Part I

Part II

Part III

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer

I saw the monitors and instinctively checked them as I approached my daughter, getting a sunbath underneath the warmer. Her stats were picture perfect, I noticed, breathing a little more easily, and I made my way slowly to her bedside where she was sleeping peacefully.

I slogged my own soggy bottom from the wheelchair onto the nifty rocker that was shoved into that tiny room; barely a room, more like a closet. She was sandwiched in between to babies who I could hear misbehaving on either side. “Misbehaving” is, of course, a nice way of saying that these babies weren’t doing well and their monitors were alerting their nurses as such. Most of the NICU, I noted as I was wheeled past, always the nurse, was full of Feeders and Growers.

This is a fanciful way, always evoking a pleasant garden of freshly hatched babies, of saying that these were babies who were finishing their gestation outside of the womb. The babies surrounding Amelia were probably in a little worse shape, although with the sensitivity of the monitors, hearing them frequently beep means relatively little, until you see the staff go running.

Of the other babies whom I could see cooking away merrily in their incubators–like I said before, I find preemies adorable–Amelia was the biggest, fattest, and likely the only term baby there. According to her room placement, though, she was thought to be one of the most ill.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

My ass was firmly planted now onto the chair, and I gripped Amelia’s lone sock as a talisman, hoping it would ward off the Bad News. I was preparing to nurse my daughter again, just waiting for our nurse to come and help me sort through the tangle of wires my daughter was attached to.

Our–Amelia’s–nurse walked in and introduced herself to The Daver and I. While he had recovered more easily and was no longer tearful, I was still weeping. A mixture of sleep deprivation, intense stress, and the drop in post-partum hormones made for a Messy Aunt Becky.

I handed off the box of kleenex that had been pressed onto my lap as we left Mother/Baby and my daughter was brought back to me, hooked up to so many wires that she looked like an electrical outlet. The nurse stood there, kindly, talking to us, but not revealing much of anything at all. I imagine it’s because they didn’t know for sure, but not knowing anything wasn’t exactly comforting, by any stretch.

I begged the nurse to have the neonatologist on staff come and speak with us, since the pediatric neurosurgeon was busily operating on someone’s head somewhere other than the NICU. It’s probably good I didn’t know where he was, lest I have stalked him down. Knowing something–but not specifically what–is wrong with your child is a pure hell I can’t wish on anyone.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

The neonatologist–the same one from the previous day (has it REALLY not even been 24 hours since she was born?)–came over to us, and told us that there was a “bright spot” on Amelia’s CT Scan. I had no fucking clue what that meant and he didn’t follow it up with much, although I did see his lips move, I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. I guess that’s panic for you.

After the doctor left, the nurse came back in to ask if we’d wanted to see the chaplain; to have Amelia meet the chaplain. Now, I’m not super-religious, I feel I must add, but I’ve always, ALWAYS found immense comfort in men and women of the church. And since we’d gotten absolutely no comfort from anywhere but ourselves (and my friends in the computer), I was pleased to meet the chaplain.

She was amazing. Just. Incredible. Of the entire coming month, it was her words, her warmth and compassion that I kept coming back to. She blessed my daughter. My daughter was blessed.

And she was so, so blessed.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

We sat there in the NICU for quite a spell, after everyone left, it was just the three of us. Time in the ICU is timeless. You look at a clock and it could be 4 AM or 4 PM, there are no extraneous clues to tell you what part of the day you’re living through.

Besides hell.

But soon enough, I had to go upstairs so that I could change my undergarments and ready myself to see my boys. My sister-in-law was bringing my boys to come see me, and I had to put on my Poker Face. Which, given the raw, chapped and bleeding state of my cheeks, was going to be damn near impossible.

Back up in my room, I saw that I’d gotten some flowers and a basket from two of my lovely internet (slash) real life friends, and it made me cry. Then again, I think the package of saltines that had been ruthlessly thrown on the floor the night before might have made me cry. I wasn’t in a Good Place.

My sons came in a bit after I’d gotten sort of cleaned up–and by cleaned up, I mean, changed my icepack and brushed my teeth–and I don’t remember much about seeing them. I held Alex very, very close as Ben showed me some pictures he’d colored of Amelia. Ben knew his sister was sick, but Alex had no idea what a “sister” was, let alone what being “sick” meant. I held them and pretended to be as normal as I could until I got the call from the NICU. I needed to go down and nurse my daughter.

Talk about being torn into 2 pieces. I bid farewell to my youngest son–my eldest just wanted to get home and I couldn’t find fault with that–who screamed and cried and yowled “Mooommmmyyy” as he was led away to the elevators that would dump them into the outside world. As for me, I found my way back to the super-stealthy-ninja elevators to take me to that innocuous door, the one that should have had some flashing lights and a nifty “This Is Not An Exit” sign above it, and I cried.

I missed my other children so terribly and I was so, so worried about my new child; I felt so torn. Like I was walking the line between two worlds, and not doing a very good job living in either.

I said the same prayer over and over, begging God to let her live, even if she was retarded and her IQ was 43 and she was ugly and had to live at home for the rest of her life, just let my baby girl live. I didn’t care what was wrong with her, so long as she made it out alive. I begged God to take me, instead, I’d had 28 wonderful years on the planet already, and she was less than 24 hours old. Certainly, I’d give my life to save her in a moment.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer. Please God, hear my prayer.

After scrubbing the top 50 layers of skin from my arm and signing a reasonable facsimile of my name, I dashed over as quickly as I could to see my girl. There she was, still perfect stats, thrashing about, looking for something to eat. In the time I’d been gone, however brief it was, shift change had occurred, and we’d gotten a new nurse.

When she came in to assess my daughter and saw me weeping softly into her blanket as we rocked back and forth, back and forth violently in that rocker, for the first time in a day, someone asked me what was wrong. I explained that I didn’t know if my daughter would live or die; that no one had told us what could be wrong with her, what that bump COULD be, why she had to be in the NICU, nothing.

She looked pretty aghast that we’d been told nothing, and for the first time, someone tried to reassure us. She apologized that the neonatologist wouldn’t be in until the following morning–some crazy ass brain surgery was goin’ down–and I remember leaving the NICU several hours later slightly less burdened.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer. Please God, hear my prayer.

That night, we ordered a pizza and tried to relax in my somber room, trying to let go of some of The Fear. I didn’t feel much like celebrating anything, so no balloons, no stuffed animals, no signs that I had just given birth. I could have been on any floor, in any room in the hospital. There was no joy there.

The nurse brought me my Ambien, and the NICU had called to tell me that they would bring my daughter up to nurse every 2 hours (the NICU runs like clockwork. It’s no wonder that new parents struggle to care for their NICU graduate when they get home. Seriously, it’s a well-oiled machine). I turned on the sound machine to blast white noise over The Daver’s snores, and waited, trying to fall asleep. Unsurprisingly to no one, least of all me, I couldn’t get anywhere close to sleep that night. This made the tally of nights without real sleep at 3.

I was about to lose it.

Somewhere around 4 AM, after someone had ruthlessly barged into my room to empty the wastebasket or something, waking me from the lightest of light sleep, I began to panic. I’d sent Dave down to the NICU to sit with our daughter in the vain hope that having him at her side would set my mind free, so I was alone. The panic that had been a constant dull buzzing had morphed into something much more sinister and I knew what was about to happen.

Frantically, I paged the nurses station because I knew I needed help. I explained as carefully as I could that I was about to have a panic attack and that I needed my nurse NOW. My nurse came in, I don’t remember what she did, but she didn’t want to call my doctors because they would be rounding in a couple of hours and I could ask for something for my anxiety then.

Which, hi, that helps.

She told me to “relax” and then left. I tried to “relax” which was as useful as punching myself in the face with a hammer, and soon enough I put a call back into the nurses station, begging, pleading for them to call my doctor. I was panicking so badly that I quickly inventoried all that I had in my room that might help with this.

The best I could come up with was a bottle of Scope.

I didn’t end up drinking it, but I did call the NICU and beg Dave to come back up (he was unaware that something was wrong with me, more than whatever is NORMALLY wrong with me) and some other nurse took pity on me and called my doctor, who prescribed me an Ativan. A swarm of people all happened to come into my room at the same time: a partner in my OB practice who looked terrified by me but discharged me, a nurse with that beautiful pill, a tech to get my vitals, and my sweet husband, who was trying to reassure me.

It sounds, in retelling this, that they were all there to help, but it wasn’t really like that. Dave and the nurse were trying to calm me down, but the tech, the doctor and whomever was washing the floor just were doing their jobs. With spectacularly bad timing.

Ativan on board now, I was trying to gulp some calming breaths and stave off the panic which was doing none of us any good. They’d turned off the lights, and covered my still-swollen body with fresh sheets, cleaned off the bedside table and turned on the white noise machine. It had to be about 7:30 AM.

Finally, I began to relax and beat the panic away, if only slightly. Dave held my hand and told me over and over and over again that my daughter was just fine, she was perfect, she was wonderful, she’d done great overnight, she was beautiful, she was going to be just fine. It was soothing to hear, but what would have been MORE soothing? Having her bassinet next to my bed where it belonged instead of three floors below.

As I always tell Ben, “You can’t always get what you want,” and I got what I needed. I was finally coming down, although I was still weeping, panicked, and out of my mind with fear.

Then (dun, dun, DUN), the absolute worst person to show up did.

Lactation services.

Lactation Services showed up, because they say they’ll come by every day you’re in the hospital with a new baby, and they do. It’s awesome for people who need help because breastfeeding is nowhere NEAR as easy as it looks on those weird Lamaze videos.

(also: why are people in the Lamaze videos always naked?)

But I didn’t need help. And when she showed up and saw me shaking in bed, being held by my husband while the nurse clucked around me like a mother hen, lights off, white noise blaring, she should have excused herself. But no.

No.

She introduced herself perkily and asked me how breastfeeding was going, and I answered that it was fine. Which really, was kinder than the situation warranted. I’m kind of an emotional cripple, honestly, but had I walked in on this hornet’s nest of a room, I’d have promptly left.

I expected this to be enough for her, but no, she followed that up with, “Do you have any concerns about breastfeeding?” Wrong question, dipshit. Time, place, all that.

“You know what?” I snarled, “I’m MUCH MORE concerned that my baby is going to die than if I have proper latch, okay?”

Again, she could have gracefully bid be farewell. But no. She kept on keeping on.

“Well, what about your concerns with BREASTFEEDING?” She asked, just not getting it.

I responded with, “Look, if she’s dead, I’m not going to give a FUCK about colostrum, okay? Please!” I began to sob heavily again.

It was then that Dave told her to get the fuck out of our room, and in my mind’s eye I see him leading her to the door forcefully, but I’m not sure if that’s how it went.

Finally, with a DO NOT DISTURB sign on my door, I slept for a few hours.

I awoke when The Daver bounded in and announced, “the neurosurgeon ordered an MRI! And he’s really nice! And not concerned! He thinks it’s an encephalocele! It’s a piece of brain or something that’s herniated out! We can go home after the MRI! And follow up with the results next week! Oh, I wish you’d met him. He was so, so nice.”

And just like that, we went from critically ill to discharged in less than 36 hours.

amelia-mommy

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

Part IX

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

10 Responses to Hear My Prayer, Hear My Prayer, Please God, Hear My Prayer

  • Katie says:

    Dear Aunt Becky,
    I’m a new reader. Got bored with all the old mom blogs I was reading. I like your swearing and your snark. Spent about 2 hours today when I should’ve been working reading your archives. You seem like a cool chick. I am amused by your irreverant humor and your passionate “you are not alone” supportive refrain. They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive but it makes me smile that you can be both bitchy (I mean that in a good way) and supportive at the same time. I’m embarking on a re-finding myself type campaign, here, and I’m making you my inspiration. I don’t know what my first step will be other than the one I’ve already taken, which is to try to have less fear and more fun. Weird how being a mom and wife can mess with your sense of self, huh? So, what do you think my next finding myself step should be? I already have antidepressants and a good therapist.
    xo,
    Katie

    • Your Aunt Becky
      Twitter: mommywantsvodka
      says:

      Totally not weird that becoming a mom and a wife would make you lose yourself in the process. Happens to most of us, at least for awhile, I think. And it’s so nice to have met you.

      I think that your next step should be to think hard–really hard–about something that would make you feel AWESOME about yourself if you could do it. Anything, really. Like, taking boxing lessons or learning to skydive. Something badass or not badass, but something that would make you SO proud of yourself that every time you thought about it you’d smile and be all “I can do that!”

      Then you learn to do it. No matter what it is, take steps towards it. (it doesn’t have to be badass, btw)(I grow ORCHIDS, which are hard as hell to grow, but not badass).

      It’s all about something YOU do for YOU that makes you feel amazing about being Katie, not being Mom or Wife.

      Then you tell ME what it is because I have to know for my own curiosity. I’ll do a post on Bringing Aunt Becky Back next week. We can all compare notes. I know I’m not the only one doing it.

      xoxo,
      AB.

  • Ashley says:

    We had a VERY similar experience with the birth of my son. The NICU wouldnt actually tell us anything. After 4 days of not having any real info on why my son was being held in the NICU my sweet husband finally tracked the doctor down and brought him to my room. I then told the awful doctor to FUCK off and LEAVE. Youd think if lactaction consultants can be so ‘helpful’ that the stupid doctors could give a little info too.

  • voni says:

    reading all this makes me think that part of the prep for birth should be getting the hospital administrator’s phone number, the chief of staff’s name & digits, etc and the business card of a good malpractice attorney! It is inexcusable to be left, in pain, in panic AND in the dark about your child’s condition. A good poker face with a “negligent infliction of emotional distress” threat along with a calm request that they start remembering WHO they work for (you) seems a nice place to start.
    I prefer the, “if that bitch nurse comes in my room again I will rip her fucking face off” response but I have been advised that I probably need to save that one for Verizon and AT&T reps since I haven’t actually learned HOW to reach through the phone… yet!
    If a doctor can’t or won’t tell you why they are holding your child, ya need to call Admin and get some answers! It is totally unacceptable!
    GRRRR!!!! I am mad for all of you that suffer through this type of treatment! Maybe I really do need anger management!

    • Your Aunt Becky
      Twitter: mommywantsvodka
      says:

      No, I’m furious that I didn’t even fucking stand up for myself. Like, I wish I could go back and hunt down those fucking people and be like, YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK YOU.

  • voni says:

    You still can! Get the names of those Dr’s who treated you like shit, probably on the hospitals webpage or available with a call OR ask for a copy of her chart. Then let it rip! Write it ALL out and send it to every person you want to: the doc’s, admin, the parent company that owns the hospital, etc. It’s been less than a year so I’d do it, if you can, because revisiting that violation is very difficult.

    I never wrote the letter about my 1st daughters birth, couldn’t do it without getting too angry all over again. And I still haven’t written the member service complaint about the crazy nurse who was HELL bent on giving me more of a med we had already determined I was allergic too and controlling the allergic reaction with benadryl! She gave me 2 choices, suffer or take the med, I had a spinal fusion… fucking bitch! I did however get her banned from my room after than but I had a horrible rash and itching for a month.

    Write. Vent. And call them out on all of it, IF it won’t cause you more pain.

    I know how you feel, for different reasons but that violation burns. If you can put out that fire, it will help you move on.

    voni

  • Sara says:

    I just stumbled over here from the Bloggess. I just wanted to tell you I used to be NICU social worker and your description of the BFZ’s (Breast Feeding Zealots) is spot on. Unfortunately, this has been my experience with all of them I’ve known. They also have a way of making non-BF mother’s feel like shit by pestering them about how much they are harming their children and how fucked up their kids are going to be because they didn’t have breast milk.

  • Libby says:

    I was a first time mom at 37 and my daughter ended up in NICU because of falling platelets. We were terrified too. I got discharged, while my daughter spent close to a week in NICU. She was a vacuum delivery because my stupid OB turned OFF my epi and gave me pitocin. I had back labor (contractions STARTED at one minute apart and stayed that way for the entire 12 hrs of active labor) and when that awful OB left the room, I turned over to get on my knees pitocin to get the pain off my back and my daughter slid back up the canal. I had to push for another 3 effing hours!! When she got back to where she was before the debacle, my perfect little daughter was sucked out.

    Turns out, along with inheriting her daddy’s wide feet, she also inherited his bleeding disorder .. von wile brands. It was back in 1997 and not a lot of folks knew about it outside of the University of Birmingham where the hematologist where the latest research (at that time was done). The top of her little head had one heck of a hematoma (because of the vacuum) and because she doesn’t clot well, that bruise just got bigger and bigger and her platelets took a nosedive.

    I remember making that very same prayer. I remember the fear. But with us, it didn’t happen right after delivery, it was 3 days later when I was ready to go home and the neonatologist came in and told us that they were going to admit my baby.

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  • Caro says:

    Holy crap balls, I’ve never read this article and I want to do the Ugly Cry. Aunt Becky, this is the most amazing story. I couldn’t have survived with as much grace and poise that you did. I am so happy that your little girl is a happy, healthy “free” year old now.

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