It was 6am after I participated and successfully finished my first marathon: 27-hour natural labor and delivery. I didn’t expect to be finishing it on my own, without Chris and Lewis, but here I was – relying on my midwife, Kim, more than ever. I delivered my placenta and nearly shot out of the bed when she pressed on my uterus for the first time. 10/10, it hurt worse than any contraction. Owww-uch!
I was receiving texts from Chris that Lewis’ breathing seemed to improve as he was getting his color. Maybe we “jumped the gun” by sending him off in an ambulance. One of the ER staff told Chris that some babies “just take longer than others.” Almost an hour had passed since Chris and Lewis left me and I hadn’t even told our family yet as I truly didn’t think it was serious. I thought it was going to be a “he needed some extra air” type of situation and we’d have him in our arms within the next 24-hours. Then, I got a text from Chris that things didn’t look good and Lewis was being rushed to the NICU surrounded by medical staff – his lungs were filled with blood.
I don’t remember the text I responded with, but it was something along the lines of “God, please save our family!” I was in disbelief for more than a few reasons. This wasn’t happening to a perfectly healthy and well-rested or seasoned mother and father. We had just been awake for over 24-hours; not just awake, but experiencing hundreds of contractions. I lost a lot of blood and hadn’t eaten more than toast and peanut-butter throughout the entire time-frame. I was in disbelief that I was lying in the bed I birthed my son in mere hours before, alone, seriously approaching God with the question of “You’re not really going to take him this soon, are You? You can’t!” I knew whatever God’s will was it would ultimately be done, but I refused to believe it would be without Lewis.
I sent a panicked text to our family chats: Chris and the baby had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance due to Lewis having trouble breathing. Ironically enough, my long labor had everyone on edge; holding their breath. The news that Lewis was born surely sent a wave of relief among our families, but that didn’t last long. “Please pray for our baby boy!“
“God, You can’t take him,” I internally pleaded.
I slept for about an hour. When I woke up, feeling like I’d just slept away a bad dream, it all hit me. The room had been entirely cleaned by the girls and it was just me in there. I looked at my phone and sent Chris a text: “I’m all alone… I’m scared,” and I finally started to sob. It didn’t last long – I knew I had to pull myself together. I wiped my tears and affirmed my faith. Kim, Katie, and Jess devised a plan to get me to the hospital to be with Chris and Lewis and helped pull me together. Katie braided my hair, I nearly fainted upon standing, made it to the shower, and threw on pajama pants and a t-shirt. Around this time, my parents and my sister had arrived. It was so comforting to see them. I briefly cried as I held onto my mother for the first time. SO many emotions. The devil tried to make me feel ashamed, embarrassed, and like a failure for not having a baby to present them with. I didn’t take the bait. We talked about how amazing the labor was, we looked through photos together, and soon enough we were off to the hospital.
I’m wheeled into the hospital and we make our way to the NICU. Kim tells the woman at the desk “…her baby is in here,” which reminded me – I’m a mother now. There was so much going on around me that I wasn’t even grasping the most obvious emotions and realities that most “new moms” have. From this moment on, I put my entire labor behind me. It was an accomplishment, sure, and I had a lot of healing to do, yes, but that was over for me. I was solely focused on my son’s condition and it required all of me.
Fast-forward to the first meeting we have with a doctor: she’s super nice and soft-spoken and begins to detail a laundry list of what’s happened. His lungs were filled with blood, they were able to expel some of it, but he can’t breathe on his own. He’s on a ventilator, an IV drip, has a feeding tube through his nose leading to his stomach (he previously had a catheter that was inserted through his belly button, but he tore that out), he’s hooked up to machines that monitor his oxygen levels and his heart rate. Finally, the news that lead me to breaking down: he’s on a fentanyl drip.
I didn’t choose to go the natural/out-of-hospital route to feel good about myself. I chose it because I wanted to spend time with my baby right after he was born. I wanted to forgo the drugs, I wanted to have skin-on-skin contact, I wanted to allow my baby to do a “breast crawl” among many other intimate moments. Here I was digesting not only that all of those precious moments were nonexistent, but that my newborn is totally drugged, without me, and his life isn’t even promised. The doctor assured me he was okay, but I was devastated nonetheless.
Seeing him for the first time in the hospital was by far one of the most bittersweet moments I’ve experienced. The only real indicator he was alive was the beeping of his heart-rate on the machine next to him.
Minutes became hours, hours became days, and days became a week. Chris and I spent a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with Lewis. We stayed awake throughout the nights that turned into mornings listening to alarms sound when something like his oxygen rate dropped. Every ding woke us up in a panic as we cheered him on “you can do it, breathe baby!”
We only left that room to shower and eat. Let me tell you what, I became a new woman after that first full shower post-birth. It actually made me mentally and emotionally stronger. Haha! The power of cleanliness.
It was 7am, day three in the NICU when Christopher got to hold his son for the first time. I had been able to hold him, but it was allowed for such short periods of time that Chris wanted to be sure Lewis was able to feel his mom’s touch as much as possible. A sacrifice that most new dads probably don’t have to make. And that was the most important lesson we learned: making sacrifices. We sacrificed everything that week. Everything I had dreamt up for my first week with my newborn was wiped away.
As the days passed, we celebrated so many victories with Lewis. He was off of the ventilator which meant we could actually hear his cries.
Previously watching him arch his back, turn red in the face, and open his mouth only to not make an audible sound was horrible. We could now hear what little voice he had. I’ve never wanted to hear a baby cry so badly. I wanted to hear him scream. It was raspy and gurgley, but it was there. His lungs were nearly clear of blood, but now we experienced new types of helplessness. As the doctors and nurses struggled to successfully find veins to get blood from, Lewis would cry out in pain. We couldn’t comfort him other than with our voices: “It’s going to be okay Lewis. You’re so strong! You’re so strong, baby.”
He truly is.
Most newborns first sensations are those of love, comfort, and joy. Our baby boy’s were those of panic, pressure, and pain. He didn’t know the panic was filled with an endless love, the pressure was to ultimately bring him comfort, and the pain would eventually lead to joy. One day, we’ll tell him all about it. The NICU staff of nurses and doctors were truly angels. They fought for him every hour of the day and night. They worked together to get him off of the machines and allowed him to show us all how strong he really was. They celebrated with us in the highs and they comforted us when we were weak. They answered our every question and taught us how to work that room like we were nurses ourselves. In so many ways, they taught us how to parent.
There are so many minutes, emotions, and events that occurred that week. I could never detail them all in a blog post, let alone put them into words. It’s truly a “
you had to be there” – no, a “you would have to be me” type of scenario. Chris and I cried together in the lowest emotional states in that hospital room. Mine? When I thought there was no way Lewis could pick out my voice, his own mother’s, among the other 10 female voices he was hearing per day. This was at a point when I couldn’t comfort him physically and I was distraught over the reality that he was fighting through so many other voices to hear and know mine. Mind you, I was recovering from the birth myself, so it’s not like I could stand by his bedside the entire day. I was wheel-chair ridden!
We also experienced the greatest of joys – holding him for the first time, witnessing him recover day-by-day, and the best being leaving the hospital with our healed baby. It’s surreal for me to look back at these photos and relive those days then turn to my left and see my sweet Lewis sleeping soundly – now over 12lbs of pure miracle.
I’m thankful for so much more these days. I’m thankful foremost to God. Thank You for saving Lewis’ life. Thank you for giving Him the air in His lungs, thank You for answering so many people’s prayers over our son. I can certainly relate on a much more personal level over the unimaginable sacrifice of sending Your only Son to die for our sins. Thank You – we are so undeserving of it all.
Thank you to our family and friends that prayed endlessly with us for Lewis. Thank you for visiting us, bringing us toiletries, clothing, blankets, dinners, praying with us, and encouraging us. Thank you for believing in the same outcome we did.
Thank you to the NICU staff at Winchester Medical Center for your profession, really. Thank you for treating Lewis like your own. Thank you for every waking moment you spent ensuring that he made it out of there alive. I have a new appreciation for the medical world that I didn’t know existed prior to this experience.
Thank you to Premier Birth Center; Kim and Katie – for the first initial fight to help Lewis breathe. Thank you for trusting your instincts that something wasn’t right and he had to go the hospital. You didn’t miss a beat, if you had, the outcome could’ve been far different. Thank you both for visiting that week and covering us in positivity. Thank you for being so proud of me!
Finally, thank you to Jess, my doula – for being like a sister during that labor and the aftermath. You were a rock, a foundation I could rely on that I felt like I’d known my entire life. You enabled me to get through every moment with courage and confidence. I carried your advice with me throughout my labor, through the following week in the NICU, and I will for the rest of my life “I can do anything for one day.”
Couple that with Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and you’ve got a foundation for some powerful faith.
Of course, thank you to my husband, Chris. We already knew we could get through some pretty crazy situations together and this was another to add to our story. I love you and these have been the best two months of my life! Let us remember these days for the rest of our lives. May they bring us back down to our knees; to a level of lowly humbleness and gratefulness that we first felt together. May these days always keep us together, living in a moment-by-moment faithfulness. I love you.
And thank you for reading!