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.