of for the past 9 months.
I wanted so many things.
God had other plans.
On one of my next visits to the nursery I was told a new baby had come in and needed some attention so I’d need to wait just a few minutes to come in. They offered to let me through a set of doors to the OR hall and let me look through some other windows. There was another entry there that led straight to the part of the nursery my baby was in. It was labeled NICU.
Until this time it hadn’t hit me that my baby wasn’t actually in the nursery. I hadn’t caught on that his nurses were special. This realization that my son wasn’t just being monitored hit me like a ton of bricks. He really was sick.
We didn’t have a family pediatrician in town, so come morning we opted to use the on-call Doctor. From the moment we met him we knew, this was the doctor we wanted caring for our son. He explained the situation so that we could understand the danger of this infection, but he did it without talking down to us or trying to scare us. He said “God is good and He is looking out for your baby” then he assured us the nurses caring for Lucas were the very best and he praised the night-nurse who had run the tests and taken Luke to start his IV. He said she had probably saved his life. I silently said my first prayer of thanksgiving.
When I entered the nursery around lunch time the first day the day-nurse said the night-nurse had just called to check on Lucas. She hadn’t slept yet because she’d been up praying for him. My heart became a little softer and I thanked God again for placing us in this hospital, with these nurses. The nurses came and went with shift change. Each time we were in awe that they were so tender with our son, so sensitive to our desire to be with Luke, and so willing to work with us so that we could have the best possible experience. Each time I thanked God for yet another amazing nurse.
In the hours following I began to feel the fear lifting. I came to terms with the idea of staying in the hospital for two extra days. We got Lucas on a feeding schedule and I got some sleep in between feedings. The day nurse put a CD player next to Luke’s bed and all day and all night he got to listen to classic Disney movie tracks and worship music. On the second day Luke’s monitors started fussing that something was wrong with his IV. The nurse on duty tried to find the problem, but couldn’t. She told me they’d probably have to move it to another spot and warned I probably wouldn’t want to watch as there could be lots of pricking and Luke was sure to cry. I thanked her for the warning and I trusted her judgement. When I came back about an hour later my son had a tube attached to a needle in his forehead. The tape had been put on right over his beautiful brown hair and I cried inside, knowing that when removed it would surely pull his hair out, leaving him bald. I also imagined it would hurt. A lot. I wasn’t prepared though for how much happier he would be not to have that contraption on his hand. His now-bright eyes greeted me and his little arms waved in excitement. In just one short day he’d gone from lethargic to peppy and I felt hope rise within me. On the other side of the NICU wall the OR was abuzz. A baby was being delivered by c-section and would soon join Lucas in the NICU. I was warned that the newcomer would probably need a lot of attention at first and that I would be asked to leave while they got him settled. I snuggled my sweet one a bit longer then laid him back in his bed and left. When the nurse called my room a few hours later to let me know Luke was awake and ready to eat I got a swift kick in the pants that sent the remainder of my selfish attitude for a hike.
As I nursed my tiny one in the corner rocker, four nurses stood around the bed of the new baby boy. He was only a few weeks early, but he needed some help breathing and since his mom was still in recovery, he needed nourishment. The problem? The nurses couldn’t get his IV started. They pricked him everywhere. They tried so many times. They called in every off-duty NICU nurse and within minutes the nursery was full of ‘help.’ One of the nurses I’d grown to love turned to me and asked, “If you’re the praying-kind, please say a prayer for this baby.” I did. With all of my heart. When I looked up, the nurses had joined hands around that baby’s bed and they were all praying for guidance, for steady hands, and for the baby’s health. Peace flooded the room and I cried. I can still feel His presence, like a dense fog, rising. It was almost visible in the room. In that quiet moment between the prayer and the nurse trying again to set the IV, I became aware of the worship music playing and the nurses humming along. The nurse tried one more time and it worked.
There I sat in my little corner, staring at the precious baby in my arms. I felt small. Very small; aware of something so much bigger than me, bigger than my problem, than my baby’s problem. Bigger than anything I’d ever felt. I knew, at that instant, that we, that I, was exactly where I was supposed to be. This moment had been arranged and I was meant to be a part of it, to be affected by it. And, that I would never be the same. I was there when the window blinds were opened and the father got to see his son for what was probably the first time. I felt pain for the mother in recovery when I realized the photos he was taking on his phone were the only way she could see her baby. And suddenly, I found myself overwhelmed with thankfulness.
True to the doctors and nurses predictions, Lucas was tested again after 48 hours of treatment. His levels were much improved and he was cleared to go home. I know that his life was saved by those nurses, their training, their persistence, and their dependance on God’s guidance. I can’t put into words how thankful I am for them, and their willingness to let Jesus love on us and our baby, through them. I can’t count how many times I have seen my son’s smile and thanked God for putting those women in our lives for 48 hours. And I still can’t believe I’m saying this…
I’m thankful our baby spent 48 hours in the NICU.