On Saturday, September 24th, 2005 at 11:22 am my son was born. However, far from being the best day of my life, it turned into one of the scariest. The delivery went pretty easy, just about ten hours. The scary part came when the doctors were doing their post-delivery tests. The APGAR was perfectly normal, but the doctors thought his breathing was in distress. They were going to have to take him away to run more tests. For one brief moment, I held my son before they whisked him away to the NICU.
Scared, tired, and worried, it would be hours before anyone would tell us anything. Two other babies had also been admitted to the NICU within minutes of my son. That information did little to calm our nerves. Finally, after many hours the staff pediatrician came to tell us the news. A tiny air bubble had burst in my son’s lung, most likely from the trauma of his birth. This was causing air to leak out. He would be on pure oxygen for the next 24 hours and then we would see. They told us the medical term was that my son had been born with a pneumothorax, also known better as a collapsed lung.
Since my son was in the NICU, I would have a room to myself. When they moved me from the delivery room to my hospital room I was confronted with baby balloons. However, they were not for me. The nurse assured me that the new proud parents would be leaving within the hour. Still slightly numb to everything I turned on the television to reports of Hurricane Rita and the damage it raged on the Gulf. That was nothing compared to the gurgling of a child not my own. The nurse had spoken the truth. My roommate was discharged with her bundle of joy. A few hours later, thanks to an error on the part of the nurses’ station, they started to prep the room for a new roommate. Thankfully, my husband intervened before anyone could be moved in.
Why are mothers of babies in the NICU not given roommates? Let me describe what happened the next night.
All the scans had come back good, but it appeared that my son was developing jaundice, possibly from being on nothing but oxygen for the past 24 hours. As long as the bilirubin levels stayed low, we would be allowed to leave in the morning. He could even stay in my room with me overnight. At the same time, they moved another NICU mom and her son into my room. Not a problem, I finally had him. I was happy. Happy until around 9pm that night when they tested my son’s bilirubin level again and decided it was too high and he would have to return to the NICU. The worst sound in the world is the cry of another woman’s child when your own son has just been taken away. It was a sound that lasted for most of the night.
That is why NICU moms have no roommates.
They discharged me that next morning. He stayed. The bilirubin levels were dropping, but slowly. After ten days of back and forth travel from home to the hospital, of constantly scrubbing and donning the sterile yellow smocks, the doctors let him come home. He was discharged with the caution to follow up with his pediatrician and have more blood work done. Thankfully, he did not have to return.
Today he is a happy, healthy teenager. It is hard to believe this was fourteen years ago. Though, the happiest day of my life is not the one when my son was born. The happiest day of my life is the day I got to take him home.