September 6th and Everything After

The first night was pretty rough. Our room was on the 6th floor and the NICU was directly below us on the 5th but could have well been in Omaha. It was tough to sleep. In fact, I managed almost an hour that night. Mostly due to what happened the day before but also due to the “recliner” I had to sleep in. Never had I been more jealous of Court’s hospital bed than during those first 6 nights. After that first week, I found a new respect for the word exhaustion.

The next day I decided I should go home for a bit. I was still in my work clothes and dress shoes. I needed a shower. Some normal clothes. Make sure the dogs were okay. Basically, take a breath. I was driving home and turned on my iPod. The first song that came has this beginning verse:

You called me out upon the waters. The great unknown, where feet may fail.”

I lost it. The whole previous day I felt out of my body and it came to a head in that moment. It was different in the room with her, friends and family. A lot easier to show strength. It was the first time to drive away from my wife and baby and become alone. This was the first time I allowed myself to think about what happened and just let it be without anyone there holding me up or telling me it will be okay. It dropped me like a stone. But the amazing thing in letting all that out was that it also brought me to a moment of thankfulness because I realize that this whole situation could have been so much worse.

Seeing our baby for the first time together was the best time. Now there’s only so much you can do when your kid is in an isolette, hooked up to a ventilator and multiple wires. You do what you can as new parents. You stare at her perfect nose. Her tiny fingernails. The way her legs continue to kick. You don’t see the tape that is holding the tube that’s going down her throat, helping her breathe. Or the tiny IV in her arm. You tune out all the different beeps even when each individual one scares the hell out of you. You focus on the tiny grip attached to your pinky finger. And you say a prayer that each day will get better.

I feel closer with my wife now. Both of our lives have changed drastically. But I have found that holding her hand feels stronger. Watching her cup the baby’s head and feet so that she feels safe in her artificial environment. That’s just her doing what she can as a mom. Right now. There’s a big sense of pride in knowing just how lucky I am that she’s the one I’m experiencing this scary thing with. She’s just as terrified as I am, yet shows strength in ways that are truly amazing.

Our days for the next several weeks will consist of daily drives to the hospital. Not a day has been missed and won’t be until she comes home. And the days are getting easier. She has made many positive strides medically that indicate in time, she will be just fine. In these situations, nothing is a guarantee but we have yet had a day where it looks insurmountable. Take one positive and climb on top until the next positive comes along. I’ve learned that it’s the only way to think. Any other way will simply break you.

Next: NICU

High Risk

We walked out of the building to the car and had a small moment of just staring at each other. She’s trying to hold it together for me as I am for her. We called our moms and shared the news. They both were going to come up. We also called our closest friend and she dropped everything and headed up as well.

We got checked in and got to the room. She changed and was hooked up to some monitors. They had trouble finding the heartbeat. We could hear it if the nurse was pressing on the monitor against her stomach. It was silent when she let go. That’s a lot of swelling. I sat on the couch not trying to move as if that would help with the situation. It’s all I could come up with at the time. Don’t move a muscle.

Soon the high risk ultrasound tech came in to do her thing. She wasn’t finding much movement. The image was also unclear due to the fact that the amniotic fluid was low. She kept a pretty calm demeanor and basically said that she would show these to the high risk doctor. Well that doesn’t sound good. That sounds like the doctor is about to come in and deliver bad news. If only I could become more still.

Our doctor calls literally right before she’s heading out for vacation to inform us that the tests she’s seen do not look good and that a c-section is being scheduled for Saturday. She tells Court this. Of course, Court starts crying and I get on the phone. The doctor explains everything to me, except the “c-section on Saturday” part. I get off the phone not as terrified until my wife shares that extra bit of information. Now I can’t keep still to save my life.

Our moms and best friend arrive and we get to share the good news. Sometimes people surprise you with how strong they can show themselves to be. Especially those who I know were just as terrified as we were. She knows who she is and it’s what we needed. I can’t thank her enough.

The high risk doctor came in with a very matter of fact approach. She explains that she simply doesn’t like what she sees in the ultrasound and in Court with her blood pressure and swelling. Not necessarily with swelling in general but how fast the swelling has come on. We found out that there is absolutely no amniotic fluid protecting the baby. The placenta was deteriorating, limiting the nutrition for the baby. She also explains that the baby hasn’t been growing for two weeks. She was slowly dying. It was at this moment when the doctor said, “So we are going to go get her now.”

Now.

Then the reality of the moment hits me when the doctor explained that the baby “Has a much better chance out here than in there.”

My mind starts racing. ‘I haven’t called work yet. What about the dogs? Do I get to be with her in the operating room? What time is it? She’s too early. I’m about to be a dad? Really, what time is it?’

One thing that was funny was the conversation Court had with one of the nurses. Court went on about how we weren’t ready; that we didn’t have the furniture yet. Or clothes, or bottles, etc. She expected to have this kid and be home that night. The nurse assured her, “Honey, she will be here for quite some time and she has everything she needs right here.”

“Oh, right.”

Soon after hearing that the delivery was just around the corner, a team of what seemed like thirty (five or six) came in and was getting her ready for surgery. They toss me my paper scrubs and let me know that once they are done they are taking her down, with or without me. Meaning, “get your paper clothes on now.”

They finished and gave us a moment in the room before we made our way to the OR. Those that were in the room all grabbed hands and her mom said a small prayer. I remember my prayer vividly. All I kept saying was the word please. Over and over.

As she was wheeled away through the waiting area, we saw many friends and family already there ready to support us. It’s a memory I’ll always have.

I had to wait back a bit before I was allowed back to be with Court. Tears mixed with nervous laughter mixed with sheer terror filled me for 20 minutes. More than that, this was the first time since picking her up at 11:20 that morning that I wasn’t with my wife.

Maybe the toughest thing to write about with this whole story might be what my next thought process was: What if something happens to Court? This is life and we all know how it’s not fair and how it can sometimes care less about what we want. It was a thought that terrified me. One minute she’s here, then she’s not. I tried not dwelling on it but it’s difficult not to. I remember saying to myself, “I just got her. Please.”

Thankfully, we all know she was fine and made it through. It doesn’t make that fear any less significant. I now need to remind her that she can’t hold that moment against me for leverage in the future.

Those 20 minutes felt like 20 years as well as 20 seconds. A surgical nurse walks out and asks, “Are you ready?” It’s a good thing I nodded yes because I’m pretty sure my face said, “You’re either insane or drunk”.

Up Next: Delivery