It was the early morning hours, not long before shift change, when a nurse entered my room, pulled a chair up to my bedside and said these eleven words that would cause my whole world to shift. “Mrs. Armstrong, I need to talk to you about your baby.”
The night before at 7:54pm, we had welcomed the sweetest 8lb. 2 oz. baby boy into our lives. I had a near perfect pregnancy, no complications, and the delivery, while long, was routine. My baby’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9. He was big and healthy. My husband and I cuddled and snuggled him until around midnight when we finally let the nursery staff take over so I could get some much-needed rest.
I only remember words and phrases of what that sweet nurse, who had the sad task of delivering bad news to us, said after those first eleven words. I remember hearing respiratory distress, oxygen, infection, IV, NICU, neonatologists, and her apologies. While we had been sleeping, our sweet baby had begun to struggle to breathe and had spiked a fever. We had to wait until the doctors made their rounds, but what we learned from her was that we had a very, very sick baby who was fighting for his life.
The doctor didn’t bring any good news when he came by either. He was very matter of fact with us. Our baby had pneumonia and sepsis, meaning the infection had already entered his bloodstream. The next 48 hours would determine if he lived or died. He was on 100% oxygen and would need a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. If he lived, he could possibly have cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and developmental delays.
Our hearts were broken and our minds tried to keep up with all the details. Through it all, the nurses working in the unit carried us. They cared for and about our little guy. They encouraged us and supported us. They celebrated his good moments and worried with us over the scary ones. When his little arms and legs could no longer support the IVs, they explained that the best place for the IV was his head. The next time we saw him, there was a “My First Haircut” certificate next to his bed with the hair they had shaved so they could place the IV.
The days of a NICU stay are hard. Leaving the hospital when your baby stays behind is one of the saddest days. You leave a piece of your heart inside each day. Watching an innocent baby fight to live will nearly break you. You bond with your baby while nurses do their jobs 2 feet away, and you say goodnight to your baby when all you want to do is sit by their crib and watch them sleep.
Over the next couple of weeks, our baby would endure invasive tests on his little body. Brain scans, lumbar punctures, central lines, and countless IVs. His oxygen levels would fluctuate. There was talk of sending him to a bigger hospital in case he needed to be placed on ECMO. And then one day after many prayers and excellent care from the NICU staff, he turned the corner. They began to wean him off his oxygen. One IV was removed, and then only the 2nd IV port remained but the tubes were gone. We got to hold him like a normal baby! After 18 long days, we were finally able to take our baby home.
The nurses, doctors and that special place known as the NICU had saved our precious baby boy’s life.
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