...often go awry. Isn't that the truth? Here is the second half of Michael Ryan's birth story, and how I've had to deal with many unexpected events this week.
After Michael was born our whole family met us in the recovery room. It was beautiful to see the joy on our sisters' and parents' faces. Michael's godmother was even able to meet him, only 5 hours before she had to hop on plane for California. I spent our first night together just staring at his precious little face and watching the sunlight gradually brighten my hospital room. I just couldn't believe he was really mine... And then our families returned on Saturday to hold and cuddle and photograph the adorable new member of our clan.
I noticed throughout the day that my poor little man was having a hard time breastfeeding because he couldn't breathe very well. His little nose was so congested. After awhile we called the nurses to see if they could help him. They tried, but it didn't seem to make a difference. And soon Michael was getting fussy and starting to cough from his congestion. When the nurses returned the 2nd time they brought NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) with them. I was so tired and out of it that when NICU told me to kiss my little boy good-bye I didn't understand why - wasn't he only going to be gone for an hour or so?
About half and hour later I realized that Michael wasn't coming back anytime soon. And so we embarked on four very long and stressful days, waiting for our son to be released from NICU. Saturday night I was an emotional wreak. The c-section had already interfered with my bonding to Michael Ryan, I was beyond exhausted from zero sleep the night before, and now the NICU was holding by baby hostage from me. All I could do was cry myself to sleep all night long.
I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday racing back and forth the the NICU to breastfeed Michael Ryan whenever he started to fuss. It was a long process just to get down there. First I had to take care of myself and make sure I'd received pain meds before I left. Then I would hole up in my corner of the NICU with Michael and try not to tangle myself in his IV and monitor cords while attempting to learn how to breastfeed him. I quickly became friends with the nurses and lactation consultants during our stay!
It was so gut-wrenching to go into the NICU. I missed my son, of course, but at least he was full-term and fairly healthy. The doctors wanted to moniter him because they thought he swallowed meconium and they wanted to make sure he was getting enough nutrition with his late start to breastfeeding. All the other babies though... They were so tiny, smaller than my hand. And I would see their mothers come in, day after day, with no hope of going home anytime soon. At least I could hope to be home for Christmas, only a few days away. I spent a lot of time praying for those other babies, as I held my son who was 2 or 3 times bigger than each of them.
It was a rough four days for Ryan and I. At first we thought we might get to go home on Monday or Tuesday. Then it was Tuesday or Wednesday. Each time the doctor came to update us it seemed like Michael's release date was pushed back. And we just couldn't understand why. All I wanted was to take my little boy home for Christmas!
The other challenge with the NICU was how extremely crowded they became while we were there. It seemed like for each baby that was sent home, 2 or 3 new ones would arrive in his place. Michael Ryan was definitely taking up space that NICU needed for the really sick babies. Ryan and I watched as the rooms became more and more full with little preemie babies.
Finally, on Tuesday night I was officially released from the hospital. Because Michael wouldn't be allowed go home until Wednesday, Christmas Eve, at the very earliest, Ryan and I opted to stay in a "parent room" free of charge at the hospital. We packed up all our bags and moved into another smaller hospital room down the hall. When we went to breastfeed him that evening we couldn't find our little guy in his usual spot! He had been moved to a tiny edge of the room, a little peninsula in the paths of the nurses. The NICU was so crowded that we couldn't even find a spot to nurse our little boy. A nurse had to bring him down to our parent room to nurse and then we had to call for them to take him back when he was finished. It was insane! Why couldn't we just go home?
That's when the NICU had the idea to move us into one of the internal parent rooms, right off the NICU corridor. They would let us sleep in the room with Michael Ryan as long as he was on a monitor. It was like a halfway deal - we did the work of the nurses to free them up, and in return we were "allowed" to sleep in the same room as our son. So Ryan and I packed our bags again and waited to be called down the NICU room. I truly felt like we were Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus with no room for us in the inn.
Sleeping in the tiny parent room (filled to the brim with a pull-out couch, recliner, and Michael's rolling crib) was less than comfortable, to say the least. And the monitor would go off in these spastic binges of noise that we weren't able to quiet. In addition, Michael was beginning to jaundice and the doctors were extremely hesitant to release him if his bilireuben levels continued to rise. I wasn't sure if I would be able to survive one more night of sleepless chaos and I was quickly nearing my breaking point.
At last the dawn broke (not that we could tell, as the NICU parent room had no windows) and the doctor release Michael to our care on one condition - we had to take him to a medpoint on Christmas day to do another bilireuben level check. Anything, we told him, would be worth getting to leave this hosptial on Christmas Eve! The last hour was another agonizing wait for the necessary paperwork and suddenly we were in our own car, free to go whereever we pleased. It was like walking out of a dark movie theater into the afternoon sunlight, disorienting but very pleasing nonetheless.
Our little family spent a wonderful Christmas Eve at home with my parents and sisters. I was still exhausted, but so glad to be on my own turf. After 5 nights in the hospital, I finally slept soundly in my own bed, with Michael Ryan cuddled next to me. We woke up the next morning and even made it to Christmas Day mass. I spent a beautiful 24 hours with my family, sans hospitals.
Then we had to go back.
Another day, another challenge. The medpoint where we stopped at to get the bilireuben test for Michael was unable to accommodate us because they were all out of small vials! So off we went to the ER and back to the hospital I just left the day before. We spent over an hour in an empty waiting room before we discovered that someone had dropped the ball and forgotten about us. So, it took us about 3 hours to receive a 1o minute test - and I was again frustrated and exhausted from medical mayhem.
Our Christmas day ended on a more pleasant note with another family gathering at my in-laws' home. All in all, I received the best gift I could ever want - our firstborn son in my arms and at home on Christmas day. He is so perfect and beautiful and absolutely wonderful to behold. I am in awe at God's gift to us, a tiny and trusting little eternal soul to care for the rest of our lives. Even though my hopes for Michael Ryan's birth were different than the outcome, I know that God's plans are always better than my own. Perhaps it is a grace that my plans go awry - so that the greater glory of God will be known.
To read Part I of Michael's birth story, go here.