Seren was only 1 day early and pretty much perfect in every way. At 7 and a half pounds, she was by far my biggest baby, and had the prettiest dark hair. I wrote about her birth story here. She was a great baby too, she slept much of her first day and was fine laying on the floor and playing as well. I never would have predicted that she would be my baby to end up in the NICU.
But she was a little too purple for our liking so we gave her some oxygen that first night. After that she pinked right up and was great from then on. Her first night she coughed and choked every so often which made us worried. It wasn’t super out of the ordinary and we were staying in contact with my midwife so we figured everything was all right.
The perfect beginning
Her second day on this earth was also pretty perfect. Her two older sisters adored her. We got some fun Valentines pictures since I was going for fourteen days of Valentines. She liked being held a lot and we were just getting into that sweet spot of nursing.
Early afternoon on February 1st she had her second bowel movement. It was the biggest newborn diaper I had ever seen. My sister got the brunt of it and learned the meaning of a ‘blow out’. When I went to change her I was shocked to see it more of a red-black than black like it’s supposed to be.
We took a picture and sent it to the midwife. The midwife called our pediatrician and the next thing. It was stressful to be in an Emergency Room with a newborn. There were definitely people there for the flu. I kept her covered and was glad our wait wasn’t too long.
Suddenly nothing was as I planned
As soon as the nurses saw what we saw they whisked us to a room. Within a short while she was administered a vitamin A shot. At this point I had laryngitis and was struggling communicating with the doctors. Thankfully my dad was with me but he’s hard of hearing so we were an interesting pair.
They quickly decided to give her a blood transfusion and to transport us to Primary Children’s Hospital. We had to step out while they operated and put lines through her umbilical cord.
I remember just being in so much denial, I couldn’t believe that I was an hour away from my big girls in a hospital with my baby girl. I have always had my babies at home because I love not having to rush anywhere or do anything. Staying at home with a new baby is so wonderful and peaceful.
We flew together on the plane
That night we arrived at the hospital in Salt Lake City around midnight. My husband had gone home after she was born so he was already in town. He showed up with Zupas, starbucks, and a green drink from my grandma.
I have a hard time thinking about all of this without tearing up. It’s been a year this week. I am so blessed to have my sweet one year old here with me. When I think of how it could have gone I just have to stop and remember that it didn’t. I have her here. She’s healthy, happy, and the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.
For one week she was in the hospital. They gave her antibiotics and nutrients through her lines. She had to get a PIC line after a few days as well. They ran test after test after test. We didn’t get to hold her for 3 days and then when we could, I still couldn’t feed her.
Shout out to hospital pumps though
I am a crunchy mama. I have my babies at home, I rarely give anyone Tylenol, I breastfeed 12+ months. To have my tiny less than a week baby being given all sorts of things through her lines, not even being able to feed her colostrum, and to not even be able to hold her.
To look at her, she was so healthy. All the nurses loved being with her because she was so alert and seemed so well. It was the most frustrating thing. I had a perfectly healthy baby, that kept bleeding and we didn’t know why!
Despite the tests, x-rays, and many doctors opinions they never found anything wrong with her. She was a full-term, healthy baby that bled from somewhere inside of her for about four days and then stopped.
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
On our sixth day in the hospital she was discharged. They gave her the diagnosis of Necrotizing enterocolitis even though the new tests that detect that didn’t actually detect it.
I know she was healed and I know how. I don’t know what made her sick and most of the time I’m okay with that. I’m incredibly grateful for every day I get to hold my baby. For a week we didn’t know if we would go home empty handed or not.
The Lucky Ones
It’s hard because when I started looking for themes for her first birthday I searched for ‘NICU graduates’ first. I got a lot of ‘Preemie Power’ and ‘this many weeks in the NICU’ signs but none of that really fit. My newborn was a perfectly healthy baby that spent a week in the hospital and would have died – if not for the NICU. I am so grateful for every NICU nurse and doctor, for the team that was so careful and efficient in getting her to Primary Children’s hospital, and for my family who took care of me when I forgot to.
But it is still hard despite all the ways we were lucky. It’s hard because even though I stand here, a year from then, with a happy healthy baby it’s hard to shake that ‘I almost lost you’ feeling. Every so often I’ll talk with a mom who also had a scare and it feels so comforting to not be alone for a second. We are the lucky ones, with the babies that came home, with the babies that don’t have lasting health problems. We are the lucky ones who panic at the slightest scare, who stress about the smallest bump, worry about the littlest fever.
We are the lucky ones. But we don’t forget and we try not to remember.
Thank you for letting me be vulnerable. Please know that PTSD is very common after a child’s NICU stay. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you don’t have a good support system, reach out. I’m here for you. There are others willing to be there for you.