Layia’s Birth Story, Part 2: The NICU   1 comment

Transporting immediately after Layia’s birth was a very odd experience for me. My head was practically spinning, seeing as how 2 hours earlier I had been turning out the light, expecting to spend the night sleeping a few minutes at a time between contractions. I was very focused on the basics. I got dressed in just a long sleeved t-shirt and a short skirt. I grabbed the electrolyte water that was next to the bed, and then walked to the kitchen to grab a snack. We never even dressed or diapered Layia. She was just wrapped in a blanket. I remembered my insurance card, but forgot my phone.

Rachel called the ER while we were on the road to let them know we were coming. When we pulled up, she grabbed a wheelchair for me (holding Layia). We went in, and were ushered almost immediately back to the the Ped ER. Mike and Martine had to park the cars, but I don’t remember how long it took for either of them to join us. We were led to a bay in the Ped ER where there were several nurses, residents, and an attending physician, I think. Layia was taken from me so they could examine her. That was the hardest thing. I wanted to protest and hold her in my lap while they examined her, not see her in the little infant hospital bed across the bay, and hear her crying but not be able to do anything. There were lots of questions that I had to answer, and I couldn’t tell you what they were or what I said because life was still a blur at that point. I do remember that we realized it had been so long since we picked her name (3 years – it’s the name Conan would have had if he had been a girl), that I wasn’t 100% certain how to spell it! Thankfully Mike remembered.

After a fairly brief exam the doctors and nurses agreed with Rachel that the noise seemed to be coming just from the nasal passages and not the lungs, but it was so noisy and there seemed to be an echo in the lungs so they couldn’t be certain. Then it was up to the NICU. Rachel wanted to try to check me in to Labor & Delivery so that I would have a bed and not be sitting in a chair all night, so once Layia was settled in the NICU, Rachel, Martine, and I went down to L&D. We were told that all beds were full, but they checked me in we waited in the reception area to be seen in triage where I would be able to lay down for a bit. And we waited. And waited. Got some water and waited. It was a busy night in L&D. Then I finally needed to pee, and thankfully they let me use the bathroom in the triage area. After that I decided that this just wasn’t worth the wait. I was starting to feel downright wrong about being away from Layia, and also figured that if I was going to spend the night sitting anyway it made no sense to do it two floors down from my newborn. So we gave up and went back up to the NICU.

I spent the night sitting on the hard rocking chair, with my legs propped up on the wheel chair, nursing Layia and holding her on my chest as near to skin-to-skin as I deemed possible what with there being leads on her chest. I didn’t really sleep much that night, but idly watched her monitor (heart rate, respirator rate, and oxygen saturation). I did doze off occasionally, but it wasn’t until morning that I started to crash. Of course the resident caught me sleeping with Layia on my chest as she did her rounds and wanted me to put Layia in the infant bed as they have had cases in the past of parents dozing off while holding their baby and dropping the baby. But as soon as Layia was in the bed she woke up and started crying, so came right back to my lap to nurse. During the night they had had to come back to draw blood twice, as the blood had clotted before the lab processed it the first two times. It was good to find out in the morning that the third blood draw had been successful, because I wasn’t planning to let them draw any more blood from her.

Friday morning was fairly quiet. Mike came to see us and got me some food. (Which I had to eat in the reception area since food is not allowed in the NICU. The medical team did rounds (and I mean “team” since there was the lead physician, two residents, and two more people whose roles I don’t remember; later the social worker came by and then someone else whose role I don’t remember), and since I was there I got to listen in. At the time I was hoping to be able to get her discharged before the initial 48 hours that we’d been told, since that was based on when the culture would be done to tell us if she needed antibiotics (because I had been GBS positive). When I came back from the bathroom one time there was a sleep chair waiting for me (much more comfortable on the behind!). Layia and I did a lot of sleeping – with her in my lap mostly. Throughout our stay she did not care for the crib at all. I’d always let the nurses know when I left the room so they’d be prepared to have to attend to her a bit in addition to the other babies in the room, but sometimes she’d start crying before I even managed to get out the door. And she didn’t really take a pacifier.

Friday afternoon was not quiet. At some point (apparently while I was down at L&D, using the bathroom, or eating) they had put a catheter down Layia’s nasal passages to determine if there was physical blockage (I did know this was the plan, just not when it was actually done). A 10 French catheter could not go through, but a 5 could. So the initial theory was that she just had very narrow nasal passages, causing very slow draining. By early afternoon her breathing sounded completely normal. The ENT residents came by to scope her nasal passages. They determined that there was nothing clinically wrong, and her passages would grow as she’d grow so there was nothing to do or worry about. But they wanted the pediatric specialist to come by and confirm that it wasn’t choanal atresia (a congenital narrow nasal passage that requires surgery). A while later the pediatric specialist came and attempted to scope Layia’s nasal passages again, but she had difficulty getting a clear view so she stopped. During all of this, the doctors and nurses confirmed what Rachel had experienced at home: suctioning did nothing. Rachel had been using a Delee suction catheter, and the nurses tried the wall suction with the normal tip and using a couple different sized small catheters, but they couldn’t get much of anything out and it made no difference to the sound of her breathing. In order to finish the scoping they used a decongestant spray, and then scoped her a third time.

Friday evening was as pleasant as a stay in the hospital can be. Lesley (midwife) came by to see us, and Mike came back and got me food before the cafe closed for the evening (that cafe has some strange night hours).

Friday night was pretty miserable (but at least I was in a comfortable chair and could put my feet up). All night long Layia would try to nurse about every half hour. Her breathing was horrible and while she tried to nurse her oxygen saturation would drop. When it dropped below 85% an alarm would go off, and the nurse would have to come over and silence it. This happened every half hour, all night long. It became part of the routine of the night. When her saturation dropped below 60% (I think that was the second level anyway), a more insistent alarm would go off and the nurse would have to come silence that and would usually stay and watch the monitor until Layia finished nursing and her heart rate, respirator rate, and O2 saturation came back to normal. A couple times during the night her saturation levels dropped to the 30’s and I could visibly see her skin going from pink to grey even in the dim light. The cherry on the miserable was spending the whole night staring at my own swollen ankles. My ankles hadn’t ever swelled up during pregnancy, and it worried me that they were swollen now.

After that miserable night, I couldn’t argue when the medical team did rounds and Dr. Rottkamp said that she wanted Layia to stay another night to make sure that the problems of the previous night were just due to swelling as a result of the scoping during the previous day. It was no longer an arguable issue of whether she needed antibiotics. So instead of arguing, I asked about the requirements for discharge and the nurse wrote down the checklist for me to work through in advance so that when we did get discharged there wouldn’t be a hold up.

Saturday was almost pleasant. I started actually taking care of myself and making sure I got enough water to drink and food to eat. I felt good enough to walk myself down to the cafe for food. Layia and I slept plenty. Mike’s mom and sister came to visit, bringing Conan, so I got to spend a few minutes in the reception area with him. My mom arrived in town and spent the afternoon with us. Mike came in the early evening after managing a booth at the gun show and we all got dinner before they went home. I learned how to recline the seat back, so I could adjust my position more. And Layia’s breathing was perfectly normal all day and all night. So Sunday morning she got discharged and we went home.

The experience of sitting for over two days in the NICU with a healthy baby (Friday night  was the only time when she was less than healthy, really) was very different. I’m extremely appreciative of the health of myself and my family, and the support that I have from family, midwives, and friends. And I’m very grateful that there’s nothing wrong with my daughter that a little time and growth won’t cure. (I just need to remember that when she gets her first baby cold.) I was sitting in my little bubble while hearing about women seizing during labor (and then I think later that baby was in the same NICU room as us), listening to a lumbar puncture being done on a baby, hearing the nurses celebrate a weight gain in one of the premies (and trying to picture a 2 lb baby in my mind), trying to imagine myself as one of the mothers or fathers who I heard visiting their babies every night or morning, trying to imagine setting an alarm to wake up and pump every couple hours all night long like one of the mothers of a premie, and hearing the various alarms going off throughout the night and day. Neonatal nurses are amazing people!

(If you missed it, here’s the link to Part 1: The Birth)

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Posted November 3, 2015 by mayakey in pregnancy

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One response to “Layia’s Birth Story, Part 2: The NICU

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  1. Pingback: Layia’s Birth Story, Part 1: The Birth | Love Knowledge Zeal & Fortitude

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