With September being NICU Awareness month, I wanted to share my story as a means to offer hope to many families who encounter similar situations.
I should have known that Cohen wasn’t going to make entering this world easy. From the moment he was conceived he started to show his true colors. Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I had two negative pregnancy tests. But something didn’t feel right. I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to get a blood test only to confirm I indeed was pregnant after a year of trying. Then, as if that debacle wasn’t enough, the kid decided he was going to make us wait not just 40 weeks, but an additional three days as well. Again, another sign that this child was destined to test waters and push boundaries throughout his lifetime. Finally labor started and it was time to meet our baby boy. I should have known then that it wasn’t going to go as expected.
Early labor was very uneventful. I dilated at a normal rate and was elated to get that epidural. After less than six hours of contractions, it was time to start pushing. But Cohen was apparently too comfortable because he didn’t want to move. I pushed for what felt like an eternity and then noticed the doctor and nurse looking at the monitor. Cohen’s heart rate was dropping. As they flipped me to my side and gave me oxygen in an effort to get his heart rate to return to normal, I was asked to sign emergency c-section papers. I didn’t think twice about it, signed, and continued my pushing/flipping routine. I remember hearing the monitors continuously beeping, and not the normal beeping you hear during labor. At the time I didn’t know what was going on, but looking back the situation I understand that Cohen was in distress.
Soon I was joined by my doctor, two nurses, a NICU doctor and a NICU nurse. Still, I remember not thinking it was a big deal, but rather I needed to get this baby out, like two hours ago. Finally, after three hours of pushing, Cohen Lee made his entrance into the world. The doctor passed him to me and that’s when I realized he wasn’t crying – he was gurgling. The nurse took him, held him up for me to see and whisked him away. He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. He was our beautiful baby. I watched them suction and test my baby and still wasn’t overly concerned, even knowing a NICU team was in our room with him. My doctors and nurses did an amazing job at keeping the seriousness of this situation under wraps, and I’m so thankful they did. I’m a natural born worrier and my doctor understood that had I known what was really happening, I would have made the situation so much worse. I said goodbye to Cohen as they wheeled him away to the NICU for more observations.
The next 24 hours were a blur. Cohen remained under the watch of the NICU staff to monitor his blood sugar levels and breathing. We held him as long as I could keep my eyes open. The nurses woke me throughout the night when it was time for a feeding. I would attempt to nurse him as I sat in a rocking chair in the dark, quiet nursery and listened to the beeping of the machines. Cohen looked like a beast compared to his sweet little 2 lb. NICU neighbor. That’s when it hit me – we were lucky. This situation could have been so much worse.
The next day, the doctor allowed Cohen to leave the NICU nursery. He had to return to the NICU periodically for tests and monitoring and was required to spend the remainder of our nights in there, but withing 72 hours Cohen was released and able to go home with us, just as we had originally hoped. I think back to our situation and realize how fortunate our family was that our baby was healthy enough to leave the NICU after just three days.
Our NICU experience was brief and we were extremely lucky with the outcome. Cohen is now a healthy six year old who is full of life. He was spicy before birth and continues to be a firecracker six years later. But I look back on our experience and it makes me even more thankful that I have the opportunity to watch him grow up. I also feel incredibly grateful for the team of NICU doctors and nurses that we met during our stay. My husband I were both kept a part of the conversation and the choices that were made for Cohen and the team went above and beyond to offer our son the best care and love possible. Even though the situation was completely unexpected and not at all ideal, it helped me to become an better parent than I ever thought possible.