Dear LJ and DW friends:
I did it. I had a baby. I went to the hospital last Monday, and the following Tuesday, at 2:38pm, I delivered a beautiful, perfect baby who has a full head of dark hair and a cute little mouth and the darkest grey-blue eyes I've ever seen, and I love him intensely.
I just tried to write up a detailed post about the delivery and what happened afterwards, but just remembering these things has me crying so hard that I can't see the screen. It's been pretty frustrating (but, spoiler alert: there's a happy ending), and looking back at certain things from the delivery day, knowing now what I didn't know then, is a little too much at the moment. So here's the tl;dr(ish) version:
Labor went super quickly and super smoothly. Everyone told me I'd be there for two or three days and would have to take multiple doses of two different kinds of medicine, but it took me half a pill and sixteen hours. Everyone was pretty amazed. Look, Lentl and I were on the same page: it was time for him to get out.
Before the delivery, after I'd gotten into my hospital gown and was hooked up to the monitors but before I'd seen the doctor to get my half-a-pill, a nurse said to me, "Oh, you had insulin-dependent gestational diabetes? You know that means he's going straight to the NICU, right?" No, I hadn't known that. In the months since I had been diagnosed and put on insulin, not a single person had even mentioned this to me.
So the delivery happened. It went perfectly. One second I was pushing and screaming through the most intense pain I've ever felt, and the next second there was a tiny, wailing human on top of me. I held him, and he reached up with his tiny hands to hold onto my index finger. I could only see the top of his head and his ear and his hands. I was sobbing because I was so happy to see him and so devastated that they were going to take him away from me. I got two minutes with him, and then he was gone.
The first time I saw his face was in a picture that someone else sent me.
For hours and hours, I couldn't see him. First I had to wait for the epidural to wear off. Then I had to wait for someone to take me to my postpartum room. Then I had to wait for my postpartum nurse to run through a checklist of exams and instructions, but she left the room for huge chunks of time between each one. She never even did the last one, which, of course, was to give me an ice pack to help with the swelling and pain -- she just said she'd be right back and I literally never saw her again. I know my sense of time was very distorted by this point, but I spent what felt like hours just lying in bed crying because my baby had been alive for so many hours and I had only been able to see him for two minutes. (I'm crying again.) When I finally got to see him, I completely broke down. I sat in the chair and the nurse handed him to me and I cried and cried. He was wearing a little hat and by the time I left, it was soaked. (I just had to move him into my lap because I can't stand not touching him right now as I remember all of this.)
Nurses and doctors kept giving me estimates of when he would leave the NICU, but it got longer every time. "He'll probably be discharged when you are." "It'll probably be just a day or two after that." "Just another day or so." He was healthy, but they had to put him on a regimen of IV fluids so they could monitor his blood sugar, then monitor how it reacted as they weaned him off the fluids, then monitor how it reacted as they took him off the fluids completely. This process took longer than anyone said it would, and it made feeding him so much more difficult. When I got to nurse him for the first time, he'd already been given bottled formula and a pacifier; the sugar in the IV meant he wasn't as hungry as he would have been otherwise. There were days when I couldn't get him to nurse at all and I had to feed him formula instead or let someone else do it.
This was heartbreaking, and right now all I can think is that I could have had time -- months -- to research and prepare for this, but no one ever gave me that opportunity. I also could have prepared, emotionally and logistically, for staying in the NICU even after I'd been discharged from the hospital. That was a frustration all its own, and I ended up sleeping on an uncomfortable couch, and INB wasn't allowed to stay so I was by myself, and sometimes I had to share the room with other moms, but I made it work. I stayed in the "family room" while my son slept, and when he woke up I went out to feed him, and that was my life. I walked into the hospital on Monday night and didn't even leave the maternity ward for the first time until Friday morning, when an angel disguised as a lactation consultant walked in on me crying and then talked me through what was happening and got me motivated to go downstairs and get something to eat.
Everyone (well, almost everyone) was kind and welcoming and respectful, but the whole situation was so frustrating, and I felt so powerless. I cried more during my pregnancy than I had my whole freaking life, and I'm pretty sure I cried more in he NICU than I had for my whole pregnancy.
Finally, finally, yesterday morning, I got the news that I could take my baby home. It was a wacky and nerve-wracking day, and my nerves are still so frazzled that I broke down last night and cried uncontrollably while INB took care of our son, but I think a lot of that is sleep deprivation.
The important thing is that we're home now, all three of us, and my baby is healthy, and I can see him and hold him whenever I want, and nursing is still difficult but we'll continue working on it. My milk came in last night (the last time I pumped in the hospital, I struggled just to get 20 ml; last night I pumped twice and easily got 45 and then 60 ml) so even if he won't nurse and I have to give him a bottle, at least he'll be getting my milk instead of formula.
Overall, I'm happy. My delivery didn't go the way I expected it to, but my beautiful baby boy, who is no longer a hypothetical Lentl but a very real JB, is healthy and home and surrounded by love, and those are the most important things.
Also, I have eaten so many sandwiches.