“Home, sweet home” never had such powerful meaning for me until taking our London Blu home after what felt like the longest week of our lives in the NICU. As we soak in a ton of snuggles all together as a family of four, it truly is sweet to be home with both our girls and getting settled into our new normal.
I’ll start at the beginning of Lo’s birth story… I had a really hard time deciding whether I wanted a scheduled c-section for her arrival or to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). I always thought maybe I missed out on a true birth experience by having to have a c-section with Avalon, but mostly out of fear, I decided on a c-section again. But I wanted to ensure to try to make it feel more like a delivery than surgery – so I started seeing this term come up in my google searches – a “Gentle C-Section.” My doctor always laughs a little when I use the term, “gentle c-section” – because she says she never did “rough” c-sections to begin with! But this is a new term that’s floating around out there so that moms who have c-sections can have a more birth-like experience even though they are going through surgery. It’s also called a “Family Centered” c-section sometimes.
My “Gentle” C-Section
Upon checking into the hospital – I was given a sterile tube top to wear during surgery so skin-to-skin can happen right there in the operating room. They just put baby right into your tube top to keep them warm. I was stoked about this – I dreamed of the day I could hold my baby right from the womb to skin-to-skin! And you can choose either a clear drape or just have them drop the drape at time of delivery so you can see your baby coming out. I decided on just dropping the drape because I wasn’t 100% about using a clear drape and being able to see everything the whole time and how I might react to that. And then they keep the whole family together the whole time now – no separating of the mom/baby & dad or support person! (As long as everyone is healthy of course) In the past, they whisk baby and dad away while they finish surgery with mom. So I was so glad we got to stay together this time. They also do delayed cord clamping as standard practice now. So everyone knew my wants and we were ready for surgery.
I have been seeing my OB for about 15 years – and she unfortunately didn’t deliver Avalon because, of course, Av came early during the week of Thanksgiving while my doctor was out of town. So we were very excited about the possibility of her for sure delivering this baby!!! After having her take care of me for SUCH a long time, I really wanted her to be the one – so I’m so thankful it worked out that she was. I have to say – my birth experience was awesome and surgery was actually FUN! Isn’t that weird? We were all joking around, I was calm as can be after my spinal. (A nervous wreck before that though) – and we were all ready to meet this baby girl. I saw the moment my baby girl was born, I got skin to skin and we all stayed together! It was perfect!
During skin to skin, London started to turn a bit purple so they took her from me….but kept her within my view just a few feet away and started giving her a little oxygen, her color would get back to a healthy pink and they would give her back to me — but this happened a few times – and each time the nurses got more and more concerned. But, I was thankful we were still all together while they were “putting me back together” and then we all left the OR and they continued to give her oxygen support. They thought she must just have some extra amniotic fluid in her lungs – which is common for c-section babies because they don’t get that extra squeeze of going through the vaginal canal. So that’s what they thought they were dealing with because she’s a full term, healthy baby. But soon enough, we realized it was a bit more serious and within a few minutes, she had more and more equipment, wires and medical supplies being attached to her. We could barely see her face anymore by the time they were admitting her to the NICU.
I had to stay in surgery recovery for 2 hours – so I was by myself recovering from my c-section. We were given the choice of Casey to stay with me or the baby – and of course I sent him to be with baby girl every step of the way. After the standard 2 hours in recovery, I got moved to my room – but they rolled me by the NICU area to see London, which I was so grateful for. I got to hold her hand from afar and the tears were just streaming down my face. I was in shock, scared sh**less, unsure of what this all meant and praying my heart out. It was so hard to be separated from her – I felt like my heart was being torn out of my body.
I was wheeled to my room and of course also had to be taken care of post surgery…but as soon as I was able, I went to see London. Nothing to get you up and standing after a major surgery like having your baby in the NICU! They actually say NICU moms heal much faster because they are so focused on their struggling little babe. At first, the staff still thought she might only be in the NICU for 24 – 48 hours or so – just until she could work out that extra fluid in her lungs. Well, 24 hours came and went…48 hours came and went. London was not getting better and was actually doing worse! Meanwhile she became jaundice as well (which we were used to as we experienced that with Avalon – so we knew that treatment process and exactly how it would go.) But to know her lungs were not functioning was really scary to us. To see your brand new baby struggle for breath is terrifying.
We felt so helpless not being able to hold and comfort our baby. And we barely knew what she looked like besides the few minutes we saw of her right after being born. I wasn’t even sure of her hair color and I was so afraid she would feel abandoned. We were both a wreck for the days following her birth.
They did a few x-rays on London and the latter x-ray showed that her lungs were not yet developed like they should have been for a full term baby – which happens in less than 3% of babies. So they recommended her to be intubated and have surfactant injected into her lungs. (Normally babies produce their own surfactant which prevents the lungs from collapsing – London didn’t have this). This process sounded so scary to me. They would have to sedate her for this procedure as it’s pretty invasive, but it could be just what she needs to turn the corner. They assured us the risks were minimal and that the Nurse Practitioner working that day is a pro at this particular procedure. I’ll never forget the doctor saying what all the risks were, but then followed it by saying – “…but these things don’t happen when Erica is the one doing it.”
As a parent, when given choices about the health of your newborn baby (or any age baby for that matter), it’s so hard to know what the right decision is. Casey and I decided that this was something we needed to try because without this – we weren’t sure when or even if she would eventually produce her own surfactant to prevent her lungs from collapsing. And luckily, a day or so after this procedure, we started to see progress….and then a few days later, fast progress!
The NICU feels like such an amazing place because you know your little babe is getting the best care possible, but it’s also a sad place because it’s just sad. I was a wreck the whole time. You’re scared, you’re unsure of what the next hour holds, you’re emotionally exhausted — likely physically exhausted from your own recovery – for me it was the c-section. You celebrate the wins, but then the next hour, bad news may come in. It’s an emotional roller coaster filled with sleepless days and nights, LOTS and LOTS of tears, guilt for not being there for your other baby — I had tremendous guilt about not spending time with Avalon for days on end — and so many other feelings all mixed up into big ball of emotion on the brink of a breakdown at any given moment.
The silver lining for me is feeling the love & support from family, friends and people I’ve never even met. That part was truly humbling. Hearing other mom’s NICU stories knowing I wasn’t alone meant the world to me. Knowing people were praying for London from all over the world blew me away. People offering to help with Avalon, bring food, or even just send a DM or text sending love – all of it meant SO very much to me.
Now we are home and London still has to be on oxygen – but she is HOME! Home, sweet home!
Avalon meeting London for the first time – oh my heart!