My quiet thoughts were interrupted by the nurse telling me to roll over since Bun was having some decelerations on the monitor. It probably meant that the cord was around his neck, and since Fiver had had the same problem, I knew I needed to switch positions.
It was when I was rolling over to the opposite side for the seventieth time that I felt the change in pressure that let me know it was time for someone to check the business end of Aimee. Just as I was calling my nurse, she appeared and then called my doctor. I was completely dilated, and after a trial push, they told me to hang on while they got the bed ready and put the spotlight on Baby Central.
I remember the nurse slipping the oxygen mask on my head, just as they had with Fiver, so I knew that Bun's cord was definitely being yanked on his way out. I could feel his head very low in my pelvis, and after a few minutes and two sets of pushes, he was born. At 10:11 in the morning on my father's birthday.
I remember thinking, as I heard him cry and they put him on my chest, that I could finally put the worries of a long pregnancy behind me. Then I looked at him and listened to him and my heart skipped a little beat. Something was not quite right.
Bun was small, and I said as much to the nurses, but they assured me that he was a normal size. Seven pounds and twelve ounces is a good size baby, they told me. What they didn't realize is that it was not his weight I was talking about. To me he looked thin and sort of scrawny. His arms and legs were like sticks, with none of the usual baby chub to round them out. His head looked small (although it sure didn't feel small), and the only way I can describe it is that he looked a little undercooked to me. Of course, I thought that maybe I was just comparing him to Sally who barrelled her way out at over nine pounds.
He was still on my chest, just a minute old, when we all heard the grunting. I watched as he sucked his whole chest in trying to take a breath, and it was then that I was scared. One nurse turned him over and started thumping and massaging his back, while the other nurse whipped the oxygen mask off of my head and started passing it over his face.
They took him over to the warmer to work on him, and across the room I could hear him laboring to breathe. I heard suggestions as to the cause of his distress fly around the room: He might have gotten a gulp of amniotic fluid! It's probably transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN)! Maybe a pneumonia!
All I could see were his little arms and they were turning blue.
They brought him over to my chest for a little skin to skin time while they put the oxygen monitor on him. I noticed that the blueish tint that started in his hands was spreading to the rest of his body. And he was cold. Before they could even tell me, I knew that he was not getting enough oxygen. Babies should not be blue and cold and grunting.
My doctor, one of the sweetest and most cheerful people I know, came to my bedside and touched my arm and said, "Aimee, we have to take him. I want him to have some blood work and some xrays and I want him in the NICU." She wasn't smiling. Even then, my brain was not completely registering what was happening. I knew he needed to go, but I still thought they would be bringing him right back.
About ten minutes later, the neonatologist came down from the NICU to give us the news: No pneumonia on the xray, and no TTN. (Yay!) But he was in respiratory distress (Boo!) due to lung immaturity (What?!) He asked how far along I was, and when I told him I was in my 38th week, he flat out said "No, I don't think so." Bun had some very common markers of being a smidge too early: his obvious Respiratory Distress Syndrome, he had no developed cartilage in his ears, he had no eyelashes, he was still covered in his downy, protective hair shirt, and there was also something about the creases on the soles of his feet. I don't know what the doctor had noticed about his feet, because my brain had checked out. I didn't seem to be absorbing anything except the fact that this doctor was telling me that I most likely would not be going home with my baby.
I spent the next two days pretty evenly divided between crying and walking the long hallway between my room and the NICU. Bun was on CPAP (pressurized oxygen blown into his nose), a feeding tube, TPN (total parenteral nutrition), and several other beeping machines. He was chock full of fluid, and he would foam at the mouth while the nurse suctioned him. Every time he would eat, he would have "residuals," which basically meant that they would have to suction him after he ate and they would get back about half of his food mixed with the mucus and fluid. He was sporting a huge cephalohematoma that he had sustained during birth, and that, in combination with his feeding issues, were causing his bilirubin levels to rise. He got a pair of baby shades, and they put him under the lights to keep him from turning as orange as a pumpkin. (He only made it to a deep squashy yellow.)
No one could hold him, we could only reach into his bed and touch his arm or his leg, and that was the worst part for me. I knew that he would be all right, but not being able to comfort him was terrible. He would give his little grunty cry so I would talk to him, and he would turn his head right toward me. I felt a huge surge of guilt and sadness every time he showed that he recognized me and I could not reach for him.
And then, in the blink of an eye, I had to go home. Physically, I was fine and my hospital time was up. Rob and the kids came to get me, and we all walked hand-in-hand out of my room, past the newborn nursery full of swaddled bundles, past other women being wheeled around with their babies, and out to the car. I felt like an empty shell, and I cried all the way home.
Over the next few days, Rob and I split our time between home and the hospital, and Bun got steadily better. He came off the TPN and the feeding tube, and he then switched to nasal cannula oxygen. After a few tries on room air, he had to go back onto the oxygen for another day, but then he seemed to get with the program. He only ended up spending a week in the NICU.
Now he's almost two months old, and it's like he's always been here and healthy. He has gone from this baby:To this baby:
In sixty days.
And I could just eat him up.