We became members of the NICU family when our 4th little boy was born. Charlie was born on July 22, 2015, 6 weeks early and delivered by emergency c-section. My other 3 pregnancies were not walks in the park but they had not been emergencies.
I had my weekly doctor’s appointment earlier that day. My husband, Will was with me and I am so thankful! The past few weeks of my pregnancy had been a little more stressful. Two weeks before his birth, my amniotic fluid appeared lower than it should be. I was drinking a gallon of water a day those last few weeks. At the appointment, everything looked good, but right before we left the doctor decided to check my fluid levels again via ultrasound. We quickly learned that my fluid was dangerously low and I needed to head straight to the hospital.
I was nervous when we arrived because my doctor informed me that once I got there I wouldn’t be leaving until he was born. We were hopeful I would have a little more time for him to cook but that didn’t happen. After a more intense ultrasound, it was determined that my fluid was too low and I would deliver that day. The doctors believed that Charlie was holding fluid in his chest and they didn’t believe he would be able to cry. He would be whisked away from us as soon as he was out.
I had never had a C-section before let alone an emergency so this was a whole, new experience. There was a peace in the room leading up to the surgery that we all felt. Will and my Mom were able to be there with me. We cried and prayed. And then it was time for our boy to be born. Charlie arrived at 6:35pm about 2 hours after we arrived at the hospital. He weighed 4 lbs. and 3 oz. and was 16.5 inches long. And he CRIED! He was red, mad and crying! I got to see him, which they prepared me that I wouldn’t. Will rushed off with him and our NICU journey began.
The NICU experience is a roller coaster. Your joy filled visit could quickly turn into devastating news. We joined a club that no one wants to enter. It's the NICU club. This club brings heart break and joy. So many Moms have said to me,”Oh my baby was just there a day or 2, I didn’t have the days and weeks that many have.” I quickly remind them that if they graced those doors to see their baby, then they officially joined the club. With this club, you have to fight those motherly instincts and give over all control of your baby. The baby you just grew inside you. You rely solely on those amazing, angels on earth nurses. I could write a book on the nurses. They are your strength. The love and support they give to you and your precious one is something that is directly from God.
The next 20 days were a blur. We learned that the fluid buildup was in his belly not in his chest like the ultrasound suggested. That in itself was our first true blessing. Charlie struggled with trauma from lack of amniotic fluid. He started to swell. It started at his feet and went up his little body.
The first week and a half he was improving little by little each day. It wasn’t huge, but it was progress. He was getting bigger and taking bottles.
Day 9 he was moved over into the progressive side of the unit. My Mom gut sensed something was off. I disregarded it because on the intensive side every nurse cares for one maybe two babies and on the progressive side one nurse may be watching over 4-5 babies. I think the change of more noise and babies everywhere shook me from what we had experienced the week and a half before. I know now that Charlie was getting sick.
On the morning of his 10th day, he turned a sickly gray and was quickly sent back to the intensive side. The next few days were definitely the hardest of my life. Seeing my baby sick and no one really knew what was happening. He endured a heart echo and X-rays. Will and I watched while a brain ultrasound was performed. There were days and moments that we were unsure of Charlie’s future.
I want to say we were strong and fearless in those times, but that would be a lie.
We relied solely on God’s plan for Charlie’s life and for ours. We prayed and prayed for God to be with him and us. With each moment, we felt God there. He met us there every day and every night. He traveled those miles to and fro. He gave us peace and joy when we didn’t know we could have it anymore. God was there. And I know as you read this, he is also there with all those families going through those same unit doors.
We were blessed beyond anything we deserve. At every turn of the road, our journey proved good. My heart broke and still breaks for the families that don’t receive the news we were blessed to hear.
On Day 20, our precious boy came home to his 3 big brothers and our waiting families! It was a day I celebrate every year! A fellow NICU mom shared with me that their birthday is special but their "come home" day is really the day to cerebrate! I couldn’t agree more!!
This road we walked has changed us. Bundles of Hope is a way to continue to show our gratitude to the place that saved our children and to love on the families that are walking this journey, too. Regardless of what news they receive, we hope to lighten their load. We were overwhelmed with so much love and support during Charlie’s stay. Our family, friends, and church were showering us with cards of encouragement and with gift cards for food and gas. We live in Athens and it is close to Huntsville, but it also isn’t just a few miles away. It was 40 minutes to the hospital and 40 minutes home. When we were making those trips back and forth, we were also leaving 3 children at home. When we would leave the hospital to go home to those 3 sweet boys, we were leaving our little fighter there.
Our hearts aren’t meant to be in two places at once.
It was very hard. There were times we would see families have to decide when they could come back to visit their babies in the unit. There were discussions of work and gas money and real life issues. When you are going through this, the money to drive to the hospital or money to eat on the way shouldn’t be a factor. I hope through Bundles of Hope we can continue to help those families without the support of family or church.
And Bundles of Hope is also a way for us to heal. For us to move through those difficult moments in our life and to be thankful for our miracle babies. And God will always be there to provide hope for us and for the NICU!