Part one here.
Back to the story, when things actually start happening.
Fortunately, the anesthesiologist was back in my room in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, this guy FORGOT HIS COMPUTER PASSWORD, and couldn’t log in to do what he needed to do to get me my shot. It was a huge fiasco, and it took every fiber of my being not to throw something or scream at him. I ended up screaming at the nurse later (I don’t remember this at all, Will told me about it) but managed to keep my cool with this guy. Finally, around what I guess was 4:30am or 5:00am, I had my epidural. Getting the actual shot was NOTHING pain wise compared to the contractions, and I don’t even think I felt it.
My contractions should have been a little shorter and less intense pretty quickly, but that was not the case. At all. I could still feel all of them and I really felt like not only was I going to lose it, but there was no way my baby could be doing well if I was feeling this horrible. I am sure this was a totally irrational thought, but it’s how I felt in the moment. I basically just totally lost my cool.
The nurse called the anesthesiologist back pretty quickly to up my dosage of pain meds, and I could tell he was shocked I was still in so much pain. Then I noticed relief was only in one side of my body, so he upped the dose again and had me lay on my side. At this point, it was maybe 5 something in the morning. Just 2-3 hours into my labor. The anesthesiologist suggest the nurse check my cervix again, because the contractions I was experiencing were in no way those of a woman that was only 3 centimeters dilated. She seemed skeptical, but did it anyway. Or maybe my OB came and did it? I really have no clue who was where at this point. I was just savoring the glory that is the epidural. Anyway, whoever checked me discovered I was at 8 centimeters! EIGHT! Just 2-3 hours in. I couldn’t believe it.
Things really become blurry for me here. I remember telling Will to call our parents to come to the hospital. I remember freaking out a bit because I thought I’d have the entire day to labor, mentally prepare, and take pictures with Will of me in my hospital gown for us to save forever- but here I was about to have this baby and the sun wasn’t even up.
Our parents were there within 20-30 minutes. In that time they’d drained my bladder and I think gave me more fluids. Will went out to update our parents while we waited for my OB to get to the room. I know it was daylight at this point, and the sun is rising here about 7:15am, so we will say it was that time. I assumed there’d be a bit of a break before I pushed considering I JUST started feeling relief from contractions, and was so numb and exhausted there was no way I could push. I was wrong. I literally had to call Will’s Dad (Will’s phone was in the room with me) and talk to my father in law while I was on the delivery table, because we needed Will to come back to the room so I could push!
He was back in a flash and they had me do a practice push. It was a good one, so we got down to business. The pushing was weird, but painless. I couldn’t feel a thing, so I have no idea how I managed to actually do it, but I did. I asked Will on my second contraction pushing what was happening, and he said he could see her head! That quickly! I laughed and talked the whole time. I pushed for 3 contractions, and bam, there she was. Our perfect, beautiful, baby girl was born. I somehow felt the bones of her shoulders coming out, but it didn’t hurt. Will cut the cord and they handed her to me for a few seconds before getting her cleaned up. It was amazing and indescribable.
The feeling of 150 billion percent joy I was feeling was pretty short lived. When I first saw Norah, I thought she looked too blue, and she wasn’t crying. Turns out both of these things are normal, but since I thought they weren’t, I was watching the nurses handle her very closely. I couldn’t even turn around and look at Will. I just knew something was wrong.
The nurses did their normal checks of the baby and exchanged a few words. Some I could hear, some I couldn’t. I knew it wasn’t good though because they weren’t looking at me and wouldn’t tell me what was happening. One of them made a phone call and another, more senior looking nurse came in and began checking over Norah. I don’t remember which one of them told us this or how they said it, but they told us that her heart rate was extremely high. In the 270 range, when normal would have been something in the low to mid 100’s. They didn’t know why or what the cause was, but they’d be taking her to the NICU immediately. They suspected maybe it was from how quickly my labor progressed, but no one knew for sure.
I knew a lot of babies went to the NICU for a quick check after being born as a precaution, so at first, I wasn’t too out of my mind worried. I sobbed anyway. I wanted my baby. I wanted to do skin to skin and hold her and look at her little face. I was emotional anyway from you know, having a baby, so I just sobbed. Will went with Norah to the NICU. I cried for my Mom.
At some point I think I tried to get off the table and say I wanted to go to my baby. This is while the OB is still delivering my placenta and stitching me up. I didn’t even know he was still in the room. All I could think about was her.
I think it was just when my Mom got to the room that a nurse came back to give me an update. The NICU doctors had tried to lower her heart rate by covering her face with ice packs. I had no idea this was a medical treatment, but what do I know? Anyhow, they tried it twice and it didn’t work. There is an excellent Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati (about 20 minutes from where we were), and the doctors at my hospital were communicating with the cardiologist there on what to do. This is when I started to get really, seriously scared.
The nurse then let us know that an ambulance was on the way to take Norah to the Cardiac ICU at Children’s to see what was wrong with her heart and get the rate down. She said this was best since they were calling there to get information on every treatment decision anyway.
This is when I lost it. It was terrible. I started sobbing and was hysterical. They became worried about my health at this time and took my blood pressure, which was of course through the roof. The nurses tried to assure me everything was OK, and encouraged me to remain calm because if my blood pressure was too high they wouldn’t let me leave my room to say goodbye to her, and it could prevent me from being discharged as soon as possible. It was hard to stop crying and moaning and having what I can only describe as a complete emotional breakdown, but those warnings shut me up pretty quickly.
Maybe 30 minutes (I think?) went by before I got to see Will. They sent him back and he gave me the same update the nurse had. I don’t remember who told me first, but turns out on a third try of the ice method, her heart rate slowed. It’d been high for an extended period of time though, so she still had to go to Children’s. I was happy no medication was necessary, but still scared to death.
The nurses wheeled me back to the NICU to hold my baby before the ambulance got there. We passed our families and some other patients on the way and I couldn’t look at anyone. I was a fraction of a second from losing it again and I really didn’t want them to not let me hold her.
When I got to her NICU room everyone cleared out except for one nurse and I think Will? They handed her to me and I couldn’t believe how perfect she was, or how sad it was that she was hooked up to so many wires and machines. I knew I only had about 15 minutes, so I tried to just stare at her and smell her. She looked at me and gave me a sort of smile, which started my tears (calm ones this time at least) all over again. I knew our 4 family members that were there were also worried, so I gave up a few minutes so each of them could come see her for a second. Then the ambulance crew arrived. They were extremely nice, reassuring, and let me have a few extra minutes with her, even though I am sure they were on a tight schedule.
I had to give her to them, and they put her in one of those infant incubator looking bed type things that was attached to the top of a stretcher. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and the last thing I expected to be dealing with an hour after I gave birth.
Will rode with Norah in the ambulance to Children’s, so we said our goodbyes. I was moved to a recovery room. My mom and sister stayed with me, and Will’s parents headed to Children’s to be with him and the baby.
In my recovery room, I was still barley holding it together. My Mom wanted me to take a sleeping pill since I’d been up for well over 24 hours at this point and couldn’t manage to calm down, but the nurse advised against it since I would be trying to breastfeed.
Luckily, physically, I was OK. I had only had a very minor tear, and the bleeding wasn’t too bad, so most of my suffering was mental. I sent my family home to get some rest themselves because truthfully I just wanted to be alone. Each nurse and PCT and doctor that came and went made it harder and harder. Some seemed to know my situation and were sympathetic, offering kind words and prayers, which broke my heart. Some seemed to have no clue why I was in recovery with no baby and didn’t even acknowledge that I was alone in the room with no child and no husband, and that seemed so cold and hurtful to me.
Will sent me pictures and updates as often as he could. I have never been more thankful or sure of my love for my husband as I was on these days. Neither of us were prepared for this, and I had taken the lead on everything related to our hospital stay and what we wanted for the baby. He really stepped up as support for Norah, being her advocate since I wasn’t there to make the feeding and other decisions. He had to make all of her medical decisions that day without me, and watch all of the procedures performed on our tiny baby. All while knowing I was across town alone and devastated. Of course being with Norah was better than being alone in a hospital room, but both were hard roads to walk.
We found out that her rapid heart rate was due to a her having a condition called Supraventricular Tachycardia. She would probably be totally fine, but would remain at Children’s at least overnight for monitoring. I spent the day texting friends and family and just thinking about my baby. One really nice nurse had given me the hat she wore when she was first born, and I hung on to that thing for dear life. I finally managed to fall asleep around midnight.
The next morning I was up bright and early, determined to be discharged. My Mom and sister brought Panera for breakfast, and following my sister in laws suggestion, I showered, put on make up, and packed up all my things. I wanted to look as cheery and normal as possible so they’d know I was ready to leave. No one could guarantee me when the OB would make their rounds, so I prayed it’d be first thing. At about 10am I got my wish and a resident from my practice came to see me. She said she assumed I was ready to go be with my baby (DUH!!), and approved my discharge. I was ecstatic.
Within a couple of hours we were packed up and on our way to be with Norah. I have never been so happy to see that part of town in my life. Children’s is just down the street from UC, and I sent Will a message that Norah just must have not been able to wait to get down to campus. Future Bearcat on our hands!
I had my mom drop me off at the entrance and Will’s dad wheeled me up to the Cardiac ICU. I was in our room within minutes, and finally got to hold my baby. Will had already given her her first bath, changed her first diaper, fed her her first bottle. It was hard for me to accept these things, but I was just happy to finally be with my family.
A few hours after my arrival we were moved to a Cardiac Step Down unit. I think I left that room 3 times in the two days, and only left the unit area once, never stepping outside the hospital. In that room very few minutes of sleep were had. Lots of tears were shed. I cried over breastfeeding. Over the shots and tests and needle pricks that I had to watch Norah endure at all hours of the day and night. I cried because I’d missed over a day of her life. I cried because she had a heart condition. And I cried because we were going to leave Children’s with a happy baby, and I knew so many families there wouldn’t be so lucky. About a day and a half later we were discharged.
And that is our story. I will post more one day about her condition and what it means for our family. For now, we're just happy to be home!