The last couple of months have been hectic. After finding out at 31 weeks that our son had a heart defect, my weeks were filled with doctors’ appointments both in and out of state. We ultimately decided, with such a rare diagnosis and an unclear outcome, that we would deliver at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who are third in the nation for pediatric cardiology. They also had the Special Delivery Unit, which is for mothers giving birth to sick babies who need immediate attention at the hospital. It also helped that my whole family lives in Philadelphia, so I had plenty of support when it came to childcare and the like.
CHOP doesn’t allow for VBACs, which I was upset about, since that was what I was planning on for 30 weeks, and everything was lining up for a good try. But, I had to put that aside, because I wanted my baby to be born where he’d get the best care, and in the end, the only thing that mattered was his well-being.
Because I was scheduled for a c-section, I had to go up to Philadelphia during my 38th week, just in case I went into labor early. This part was really hard, because we decided I’d go alone that week and stay with my mom, just so our toddler, K, could stay in school and in his routine as much as possible. I had panic attacks and meltdowns almost daily the week before, and then a full attack in the car on the day of my departure. Thankfully, that week went by quickly, and by the next Saturday, I was reunited with K and B.
My c-section was scheduled for the 24th. We got to the hospital bright and early in the morning to get all the pre-op stuff done. I think the strangest part of a scheduled c-section is just showing up for it. With my previous c-section, I labored for 17 hours before we went to the OR. But I had hardly had any contractions at all before week 39, so the experience was completely different. I was also nervous about getting a spinal block, because I’d heard that sometimes it numbs so far up that you have trouble breathing. I also don’t remember getting my epidural with my previous labor, because I was already in pain from the contractions.
Thankfully, I have a really high pain tolerance level, and even the anesthesiologist was impressed that I hardly flinched when he placed the block. My husband joined me shortly after and tried to hold a conversation with me while I was doing breathing exercises to keep my mind off what was happening, and the numbing sensation creeping up my body.
This was also the inbetween time, where we didn’t know just how sick our baby would be when they delivered him. It was a strange moment, because I wanted to see him so badly, but I also wanted him to be okay, and was afraid he’d come out and not do well.
Cameron was delivered around 11 am in the morning. He came out screaming and yelling, which was already a great sign. We were waiting to see how his heart would adjust to the pressure change when he began to use his lungs, and the fact that he carried on screaming and yelling for a good thirty minutes was a amazing sign. They quickly rushed him out of the room and into an adjacent room where the cardiology team was waiting. B went to join him in the next room while they sewed me up, and the whole time I could hear my baby crying, and I loved it.
Eventually, they brought the baby back in for me to see, and he was just as beautiful as his brother was when he was born. Beautiful, pink, and looked perfectly healthy. They didn’t have to give him oxygen, bag him…nothing. He was free of leads and tubes and machines. I asked to nurse him, and they even let me go back to my room and nurse him there for twenty minutes, which apparently doesn’t happen often. They are supposed to take him right to the cardiology intensive care unit (CICU) for monitoring, but since he was doing so well, they let me nurse him in peace, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for those moments before they took him to the CICU.
I had to wait until my spinal wore off enough for me to get on my feet and in a wheelchair so I could go to the CICU to see Cameron again. That took about four hours, and I was determined to get out of that bed to see him. I found it remarkable that it took me only four hours to get on my feet after this surgery, compared to my last c-section, when they didn’t try to get me out of the bed until the next day. It was not easy, nor painless, but I did it, and I got to be wheeled around to the CICU to see my baby.
The worst thing about CICUs/NICUs is that you are not alone with your baby. You are surrounded by babies who are much worse off than yours, or better than yours. In our case, thankfully, Cameron was doing really well, but that made it even harder when he was sharing a pod with three other babies who weren’t doing well at all. In fact, we had to leave the pod the next morning because one of the babies was having his chest closed after surgery, and we wouldn’t have been allowed in the pod during the procedure.
I won’t bore you with all the details over the next few days we were there in the CICU. Cameron was moved into an overflow pod with new babies, one of which was born the same day he was, another who was one year’s old and was there with what sounded like croup, and then another baby who was just weeks old and was transferred from another hospital. I very often think of Cameron’s birthday buddy, and I think of his mother, who sat by his bed all day long, unable to hold him, but kept her hand on him the whole time. I think about that mother and I try to channel her strength on days that I think are hard, but aren’t anything compared to her burden.
The sucky thing about my stay at CHOP was that on Tuesday night (Cameron was born Monday afternoon), the charge nurse explained that we’d be getting a roommate in our room because the SDU (special delivery unit) was filling up, and they didn’t have another choice. This also meant that B couldn’t sleep in my room anymore. So, we started the scramble of trying to find out where B could sleep, since the Ronald McDonald House was full so far, as were all the local hotels. Wednesday and Thursday were stressful because of this, but B was able to secure a sleep room on the same floor for Wednesday night, and they managed to wiggle us in for a sleep room for Thursday night, after I was discharged, so I could continue to nurse Cameron and pump through the night.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Cameron was discharged on Friday, a mere four days after his birth. We were originally told he’d be in the CICU for two to three weeks, and to be let home sooner than a week was just amazing and welcome news. He would have been let home on Thursday, but he was struggling with his sugar levels and with feedings, so they wanted to monitor him for one more day to be sure his sugars got under control.
It was a trying week, but at least it was only a week. I remind myself often that Cameron is lucky — his outcome could have been worse. God has been listening to the prayers that many people have offered on Cameron’s behalf. The universe took all the positive energy that others had sent our way, and directed it to Cameron’s body to help heal him.
We’ve been home now for a week, and Cameron has been doing very well. He’s not nursing at the breast as much as I want him to, but I am trying to stay positive about it. This will come. It will come in time, just as it did with K. His cardiologist saw him this week and was very happy with his progress. They found two other developments with his heart, but those weren’t anything to worry about right now, and so, I’m not going to. He even made his urologist happy in that his right kidney is functioning well, he is urinating just fine, and there’s nothing to do but wait and see when it comes to this as well.
Thank you all for reading, and thank you for praying, especially. Please continue to do so for Cameron, and also for the rest of the babies at the CICU right now, some of which have been there for their whole lives, and some of which will never leave there.