That's a pretty good resting heartrate/min. for an adult athlete, not so good for a 34 1/2 week old baby. That was Nick's heartrate that morning, 4 years ago today. I am counting my blessings today as I savored my little guy's birthday with him all day long. We enjoyed every single minute together. It was a good day. His last words as I kissed him..."I'm so happy for my birthday. And I'm so happy about the cake Mommy made for me."
My 34 week check up was scheduled for 10:30. I dropped my 4 year old at preschool and my 2 year old and I went to visit a friend. We chatted for a while and then I left to get my husband at his office so he could come to this appointment. I was going weekly at this point in my pregnancy. But, I was fine. Totally fine. So I thought.
The doc was running late b/c he was in surgery. I felt sorry to have my husband out of work so long. My doc was usually very timely. Of course I understood. I felt that I had no need to be there to fill up his schedule. Since, I was fine! I was just there a few days before after all. I was moments away from going to the desk to tell the lady that I would be happy to reschedule my check up for Monday. It was Friday. I sat tight however. Thank God. Literally. Thank you God for keeping me in my seat that morning. I do in my heart believe I had an Angel looking out for me that day.
They called me in minutes later. Jamie, my nurse, started the familar routine that I loved oh so much. Stand on the scale Ange. WHY?? Why do they make us do that so much? Yes, I gained More weight! Of course! There's a child growing inside me! I would have been happy to just write in the big fat number on her paper for her after weighing myself at home.
Next, she squirted me with the gel and began to check the baby's heartbeat. Oh cool, there it is. That usually take about 15 seconds. She held the thing there longer this time...she didn't say much. Then she left the room. It was about 11:00 now. My Doc came in briskly and did the same thing. Then he held my wrist and took my pulse. He calmly told me that he was trying to distiguish between my heartbeat and the baby's. Ok. I was totally at ease for some reason. I had been through a LOT with my 1st and 2nd babies. I was a pro at this stuff. I was an "experienced Mom." Yeah right. Big difference that made! Now I was told to walk to the next room so they could hook me up to the fetal monitor. Ok, not so bad. I've done this about a million times too. But wait, this was different. The doc didn't leave the room for an hour while the numbers printed away. He stood there. He was deep in thought. He looked at me and said, "Ok, the baby's heart rate is very low. It is staying there. We do need to do something. I need you to head to maternity Now. Don't dawdle." Crap!!!!!!! What the hell was happening???? The maternity wing is about 300 yards down the hall. We took off. It was me, Mark, my 2 year old and my oh so small little baby inside whose heart wasn't working right. Panic struck me. How could something be wrong? Again. (save my first born's story for another day.) I forgot every single phone number I knew as we tried to call someone to come ASAP to the hospital to get Tommy. Finally, we got my husband's sister. But she would be a little while. I worried for a long time if the next 30 minutes traumatized my little boy.
They put me on a bed and what seemed like 20 nurses scurried around me with machines and IVs and catheters. I'm not sure what else. We still didn't know what was happening. It was about 11:20 now. I called my Mom from the bed and tried not to scare her but told her, "I might be having a baby now. Can you come here today, like Now, and help with the kids?"
My doc arrived and explained that he was trying to determine if they had time to send me via ambulance to Maine Med where there is an amazing NICU or if they had to do a C-section Now. (other 2 babies were born naturally-I did not know what to expect here.) Within 2 minutes I was on my way to the OR. Maybe my hubby could be there for the birth. If there was time. If they had time to do a spinal instead of general. I was so scared. So so scared.
Much of the day is a blur. I remember sitting on the bed getting the spinal, quickly. That meant I could have my man with me. I remember laying on the table feeling like I would throw up and now having a Clue what was about to happen. I can vividly hear my doctor saying, "Let's go let's go Let's go!" That's not a good thing to hear. I felt like an elephant was standing on my chest. I couldn't breath. I felt tugging. The pediatrician said, "oh I am so sorry Angela." Why is she SORRY???? I was hysterical. So was my husband. Nicholas was born and he was saved. He was taken away from me. Time of birth 12:05. That's the last thing I remember about the OR.
The next memory I have is being burried in heavy blankets in recovery because I couldn't stop shaking. All I wanted was my baby but I had to "earn my way" out of the recovery room. Yeah, I know I just got cut open, but I really needed to know what was going on.
The rest of the day was a mixed bag of emotions. For a long time we were told he was "ok." It's a transient heart issue in some newborns and all would be fine. "Can we stay here? Do we have to go to Portland?" We were told yes, we could stay. And at that point, I was great. I was ok. It wasn't going to happen...again.
Then the ball dropped. My pediatrician, whom I adore and trust with the lives of my children, arrived. Her shift started. She made phone calls. She knows the guys in Portland, she used to work with them. The cardiologist saw his xrays and wanted him in the NICU asap. Plus, did we forgot, he was a preemie. His lungs weren't developed. He couldn't breath on his own!! That tiny detail hadn't been shared with me for some unknown reason.
My meds were wearing off. I had been in a wheelchair all day long so I could look at him through the glass. I was starting to get emotional and the reality of it all was hitting me. My hubby went home to get my bag. To say goodbye to the kids. To explain a little of this to them.
Meanwhile, the crew from Angel 1 appeared. They are wonderful however....I wasn't prepared. Angel 1 is the special ambulance that travels around to get tiny babies and transport them to the NICU. We have seen them before. The nurse told me all about what they would do for him. Blah blah blah blah......I was numb. Brain dead. Sad. Scared, oh so so scared. Was my baby going to die? Then she had me sign papers after hearing "what would happen if the ambulance crashed.....or lost power." That's it. I broke down. I was done. Please make this go away.
I held my baby for the first time right before they left. I held him for about 1 minute. His O2 sats dropped and he needed more air. I was devastated. I needed my husband so so much. The nurses were trying to call him. Poor man. He was pulled in too many directions at that point.
I followed him in my own ambulance several hours later. It was the most painful ride of my life. My husband drove down in a third vehicle. We finally reunited in some strange room at MMC. Tired, scared, and in a lot of pain.
The nurse came in at 1:00 a.m. ( an old friend of my husband's from H.S. ) and told us that Nick was having trouble and they would have to intubate him. Again, I was numb. Ok. How could this be happening?
For two weeks we stayed by his side. I was eventually discharged on my own and had to stay in Portland with my parent's so I could get back to his side at the crack of dawn. I would have to leave at night. I saw my other boys a little, but not much. They were such incredible troupers. I was so very proud of them. They were shuffled from family member to family member and did so well.
Nick started his stay in the middle of the room in the NICU. When he arrived one morning and he wasn't in his spot, we nearly dropped to the floor. But wait, he was over by the wall. We then learned that this was a graduation for babies in the NICU. The ones with less intensive care were moved to the outside of the room. That was a good day for us.
I sat vigil with my tiny little man day after day. I stared at him and prayed that he would grow to be a big strong healthy boy. I feared long term issues. I feared short term problems and challenges. No one could predict if my fears would come true. I listened to the silence of that room day after day. I memorized the beeps. I knew what each change in tone meant and when to discreetly turn my head from the flurry of doctors scrambling to save the life of the baby next to mine. It was intense.
I pumped breast milk every couple hours, labelled it and put it in the special fridge they had. When he was ready, he could get my milk via a tube in his nose. You do what you gotta do. Finally, the big day arrived when I was allowed to try to nurse him. He was 1.5 weeks old. It was so tough. He was so small. And weak. I had a special nurse helping me even though I had already nursed two other babies. This was different. Preemies are different. He sucked a little and did ok but again, his O2 sats dropped and we had to stop. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. There was no rushing this process.
Nicholas arrived home a few weeks later and never looked back. He is 100% healthy. He is so strong and smart and well, just perfect in my motherly opinion. I am so proud of his toughness. He and I know what those first few weeks were like. We held strong and made it. I know he's always going to be a little fighter.
Here's to you Nick. Happy Birthday baby. I love you.