Our story began at a beautiful blue house surrounded by our birth team.
A precious baby girl named Resa had entered the world from the womb unable to breath on her own not unlike her brother in heaven, Anthony Clarence. She was carried out to the ambulance, escorted by cautious men in uniform, a nervous daddy, and a warrior midwife (Terri Young of Spokane River Midwives).
I, mom, was left dazed in the birth pool feeling exhausted but accomplished. I was surrounded by the buzzing doula (Morgan), and student midwives (Heather & Kayla). They busily planned, prepped, and cleaned.
All I wanted in that moment was to laugh/cry and rest with my new baby girl on my chest and my hubby cuddling close. I wanted to sleep for a week at least.
But there was no husband, no baby, and no rest for me in this moment.
Was this picture ideal? Not in the least.
But there was hope, because the story wasn't over yet!
If you have been following from our last blog about Resa's birth story and our extremely long and hard labor, then you are leaning in. If you haven't read that first chapter, I encourage you to go get caught up. You will need the beautiful images to carry you through the tough details to come.
I wanted to document this part of the journey because I believe it speaks volumes to the ever present love and mercy of God on a cellular level for each human being but also His love displayed through coffee cards, hugs, prayers and even space given by loved ones.
Although Resa was out of my tummy, there was still a long way to go before she was really in our arms at home where she belonged...
Where was I? The ambulance.
Resa was carefully carried to the ambulance with a strong pulse due to the quick thinking of an awesome midwife, Terri, who knew to massage the umbilical cord to transfer oxygen and blood to Resa.
Resa began breathing with help (sometimes even on her own) in the ambulance and was checked into Sacred Heart's NICU wing within 30 minutes of departure or less. She was well taken care of and hooked up to all sorts of machines with bells and whistles I couldn't name if I wanted to. She was by far the longest baby there at 22.5 inches long and weighing 7 lbs and 10 ounces.
They began pumping the meconium from her lungs and tummy and hooked her up to a cooling machine that would keep her blood from rushing into her body and injuring her (best I can understand it).
Meanwhile, back at home...
I was was encouraged to birth the placenta (piece of cake compared to childbirth) and get into clothes to meet the A Team at the hospital and get checked up.
Keep in mind, I don't know all the details of this story because I was completely doped up on natural hormones. All I remember was lots of blood, a shot in the leg, a shower, blacking out a few times, food being handed to me, and a well oiled machine of loved ones transporting me to where they said my baby and her daddy were. What did I want? SLEEP. BABY. SLEEP.
When I got there, they were "expecting me" which totally weirded me out, but they fed me so I was happy! I had visitors to sit with me and I got to see Resa fairly soon after that.
She was so cold and uncomfortable looking for the next 3 days that she was on the cooling treatment. Those three days were the longest of the entire stay which spanned 11 days.
I couldn't walk well on my own due to exhaustion from 30 hours of labor (22 of which were active labor).
I remember being super glad I got a cute breast pump (Spectra 2), because it was "game on" and I would have to pump every 2-3 hours to keep up my supply. Resa wasn't allowed to have any breast milk until after the cooling process. She was on IVs exclusively for what felt like FOREVER.
The whole stay was unimaginably exhausting emotionally and physically. We rarely got to lay down for the first week. Since we "lived too close" to the hospital, they refused us board at the children's wing. That was bad but what was worse: we had to share a restroom with the whole NICU wing...
If you have ever had a baby, you know that first poop after can be scary. Now imagine having to do it in a public restroom where someone just happens to knock on the door and wait outside every time you try. Oh- and having to change your entire wardrobe because you are wearing depends! NOT IDEAL.
Was it a fight? Yes. But did we own it? Absolutely.
We powered through just like we did in labor, because we were an even stronger team now than ever before. We had all the support from friends and family needed to overcome this obstacle! We had a meal train thanks to our good friends the Andersons, and received coffee cards, snacks, and gift cards from friends and strangers alike. That stuff was the fuel that kept us sane!
Because I was a client of SRM, I was also a part of the support group on facebook where friend and photographer Sue gathered all the baby bottles I will ever need and money for food/ coffee. The staff of the birth center pitched in as well! I can't express what strength their words of affirmation gave me. They won't ever let me forget how powerful, strong, and beautiful I was in labor. That kind of encouragement goes a LONG WAY.
Once the cooling treatment was done, we got to hold our baby girl and the tears of joy finally flowed!
But it wasn't easy figuring out how to get her home. Resa had special nurses for the cooling process due to the special skills it took to run such an operation, but after she was warmed and we got to hold her, the nurses and doctors rotated drastically.
We had to re-earn the trust of every single one who seemed to think that they were the ones protecting her from us, the "naive new mom and dad."
Many times we would come to the hospital and hear from one doctor who had "concerns" about epilepsy or hypoxia, only to hear from the next doctor on shift that everything was fine. We began calling every shift before we came so that we wouldn't have to process on the spot, and could ask good questions.
Sometimes I wonder how long they would have kept her if we hadn't stood our ground and fought to get her home...
The hardest thing for us was leaving her pod, to get much needed rest.
My "mommy instincts" were tearing me apart. Each time I left her because my body was crying out for sleep, my heart would grieve and Postpartum Depression would set in because I longed for her. It was a type of hell I have never experienced, even in the loss of Anthony. This type of hysteria is in a league of its own.
Eventually she finally began to get my milk transferred to her tummy and then fed on a pumped breast. She took to everything naturally. Every test, Resa took stride and surpassed expectations right and left. They thought the worst about every shadow on every MRI or Ultrasound, but in the end, she proved resilient and responsive in every way and we were not surprised in the least!
We knew she would do better at home, instinctually as her parents, but we still had the legalities and procedures to appease at the hospital before out separation could end. We became like nurses, changing, feeding, and taking her temp as well as learning what all the machines did and how to read and operate them.
By week two, Resa was the healthiest baby in the NICU and got less and less attention from the medical staff which seems good but really upset us.
If that was the case, I wanted her to come home.
So we prayed, cried, and carried on as best we could trying to "wow" the PTs and the Breastfeeding specialists. She really was ready to go home but no one seemed to be sure of how to decide there were no more "risks" keeping her there.
We were only allowed to have two people in her room at one time so we tried to get family members in one at a time, but it just didn't feel right when one of us couldn't be there.
Break through only happened when we had nearly given up.
I had more than one really good meltdown in the hospital, but my biggest PPD moment happened the night before my birthday at home. It makes my heart race just remembering the hopelessness and pure RAGE that burned in my heart toward the hospital "system."
I have experience anxiety attacks that cause blow ups but never one like this. It didn't have a foreseeable end (I hope to share more on my anxiety and PPD on a coming blog if you are interested).
That night, on the eve of my 26th birthday, Kyle watched as I fell apart at the seams. It took a couple hours, but eventually Kyle lulled me to sleep.
I woke to a bright birthday balloon, flowers, and a coffee held by a smiling hubby! I felt fresh and DETERMINED. We went into the hospital again and were told she could probably come home the next day if we weighed her and she gained enough weight to see a difference. She passed her hearing test, car seat check, and so on.
I started to stand up for our rights as parents. I was transparent about my exhaustion and we were FINALLY put up for the night in the room they offer for parents whose babies can try sleeping without being hooked up to monitors. I was feeding her every 3 hours. We rocked that. We were so excited that we could barely contain it...
until the next doctor on rotation came in and told us she could come home the next day...
"Wait,' I thought, "the last doctor said it would be 'the next day' yesterday!" But this doctor said his goodbyes and was out of our room for the rest of the day before I could object. Kyle was dazed as well.
At lunch I told Kyle that I was just so shocked and disappointed that I couldn't even interject and was devastated to have missed my only opportunity till the next time the doctor came at noon the next day.
So we did all we could: We prayed and ate our lunch.
On our return to the room, to our surprise and glee, we ran into our doctor (which was NOT a common occurrence)! I boldly told him how disappointed I was to have been told two different things and apologized for not speaking up earlier. He surprised us with a cheerful smile and agreement!
He said we could get the discharge paperwork going and have her out in hours. Just like that.
With that one sentence the entire ward became all rainbows and sunshine.
Sad glances and concern turned miraculously to smiles and optimism, which made me a bit angry, but I was able to ignore the anger to work with them so that she could COME HOME.
When we finally wheeled her out in her little clear hospital bed and placed her in that car seat, we were on cloud nine. I forgot a few personal items in our room, but my response was, "KEEP THEM." We were free!- or so we thought...
After staying in the hospital for so long, we became ultra paranoid. We used a baby care app to record the times of breastfeeds and pumping down to the millisecond and side. We catalogued her diapers and even the poops color and consistency, just in case.
The hospital insisted that we get connected with their pediatric office for her first check up and that we make time for a PT and nutritionist for her.
We were crazed.
It took the gentle compassion of Melissa Morgan our Lactation Consultant and our Midwife Terri to let go of the reigns and relax. They gave us so much compassion and assurance that she was just fine. We tried the pediatrician and PT and decided that we didn't want or need their interruptions.
They told us was that they wanted to double check that she was "fine" at follow up appointments rather than saying she was healthy. It was as if they looked at her medical record and felt it would be professional suicide to give her a clean bill of health even though she was obviously doing exceptional and in the 100th percentile for weight.
Once we decided to cut that noise out, we felt so much peace and have seen Resa do so well! We are forever grateful for the meals we received at home, the advice given round the clock, and everyone's prayers.
It's clear to us after experiencing a child loss and a traumatic hospital stay that community and faith are central to the birth experience. Losing and keeping a child are both grieving experiences. Both have made us better and stronger. We are grateful most of all to God. He has sustained our spirits when no cup of coffee