Shortly after Jude was born, I went to a recovery room. They brought him in for some skin to skin time, and I got to hold my baby boy for the first time. Unfortunately, that only lasted for about 5 minutes. The nurses told me his breathing wasn't great and that they'd need to take him to get evaluated. I was sad to let him go, but knew it must be urgent by the way they were talking. I told Meezy to stay with the baby and for the first time, I was alone. I started to cry.
When a nurse came back in the room, I asked her to get my mom, so that someone would be in there with me. Shortly thereafter, my sisters came back to see me as well. After a few minutes, Meezy stopped by and said they were taking Jude to NICU. My mom and sisters stepped into the hall so they could see him as he was transported there. Since I wasn't going to be able to spend crucial bonding time with Jude right after birth, the nurses gave me a cloth to hold next to my skin so that it would absorb my smell. They would later place it on and around Jude in his warmer, so that he could start learning my scent. While I was very sad to think about him not being able to know his mom, I was thankful for the opportunity for a small part of me to be with him.
After a while in recovery, it was time for me to go to my private room. On the way there, they wheeled my bed to NICU so I could see Jude. This is what I saw:
My poor, sweet boy had an IV, a feeding tube, and had to wear a CPAP mask. He was also hooked up to an EKG and pulse ox monitor. At a time when I should've been cuddling him close and getting acquainted with all his features, I had to see him from a distance. I could barely even tell what he looked like. Once I went to my room, I wasn't able to see him in person for the rest of that day. I had to rely on pictures from family members who were able to visit him and updates from Meezy on his condition.
Because he was premature, the alveoli (tiny sacs in the lungs that inflate with air when we breathe) weren't working as well as they should. His oxygen saturation level was dangerously low, so he needed intervention. The CPAP mask was giving him pressurized oxygen in an attempt to get his alveoli to learn how to function. Because he couldn't breathe well, and therefore wouldn't be able to breast feed, the feeding tube and IV were necessary in order for him to stay hydrated and nourished. The first day was a rough one for me. I just wanted to hold my son and feel confident that he would be alright. The doctors assured me he just needed time, so I had to be patient.
On Day 2, the numbness from the epidural had worn off, so I was allowed to visit Jude in the NICU.
As Meezy rolled my wheelchair up to his bed, I started bawling. There's already so many emotions going on after birth, and having to see my son like that just compounded everything. After I settled down and was able to touch him, the nurse snapped this pic so we could capture the moment. It was not the situation I expected to be in on day 2 of my son's life, but I was so grateful for it, nonetheless.
Back in my room, I worked on pumping every few hours so that Jude would have breastmilk. Besides that, there wasn't much else I could do besides wait. Luckily, the NICU had an awesome setup where they pointed a camera at his bed so that I could login on my phone and check on him whenever I wanted to. I felt a little closer to him at those times, and I stared at that screen for hours on end.
Meezy divided his time between Jude and me, and I sent him home at night so he could at least get a few hours sleep in a comfortable bed. I could see his exhaustion and knew he needed a break from all the stress. If ever there was a time where he showed what an amazing husband and father he is, this was it. He was so strong and supportive and kept me from being a basket case.
On Day 3, when Meezy and I entered NICU for a visit, I was shocked to hear them ask, "Would you like to hold him?" I was so anxious and excited and couldn't believe the time had finally come.
His CPAP mask had been removed, but he still had the feeding tube and IV inserted. I was so happy to feel him against my chest and finally get a good look at him. He still wasn't digesting food as well as he needed to be, but we were making progress!
On Day 4, as Jude's other issues were improving, the doctors addressed his jaundice. He underwent phototherapy treatment, which basically looked like he was in a tanning bed!
At this point, I had been discharged, so I took up residence in a private room around the corner from the NICU. What a wonderful option for parents! I was able to be just a few steps away from him, but could have privacy for taking short naps and pumping milk. I stayed there overnight while Meezy stayed at our house with Dutch.
Day 5 happened to be Thanksgiving, and since Jude was making great strides, I asked Meezy to bring me home from the hospital for a few hours. We grabbed some food from Boston Market and had our own version of Thanksgiving at home. It was nice to have a few hours out of the hospital, away from the stress. By the end of that day, Jude had his feeding tube removed. What a relief! We knew it wouldn't be long before he could get out of NICU and be transferred to the special care nursery.
Once Jude got his IV removed on Day 6, we knew the transfer was imminent. All of his vitals were great and he was digesting food. We made our way over to the special care nursery that afternoon. In this area, he and I would actually be staying in the same room and I would be solely responsible for his feeding.
He was still hooked up to an EKG, but that was it. Because of his prematurity, he had to undergo a car seat test. That involved him having to be strapped in for 90 minutes while his pulse ox was monitored. It felt like an eternity, but he passed with flying colors. That night I didn't get any sleep, because my baby boy was finally staying just a few steps away from me and I was so excited about being able to finally go home the next day.
On Day 7, Jude got the all-clear to be discharged. Meezy and Dutch came and picked us up and we finally got to be a complete family of 4. It was such a long, stressful, draining week, but it was over. We knew it wouldn't be an easy road at home with a newborn and a (nearly) 3 year old, but at least Jude was healthy now and we'd all be together.
Many thanks to all the wonderful NICU nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. We couldn't have asked for better care for our sweet boy. We are forever grateful to you for keeping him safe.