|Abbey, all hooked up in the NICU!|
During the 37th week of my pregnancy I was tested for Group B Strep. It’s a bacterial infection that pregnant women either have, or they don’t. During my pregnancy I had no complications, I hardly gained any weight, I was negative for gestational diabetes, my blood pressure was good, blood tests clean, every possible outcome you could ever want, except I tested positive for this damn infection.The doctor told me no problem, it happens, you get antibiotics during delivery, wham bam, healthy baby. Except he left out a shit ton of information that a first time mother would have NEVER thought to ask. I assumed the baby contracted it while sailing down the birth canal, I had no reason to think otherwise. The doctor wasn’t worried that I had GBS, the nurse told me her story of having it and how her baby was fine, my worry eased a bit. Except I found out later that baby girl was basically swimming in a cesspool of a womb for 9 months and nothing was ever given to me to clear it up.
|Proud Aunt Katie!|
The “cure” for it, it basically 2 bags of antibiotics, through an IV during delivery, over a 4 hour period of time. The “average” labor and delivery for a first baby is roughly 16 hours, so when I came to the hospital at 4:30 am, the nurses weren’t in such a rush to plug me in and get the meds pumping through me. In fact there was a lot of down time, phone calls made, and me asking for drugs, which BTW, I HIGHLY recommend getting. Abbey was born a few hours later at 9:37 and basically the antibiotics never got to her in time. My baby contracted GBS. That’s where the feeling of failure came in.
They took the baby from me, tested her blood, and her levels came back extremely high. Normal levels of protein found in the blood are around 0-10, which indicate degree of infection, my daughter was at 69.1. Over the next few hours we talked to several different people, doctors, nurses, my OB, the Neonatal specialist, NICU nurses and everyone had different information. That’s the thing with hospitals, they never can just give you one answer, one “straight shooting, by the books, this is gonna hurt but it’s the truth” answer. We were told she would have to stay overnight in the NICU anywhere from 3-21 days. I broke down. I cried on Charlies shoulder, everything had gone so perfectly during my pregnancy! I ate decent, I stayed away from the “bad stuff”, I walked and swam, and elevated my feet, never missed an appointment, and took all kinds of vitamins, but she still got sick.
|Our little home away from home.|
In the NICU it feels like time stands still. I showed up everyday at 7:30am, with a bag full of stuff. Clothes for my little one, a couple books for me, my parts for the breast pump – since I wasn’t there at night, I would pump and leave my milk in the fridge there for night feedings – snacks, change for the vending machines, bottle of water, vitamins and all the stuff for keeping my stitches clean and infection free. I sat there, next to her bed everyday for about 10 hours. I wouldn’t have even known it was lunchtime had my mom not showed up everyday to take me to get something to eat.
The first couple days are the hardest. You feel so helpless and ignorant. Here you are, a new mom, already feeling helpless and ignorant, but now your baby is hooked up to a machine, with an IV, heart monitor, the whole nine yards. Luckily I had some really great nurses who I got to know over the next week, who helped me learn to swaddle, breast feed, put her down for naps, check her temperature, change her diapers and pretty much every overwhelming thing a new mom feels in the first 72 hours.
|Daddy and baby take a nap!|
Looking back now, I feel so grateful for that first week of “mommy training”. I heard so many horror stories of the first week from other new mom friends, but because of the NICU, I never experienced them. Everyday got easier, and I tried to look for the silver lining. Luckily we had such a strong outreach of friends and family visiting, keeping us in their prayers and supporting us through our scary time, that the days flew by.
|Mommy & Baby!|
We were told that Abbey would have to have a spinal tap, to rule out meningitis, and we were asked to leave the NICU during this time – I guess sometimes parents faint and they can’t have that. Her tests came back clean and we were given a realistic timeline of a 10 day antibiotic treatment. We called our primary pediatrician and she recommended asking for home care after she was cleared. We asked, and were granted it, once our insurance company said they would cover the costs. She got to come home 4 days early, and we had a home health nurse come over everyday and give her the antibiotics in a simple shot, instead of a twice daily IV. It’s not something the doctors or nurses will usually offer you, so if you find yourself in this situation, ask!!
|Nurse Andrea! Such a great help!|
The NICU is a scary place, but it definitely helps knowing that you’re not the first person to find yourself there and you won’t be the last. Be thankful that people care enough to help you and your baby, and try to look for the bright side of an unfortunate situation; a couple more days of sleep – you’re gonna need it!, a bit more time to get the house ready – Abbey was early so we definitely weren’t 100% ready for her to come home yet, and a chance to really appreciate what you have.