Dealing with the Unexpected:
Emergency C-Section to Preemie Mom
I woke up at 3 in the morning, covered in blood at 29 weeks pregnant with my 4th baby. I was transferred to Baystate Medical Center where I had an emergency C-section that saved my babies life. Although I was thankful that my baby was alive, I wasn't prepared for what was to come next.
Photo taken by Cathryn LaMontagne Photography
Before my C-section I had three vaginal births. I immediately got to hold those babies in my arms, study their every feature, and kiss their sweet faces. I could feel them breath and know that they were okay. I was able to comfort them, nurse them and get to know them. I got to celebrate their birth with family and friends. I knew what the norm was...and this was not it. This sucked. I was cut open and had a baby ripped out of my body in 2 1/2 minutes (amazing right?!?!). She was stabilized and taken right to the NICU. This C-section saved my babies life and possibly mine. I will be forever grateful for that team that worked like fine tuned engines to get that baby out. I am thankful that today, we not only have the ability to do this, but also the ability to keep these babies alive. However, this was the most traumatic experience I have ever been through. I relived this over and over. Every time it was quiet, I relived it. Every night while laying in bed, I relived it. I woke up crying in the middle of the night, I would sob in the shower. I wondered what I could have done different. I was angry and terrified. My baby was living in a plastic box fighting for her life. This is not the birth experience I wanted. I couldn't see her, hold her, nurse her, or comfort her cries. I wondered every second I wasn't with her if she was okay. I laid in my hospital bed in the birthing center listening to the babies cry in the other rooms and I felt numb. I felt like the whole world had stopped one second and everything was happening so fast the next. It was like a bad dream that I couldn't wake up from.
I had every emotion raging through my body. Just four days after Leah's birth I was discharged home, without my baby. I HAD TO LEAVE MY BABY in the hospital. Walking out those doors without her, I thought I would collapse. My heart ached like I had never felt before. If it could have broken right then and there, it would have. I became filled with anxiety and worry while I waited to be with her again. This isn't how it was supposed to happen. I was trying to balance healing from my surgery, taking care of the 3 young kids at home, 2 dogs, the house and a baby in the NICU. I had to pump every 3 hours, label each bottle with date and time, and bring to the NICU daily. For three weeks I could barely walk, and it was a 2 months before I was able to pick up my children. I felt I was failing as a mom, I didn't know how I was going to survive. Every day I had to go leave my 3 children, to go be with another. Every time I walked out of that NICU without her, it got harder and harder. Day 36 I wrote, "today is the first day I didn't cry". The longer she was there got harder it got on everyone. The girls would cry and beg me not to leave. I tried to keep life as "normal" as I could for them, so I would go after they went to bed. The days just seemed to keep getting longer.
After her struggles to eat and breath at the same time on day 47 she drank 45mls from a bottle and continued to breath! This was a huge milestone for her, and if she continued that without any difficulty breathing we would be about to take her home!
Finally our family would be together as a whole! My heart was so full. I was ecstatic to bring her home. I cried the whole ride home with her. I cried because I was so unbelievably happy and terrified at the same time. She had never been off a monitor! What if she stopped breathing while I was sleeping? So I didn't sleep and I was exhausted. At this point she was able to drink from a bottle but not strong enough to nurse yet. So I continued to pump every 3 hours around the clock. Between pumping, cleaning everything, fortifying her bottles, her long slow feeds and keeping her upright after, I would get 20-40 minutes before I had to do it all over again. I had no idea it would be so time consuming. My other kids needed me too. The chores of the house is a 24 hour a day job. I was overwhelmed and couldn't find any type of balance.
I was so tired.
Her coming home was so much harder than I possibly could have imagined. This poor baby suffered from horrible acid reflux and screamed almost anytime she was awake. Nothing I did helped. There were doctors appointments every other day, and nurse visits on the others. Early intervention was brought in. I couldn't get a second to breath. I was just trying to survive the days. I was struggling. My kids were struggling.
I found it more and more difficult to take care of myself. I stopped chatting with friends. I really needed a friend, but how to you have a conversation with a screaming baby anyway? I thought something MUST be wrong, but the only answers I ever got was "It's a preemie thing". I talked to my OB, I talked to the social workers, I talked to our pediatrician. I was worried I may be suffering from PPD or maybe it was the sleep deprivation, PTSD? I don't know, but I kept it to myself because I didn't want the judgement. My sadness came and went, I fed my baby, I didn't have thoughts of harming myself....so my doctor thought I was okay. So I was okay.
Now that I look back, I was not okay. It wasn't until I started feeling better that I realized that there really was a problem. Yes, Leah was okay, but I suffered a trauma, and after I struggled to get through each day. Now I realize that my weakest times were actually when I was at my strongest. Why? Because I didn't give up.
It's taken me a long time to share, but I'm doing it because when I was in the thick of it, reading other's stories helped me not feel so alone.