What Really Happened To Mighty Miles: Our NICU Nightmare Part 3.

I think some of the scariest words you can hear from a doctor are “I don’t know what’s wrong.” You don’t know?? How can you not know? Is it a new one for the books? Is it something doctors before you have never seen or treated?? You don’t know?! You have to know!

In the first few days after the delivery, I heard a lot of I don’t know’s.

After they took the baby out of our recovery room, a nurse came back with some vague information. She asked if my OBGYN had preformed a swab test of any kind in my last few visits. Since I saw my OBGYN two times a week in the last two months of my pregnancy, I could recall with some certainty that I had been swabbed at about 35 weeks as well as early on in the pregnancy. She made some notes in my chart and then informed me that a doctor from the NICU was on her way to speak with me.

Truly, and I mean this when I say it, I did not know what a NICU was. Of course I knew there was a place where they took sick babies and preemies, but I didn’t know that was the acronym.”Is that the place where my baby is now?” I asked her, confused by a combination of the situation and the drugs from the delivery still floating around in my head. “Yes.” She replied. “They are trying to figure out what’s wrong with him.”

“Is it serious?” I asked the doctor as she entered the room. At this time, I was all alone my room. My mom had went to my brother’s hotel to take a shower and get a quick nap. Chris went home to let the dogs out. Jamie left to put the kids to sleep. How were they to know the shit storm blowing in only an hour or so after they left?

“We are not too sure. I will say that he is having some serious respiratory issues and the cause is unknown to us at this time. Your records indicate that you were swabbed at 35 weeks and the results from your test were negative. So now we are trying to figure out what, if any, bacteria or virus may be causing him to be ill.” The doctor spoke to me in that intelligent, compassionate voice any good doctor masters in order to deliver terrifying news. She was a thick Indian woman standing at my bedside holding and petting my hand. I remember thinking this couldn’t be good, a doctor I’ve never met holding my hand. She informed me that Miles would stay of the 5th floor for now, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or the NICU, as I now knew it. They would keep me informed of any changes and soon I could come up to see him. Get some rest, they all said. Yeah right.

I texted my mother and husband.

GET HERE NOW. BABY IN TROUBLE.

I lay in my bed, googling, waiting for my people to come back. Googling alone in a dark hospital room should be against policy.

Swab test during pregnancy.

 

What can Group B Strep do to a baby?

A knock on the door pulled me out of the terrifying google hole I was tumbling down. I was hopeful it was a relative, a friendly face but to no avail. Two men came in this time.

“Hello, I am Dr, P, “he said, shaking my hand and then he gestured toward his companion. “This is Mr. R, a Chaplain here at the hospital. We need to speak with you about the baby.” Chaplain. My stomach dropped. Mom, Chris…where are you?

Dr. P was taking over Miles as a patient in the NICU. Respiratory issues in babies were his field. He came to give me an update of the situation and answer any medical questions I may have at the time. Mr. R, the Chaplain, there for my tears and spiritual needs.

A foggy recollection of the doctors’ update went something like…body shutting down, blood gases are bad, respiratory failure, possibly entering sepsis and septic shock, heart rate slowing, we put him under for now…

Then came those I don’t know’s.

He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t know the cause. He didn’t know how to treat it. He didn’t know if the baby would make it.

All those cliches of room spinning, heart dropping, breathing stopping, world’s colliding, and trying to wake up, hoping this was just a bad dream, began to happen to me. If you have never experienced it, lucky you. But it’s real. He didn’t know if the baby would make it. All my planning, preparations, and my cocky “pregnancy is easy” attitude…I had never stopped for one moment to even entertain the possibility that I may lose this child. The flood of emotions was all of the place; fear, frustration, anger, confusion, despair, sadness.

“So what exactly is going on?” My mother asked as she hugged me and apologized for not being there the last couple of hours. The same question from all my family as they poured back into the room. I answered what I could through my tears but for the most part, I too, just didn’t know.

 

 

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What Really Happened To Mighty Miles: Our NICU Nightmare Part 2.

During my pregnancy, I made a promise to myself (and childless friends and family) that I would make every effort to spare the world “the labor story”. Everyone’s is different, everyone’s is hard. I know for the most part, mine was nothing that many, MANY women before me hadn’t gone through. However, ours may have had a slightly different ending.

On that Thursday night, after dinner and the arrival of a few friends and family at the hospital, I received medication that would begin to thin my cervix and the following morning the doctor would begin the Pitocin and break my water…just regular inducing procedures. All went as planned. Pitocin began at 6:00 am and Dr. B broke my water at about 8:00 am. Ready or not, this was happening.

I spent the day, Friday, August 18th, in labor . I received an epidural sometime around noon. With no baby and approaching a dilation of nine centimeters at 7:00 pm, Dr. B informed me that her shift was over and hospital policy was that she had to go home. Her colleague, Dr. S, would be taking over and would be coming by soon to discuss the possibility of going in to to get the baby via c-section if progress continued to be fruitless. It was scary, but I knew these things happened and are always a possibility. I was tired and shaking from the trauma my body could feel. My breathing was labored. But still, at this point, I really wasn’t too worried about myself or my baby. I knew he was coming somehow and somehow I was going to get him here.

At 9:30 pm, 27 hours in, something wasn’t right. It was obvious the baby wasn’t going to come this way, so at 10:30 pm, we moved to the operating room for an emergency c-section. My body was shutting down. My labored breathing worsened. My sweet husband asked if my mother could go in with me instead of him. I understood. He had spent the day pretty freaked out. My mother on the other hand, four children and ten grandchildren under her belt, was an old pro and could provide some solid support. So I kissed him goodbye and my mom scrubbed in for the OR. Here is where things get very foggy and a little scary for me.

With an oxygen mask on my face to help with my panic induced hyperventilation, I remember the curtain going up and my mom beside me. Then nothing. Blackness. I was out. Passed out or put under by the doctor, I don’t know. How long, I don’t know. All I know is that when I woke up, I was a momma. Just like that. Life is weird.

“Is that my baby?” I asked my mother, standing beside me as I came to. She was cradling a tiny creature with a head full of jet black hair in her arms. “This is your baby and Mimi got to hold him first!” she teased, gazing adoringly at grandchild number eleven. She brought him close to my face for a moment before I began to hyperventilate and pass out a second time. But it was enough time for me to see how beautiful his face was. A sweet little mouse face. Nine long months I had waited to meet him. Thirty-seven long years. Miles Christopher Cuellar was here. 5 lbs, 16 ounces.

My cloudy recollection of the next two hours doesn’t make for the smoothest story, unfortunately. The hour or so after any operation is a lot of room hopping ,waiting for follow ups, and dealing with different health care people who you aren’t quite sure who they are, asking you questions and poking on you. I am sad that I don’t recall with clarity those first few hours that I had with my sweet, new baby. Especially because that precious time I had with him, holding him, counting his fingers and toes, gazing at his sweet face with his proud dad on the bed beside me, came to an end so very soon.

Back in recovery, I can recall a few more cloudy details but what I mostly remember is a feeling. It was a strange feeling. I know now that it was mother’s intuition, but at the time I thought I was just being crazy. Looking at his face, in flashbacks or at the few pics that we took in those first couple of hours, you can tell, or see, or feel, that something just wasn’t right. He looked sad and unhappy. He was frowning. He looked like he was in pain. He was grunting a low hum-like noise. I thought it may be normal newborn stuff because what the hell did I know? And since no one had said anything about it I tried to shrug it off and rest easy. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law, Jamie, sensed something too.

“Take a nap, Mandy. I’ll watch him for a bit. You need some rest.” She said, cooing and lovingly jostling Miles around the room. I fought it a bit, but eventually got a little nap in. When I awoke, Jamie had an alarmed look on her face. “Mandy, I think he may be having trouble breathing.” she said, still bouncing him about, trying to get him to calm down. That hum-like grunt had gotten even louder as I slept. Right then, a nurse came in. Jamie relayed her concerns to her.

“Hmmm, you may be right.” The nurse said, listening to his chest with a stethoscope, a bit of a concerned look on her own face as well. “Let’s take him for a while and have a look at him.” She said, scooping him up and placing him back in his little baby cart. “Don’t worry, mom. I’m sure he’s fine, but we just need to be sure.” She trailed off as she wheeled my tiny, helpless, perfectly precious baby boy out the door.

But he wasn’t fine.

That was the last time I would see my baby in labor and delivery on the fourth floor of the hospital, the last time I would see him awake for weeks and the last time I would hold him, free of cords, wires and needles, for 67 long days. The click of that heavy recovery room door closing was the last of normal. This was only the beginning of our NICU nightmare.

What Really Happened To Mighty Miles: Our NICU Nightmare Part 1.

A big take away from my 37 years on earth has been learning to know my body. I have learned how to shrink it, how to enlarge it, the exercise it likes, the amount of alcohol it can handle (for the most part), the clothes it can wear to not look gigantic, when it needs repairs, etc. So I don’t know why that day, when my very young doctor told me to go upstairs and have my baby at 37.4 weeks, I did not listen to my body. If I had, it would have told me it was not ready, that my baby was not ready and that my elevated blood pressure that day could have easily been cured with a little rest. My body was not ready to have this baby and I knew it.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017 I spent the day moving furniture around in my office and classroom for the upcoming school year. The plan was to induce that following week, stay at home for 8 weeks with our new love nugget, then return to my multiple duties as an educator and a new working mom. Easy enough (yeah right). That afternoon, I left early in the 100 degree heat to head to my last prenatal appointment and I was never seen again. Just kidding. It felt ominous so I went with it. Life was never the same though, that’s for sure.

I had become fairly numb to my doctor and her staff’s overblown scare tactics. They  usually left me leaving their office in tears. I had learned quickly that doctors are apparently supposed to scare the shit out you with the worst case scenario at any possible turn. Why do they do this? Covering bases for the law suits? Please stop. Despite what any test or blood work showed, I only had moderately elevated blood sugars (gestational diabetes) that was treated with diet and low dose medication but other than that I truly felt amazing throughout my entire pregnancy! I went cave swimming in Mexico at 7 months! I nested! I worked out! So many woman had it much worse.  I did not take it for granted.

She said “I don’t like that blood pressure, Mandy.” I can recall that it was higher than usual, but not crazy high…somewhere along the lines of 139/88. She continued, “You are older, heavier than average, and I don’t want to risk it.  How do you feel about having this baby tomorrow and getting started tonight?” Tonight? What the hell was she talking about? I had a presentation to give at work the next day! A yoga class on Saturday with my girlfriends! My going home outfit was still in transit from Amazon! Aside from all these little life things, I thought for sure I’d feel…something…a drop, some pressure, that motherly instinct kicking in…something.  But I didn’t.  I just felt like a busy teacher. A bitchy pregnant lady. But a mom in less than 24 hours? I wasn’t ready.

I know I’m not the first soon to be mom to feel not ready because who ever really is? It was mostly my body that didn’t feel ready. It felt content. It felt like things were cooking just fine.  The baby’s vitals were great. He was in the perfect position. His estimated weight was 6 lbs. His profile was cute as a button (I was worried about his nose, though.) “Can we not wait? Is it really dangerous?” I asked Dr. B. With no medical training, we are at the mercy of their every word.  Say the word, say that my baby is in danger and I will be upstairs, legs in stirrups pushing him out in five minutes. After a thought and a sigh, she replied, “I think that it could be dangerous if we waited. Lets go have this baby, okay?”.  And with that, a few panicked phone calls to my husband and mother, and an “out sick” text to my boss, I was checked in on the fourth floor, labor and delivery, within the hour.  I sat on the edge of the hospital bed, my ass freezing in the backless gown, waiting for my baby squad and a last meal of Whataburger cheeseburger and shake, terrified and most definitely not ready.

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