I suppose most birth stories end at the baby’s delivery, but due to the circumstances surrounding Paul’s birth, the story just feels incomplete without including the next couple of days. So I guess this is Part 2 of Paul’s birth story: the hospital stay.
It was close to midnight before we were settled into our room on the mother-baby unit. Dan had run down to the hospital coffee shop and store to find us some dinner (finally!) and, after quickly feeding Paul, we scarfed down some food and got ready for bed.
The nurse gave us a brief explanation of what the next 24 hours would look like for Paul. Babies born at 35 weeks often have problems with their blood sugar. The problem is, the fat stores that get babies through those first milkless days just aren’t there on a 35 weeker. There’s nothing to keep the blood sugar up, and once that drops too low a lot of other problems can follow. So, every three hours Paul was going to have his blood sugar checked. As long as it stayed above 45, everything was fine. If it dropped below 45, he would get one more chance. If it dropped below 45 again, it was off to the NICU to be put on an IV. Paul had to make it 24 hours with good blood sugar levels and the last 12 hours had to be consecutive.
That night went great. Paul’s first blood sugar was 67. For several readings he hovered in the fifties. It wasn’t until his second to last reading that he dropped to 40. Our nurse gave us a bottle of formula and explained that, by taking in about 15 ml of formula with each feeding attempt, Paul’s blood sugar level should stay high enough. So we reluctantly gave him the formula and I started pumping to try to encourage my milk to come in faster.
The formula did the trick and the next 12 hours went smoothly. Well, it was a sleepless nights (aren’t all nights in the hospital?) but as far as blood sugar levels, everything went smoothly. By Wednesday morning our nurse took the last blood sugar level. It was high enough and she declared, “We’re done!”.
Rooming in with your baby is entirely different from having a baby in the NICU. No rushing back and forth to and from the NICU trying to make it for nurse reports and “hands on” times. No trying to squeeze in rest between meals, showers, visitors, and trips to see Baby. I hardly even had to get out of my bed! Every time I looked over to see that little Baby bed next to mine, my heart was just so happy. I kept reliving the whole birth experience over and over, hardly believing things turned out the way they did.
We snuggled Paul almost all the time. Even in the middle of the night it was hard to put him down. After two NICU babies, we just couldn’t fathom leaving him all by himself in that little bed when he could be in our arms.
Wednesday brought it’s own handful of trials. Because Paul was born early, and because he was born quickly with a lot of bruising, and because he had a high blood count at birth, he was bumped up several risk levels for jaundice. Whether or not a baby has to be treated for jaundice depends on their bilirubin levels. However, the level that requires treatment depends on a number of factors including the baby’s age, and the risk factors I just mentioned. In other words, Paul was very likely going to need to spend time under the bilirubin lights.
Sure enough, by Wednesday afternoon a light was brought in and Paul was put under it. Poor little guy was not happy being unswaddled and unheld. He spent the next several hours trying to tear off his face mask, all the time crying and squirming. His little cries were so small and squeaky (like a puppy, many have said), and it was so sad to watch him struggle under there. But he needed it and we were happy to do anything that might keep him healthy and bring him home.
At 6:30 on Wednesday night, Paul was taken to the NICU to have some blood drawn to check both his blood count and bilirubin level. Our nurse suspected we might be able to accompany him and was certain our girls would never be allowed in the NICU. She didn’t know our history. The next half hour or so was a happy reunion. The doctor, nurses, clerks, and techs all enjoyed seeing Lydia and Abby again. We visited and caught up while Paul had his blood taken and everyone rejoiced in Paul having made it so much further than the girls. We were reminded, yet again, of how wonderful the NICU staff is at our hospital and half wished we could have somehow stayed in the NICU instead of the Mother-Baby unit for those two days we had to be in the hospital anyway.
After our little reunion, I went with Paul back to the room and munched on my dinner while Dan took the girls for a walk. We were waiting for the verdict. Most likely, Paul would be transferred to the pediatric unit to stay under the bili light and I would room in with him there (I had already been discharged).
Close to 8:00 the nurse came in and said, “Well, I talked to Paul’s doctor and we got the lab work back. You can go home.”
Dan showed up in the room just a couple of minutes later and the nurse told him the good news. We couldn’t believe it. A take home baby! We packed up our things, and just like the story I thought I would never tell, we headed out to the car. The only differences between that story and this one were that Paul was in his car seat on the cart, Dan was pushing the cart, and the nurse was pushing me (in my other version I was holding the baby, Dan was pushing me, and the nurse was pushing the cart).
I share those details only to emphasize the goodness of God. While I can’t rightly call it a miracle that I made it to 35 weeks (others have done the same), I can declare with confidence that God heard our prayers and graciously, kindly answered them the way we hoped. He gave us a take-home baby, a safe and natural delivery, and let me hold Paul right after he was born. He gave us peace and joy through it all. Even in the days after coming home, He has filled our home with more joy and peace in spite of sleepless nights, fussy toddlers, and illness. God certainly has been kind to us and we will continue to acknowledge the good things He does for us.