My reason for breaking my birth story up into 2 parts wasn’t for the dramatic effect (even though it is pretty dramatic). But more so to emphasize what a different emotional experience it was before and after the birth of my son. So here is part 2!
I asked the nurse if everything was okay. She said he wasn’t breathing the way he was supposed to and they were going to have the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) team come and look at him. A swarm of nurses came into the room, no one talking to me or my husband. The shift from a wonderful moment to the most terrifying moment happened so quickly we could barely get our bearings. The NICU team said they had to take him due to him not being able to expel fluid from his lungs the way he was supposed to. “He could be there from 4 hours up to a day most likely”. I thought to myself, “well that’s a big ass difference in time”. While all of this commotion is happening, the doctor delivered my placenta and stitched me up and I had no idea. My husband said he was going to go with our son to make sure he was okay.
If all goes well following childbirth, there is the standard “Golden Hour”. The “Golden Hour” is the hour following your child’s birth where you have skin to skin contact, breast feed, and rest prior to moving to the recovery room. It is a time for you and your partner to bond with the baby and form those important initial attachments. As a therapist, and implementer of Attachment Theory in my practice, this was very important to me and for my birth plan.
…And there I was. In “the golden hour”… alone. The nurses were gone, the doctor was gone, my husband was gone, and my baby was gone. It is rare that I feel entirely helpless, as I am a planner and problem solver by nature. But in this moment, I felt helpless. My body was numb and there was nothing I could do to solve this problem.
I laid there for about 45 minutes until my husband returned, all the color drained from his face. I asked him what was wrong, but all he could articulate is that it was sad and overwhelming. The nurse came back and wheeled me into the Mother Baby room, where we would stay for the duration of our hospital visit. I asked to be wheeled to the NICU. When we went inside, I saw him hooked up to all these IV’s and asleep. He was so little (so it seemed, he weighed 7lbs). So innocent and helpless. The NICU nurses are really miracle workers. The doctor came over and assured us he was going to be okay and that the observation was strictly precautionary. I managed to keep it together until we exited the NICU. Then, tears. It was uncontrollable. I don’t know if it was the hormones, the whole experience, the helplessness; but I couldn’t stop it.
After about 5 minutes, I managed to pull it together. We met our family in the room and the happiness sombered. They left for the evening, not only concerned for our son, but for us. As the evening went on we were assured he was okay and would be returning to us the following evening.
The weirdest part of this experience, for me at least, was that we had this grand monumental event occur, but for the first 24 hours, nothing was different. We would go and visit our son several times in the NICU, however, he wasn’t WITH us. It was back to being just me and my husband. There was a sense of emptiness that filled our room as we waited for him to return.
He was returned to us the next evening and we finally got to begin our journey as parents. What I wasn’t prepared for, or aware of, was the impact this experience would have on me long term.
photos: my son today