This is the birth story that poured out of me one night before I had ever read another birth story, and I still hadn't grasped what had really happened. If I hadn't typed it all out on a whim, I might never have gone on the journey I did.
I was 42 weeks, naive and trusting of anyone but myself, and had a typical hospital birth, after spontaneously going into labor. I was "tied" to the bed the entire time. There are things I cannot remember, such as them trying to push a c-section on me. I blocked things out that I later recalled, such as nearly getting an episiotomy when I had clearly expressed beforehand that I didn't want one.
The pushing was forced and on my tail bone. They didn't like his heart decels and I was put on O2. The peds team was there awaiting the birth, and after I pushed him out his cord was clamped right away, and the peds team deep suctioned him, claiming mec aspiration, but the mec was old colored and mucousy, he would have been fine on his own.
As a result he was given a pnuemothorax (partially collapsed lung) and suffered pulmonary hypertension. We were in the NICUs for a total of three weeks.
(written by Jesse Brown 5/00)
I woke up around midnight telling my husband Dave that I wasn’t sure if I was having Braxton Hicks contractions or not...then by 3am I was getting mild contractions every fifteen to twenty minutes, so we decided to call the family practice MD on call at the hospital...
I was after all one week and five days over due by this point, and though I knew I should try to rest up, I was too excited in anticipation of the birth of my first born!
The Doctor on call just told me if contractions got to five minutes apart, then come on in, which was the standard to go by, and to try to sleep...yeah right!
That morning I called my mother to come and bring me to the hospital instead of showing up for my prenatal OB later on that morning, and my mother, David and I went over; and up to the triage room on the Maternity Floor I went.
Contractions were still mild to painless, and ranging from ten to twenty minutes apart. I spent a rather boring morning and afternoon lying in the hospital bed hooked up to the fetal monitor...and heard the same thing I always heard from doctors and nurses whenever I had been hooked up to a monitor--"textbook perfect"--my baby’s heart rate was always averaging 160 per minute, and did other things that made my Doctor and others pleased.
But I was going nowhere with this "labor". I was sent home and Decided to stay at my mother's house and sent Dave to work for the rest of the day and night.
I recall that my Mother was determined to get labor going...and had me walk everywhere...up and down aisles at the grocery store; walking up and down the sidewalks in the neighborhood. By the time I had had it with walking and was relaxing on the couch eating some ice cream, I started to feel something a bit stronger than I had for that whole day...
It was about 10pm, while watching an "All In the Family" marathon, when I realized that contractions were getting stronger and had been a steady five minutes apart for the last hour. I was irritated that I had spent all day at the hospital only to be sent home and actually did not want to go back only for them to send me home yet again...
But my mother convinced me we had to hit the 'High Trail‘, to call my husband who was still at work, and drop off my younger brothers at their father’s. The only thing I remember about the trip was "Nice smooth long stretches of highway--GOOD...Stops, turns, potholes, manholes and other such bumps--BAD OUCH GOSH DA**IT BAD!"
By the time we had arrived at the hospital and were walking into the front entrance, eyeing the statue of St. Joseph as I usually did, complete exhaustion was taking over and I just wanted to sleep. I had been awake for a full 23 hours, and had not tried to nap due to anticipation, excitement, and anxiety. I was in labor that whole time, but the real active labor was really beginning...
About 12:30 a.m. my husband Dave finally arrived at my bedside in the triage room. I had never been so grateful to see him!! I was starting in some seriously painful contractions by then, made worse by the fact I was really trying to sleep. The nurses said that I was getting good at sleeping through contractions (by the time I was pushing the doctor remarked that I was going to sleep through delivery!), that I was breathing well, etc. But I didn’t feel like a pro; I just felt worn out.
My mother was my actual coach and Dave was a support person, the only two people I could have with me in the delivery room. I believe I had gotten to my own room by about 2 a.m.…by Four a.m. I just lost my resolve to have a completely natural birth, and had a much welcome shot of Nubian. There. I got about two hours of sleep! Finally!
Six a.m. and I was awake, breathing my way through mind numbing contractions. I only recall going back to the farthest recesses of my being; concentrating on my mother's eyes; on my husband's voice and the really weird shirt he was wearing that made the eyes go batty. I was sleeping between pushes! The doctor was amazed, and my mother was amused. I believe that my husband Dave was as tired as I was, but stood there encouraging me all the same.
When my water had broken (a minute before THEY were going to break it for me), I thought I had heard something about there being meconium staining, but I didn’t think much of it for some reason. While I was pushing I then heard my doctor say that every time I had a contraction the baby's heart rate dropped. They put me on oxygen and an I.V. drip, and things stabilized and were fine.
I began to push again, for what was either another twenty minutes or twenty years, and after I managed to get his head out, that was it. There was just a feeling of "whoosh" and there was my beautiful baby right in front of me! "It's a boy!" was my very first thought. I was in rapture and rather delirious not having any sleep and going through the roughest workout of my life! I think I wanted to cry, but was too dehydrated still.
It was maybe a good thing that I was so out of it, because I barely noticed the flurry of people and activity going on. And Kieran was in trouble? I realized that the doctor had not put him on my chest as she had promised. He was on one of those little tables, surrounded by an entire Peds team. The doctor was working on getting the placenta out and sewing a tear. Dave and Mom just were next to me holding me, but I don't recall anything they might have said.
Finally a charge nurse came over to me, and through my fog, I understood that Kieran's Apgar score was 7 (out of 10), and that they were taking him to the NICU for an hour of observation. He had swallowed a little bit of meconium, but should be fine...he was working a little too hard to breath, but everything will be OK. I could hear him crying and that relieved me.
A nurse put the newly wrapped up baby boy into my arms. She said "Kiss your baby, we are going to have to take him quickly,” I thought he was the most beautiful creature I had ever beheld. There was tons of dark hair, a perfect little face, and not even a cone head like in so many other pictures I had seen. No marks that I could see. I was told in a birthing class to expect for baby to be, well almost ugly!! But Kieran was absolutely gorgeous. And my husband and I had made this human. We were in complete love...it was overwhelming. I kissed his forehead, and David leaned over and also kissed him.
Thirty seconds later, she picked Kieran up and whisked him right away. I did not hold him again until he was a week old.
A few hours later I woke up finding myself alone in the delivery room. I thought I just wanted to sleep some more, but then I thought of my baby and put my hand to my belly, a normal reflex. Nothing was there. I was still in shock that I had done it, I had actually brought a new life into the world...then I was in shock over what had happened shortly after. As for the rest of my body, sore is hardly the word...Did I get hit with a Mack truck?
A nurse zipped right in the room and I think told me that I was going to my recovery room. But first she was taking me to the NICU. I had just sat down in the wheelchair when Dr. K arrived. She began to explain that some babies just didn’t take that first big breath very well, and it was random, and they didn’t know why. There was more but it went over my head. I was only thinking I wanted to get to Kieran or I would just burst open. It had barely sunk in that I was a mother, and that Dave was a father. It took much longer for what else was happening to sink in as well.
Perhaps my doctor had tried to prepare me for the shock of seeing your own baby in a NICU, but when I was wheeled in, I just began to cry. Amongst all these tiny preemies, I recognized my boy right away. I think that I even recognized his crying. The initial shock of a NICU was indescribable. Machines were noisy and constant false alarms, I.V.'s everywhere, high tech monitors... all for the tiniest and newest of babies. The rocking chairs and nursery decor did little to mask that we were in a hospital.
Kieran was lying on his back wearing just a diaper in a heightened "bassinette" underneath a sort of heat lamp. He had an IV line in at least one limb (later there would be in all four limbs) and a nurse was using a vacuum tube device, pushing it deep down his mouth, and grabbing up meconium he swallowed. He was awake and moving, but it looked more like he was working hard...to breathe...he was breathing too fast.
But despite this I sat and admired my sweet boy. He had lots of dark brown hair, like I did when I was born. He really was still beautiful. I began think that this wasn't going to last more than a day and soon I would be holding him and feeding him. I was getting confident even...This was MY baby, nothing bad could possibly happen. The pregnancy was perfect...Just a little meconium, they deal with that all the time, every day maybe. I thought these things to push away the thoughts that sounded like...Oh my GOD why does that stupid machine keep ringing...Why is he working so hard to breathe...Other mothers are holding their babies here why can't I?...It must be bad if I can't even hold Kieran...
Kieran did go through a lot, not as much as some newborns that I learned of later on, but too much for any newborn to have to go through. After Chest X-Rays they discovered that there was a small but possibly growing pneumothorax, or partially collapsed lung, in the upper right corner of his right lung, for which eventually a small chest tube was inserted between two of his tiny ribs to draw the extra air out. He developed Pulmonary Hypertension also, or...
His body was trying to revert to how everything worked from when he was inside the womb, because it was too difficult to breathe the new way. Almost two days after he was born, the doctors told me that he
needed to be transferred to a different hospital where he could receive the treatment he needed...Nitric Oxide, and be put on an Oscillating respirator. (He had already been on a respirator since the day before but was getting worse) Those following four days were the worst for Dave, and my mother who coached me through delivery, and myself...we were all in shock. We were prepared for a normal labor and delivery the whole nine months, but there my sweet boy lay in the bassinet under the heat lamp, in a drug-induced coma from his second to sixth day. With a catheter, IV's for every limb, the respirator tube, the tape covering most of his face to hold the tube in place, and the chest tube.
I learned not to be so annoyed by all the monitors, and what they were for and how to read them. I watched his PO2 level, his heart rate, respiratory rate, for hours...I clutched the arms of the chairs I sat in when the levels went "too high", I relaxed when they settled down. I sat home and called the hospital every few hours for updates: "He had a good day"..."His levels were too high"..."We're not out of the woods yet"..."Today he was steady!" Alls' I did, or could do, was sit and wait, and all David could do was work. Dave stayed home, (We did not have our car yet, Dave relied on rides from generous people sympathetic with our situation) I stayed with my mother because she worked at St. Joe's Hospital as a Family Practice LPN and there for I could go with her to the hospital every day. I needed more than ever to be with my husband, and being separated was unbearable under the circumstances. I thanked the powers that be every day that I did have my mother...I rode in with her in the morning, and left the NICU at 5:30. She was my pillar of strength and shoulder to cry on every day.
Kieran only spent four days at the second hospital, but they were the longest four days of my life. On my way out the door to go see him, I received a phone call from the Ped doctor saying he had given the go-ahead to send Kieran back to St. Joe's! I was thrilled! After six days of hanging in limbo, Kieran was finally on the uphill swing.
The day Kieran was transferred back to St. Joseph's; he had been graduated down from the oscillating ventilator to a "normal" respirator. And on that day I watched as the doctors took him off of that! He was still "knocked out" and still on oxygen, but he would be weaned down from the meds, and the oxygen level would be brought down slowly. David had managed to get to the hospital that day as well.
The next day I held Kieran for the very second time. It was the day after that David held his son for the first time ever. I cried such tears of relief and joy I had never know before. Soon I was feeding him his very own breast milk from a bottle, and he did so well, I was able to breastfeed the very next day! He was a week old when I saw his eyes open again. The meds had swollen them shut! But there they were, a deep gray (now brown).
Slowly was definitive word. He got a little bit better each day. David and I were ever so grateful, and couldn't wait for the day we could bring him home finally.
That day was three weeks after he was born. I had gotten to stay overnight at the hospital as to get used to his eating schedule the last two days. His last night at the hospital we "roomed in"; it was my first full experience of what it would be like at home. (all this right in the NICU) I changed him, fed him, took his temp as was mandatory, and sat on pins and needles waiting for the discharge papers to arrive.
As we were waiting, Kieran was finally in one of the "normal" bassinets, like the ones I had longingly looked at during my recovery stay at the maternity ward, wishing MY baby was residing in one of those...
While I was only in my first trimester back in October of 98, Dave and I went out to the movies. The hot topic of conversation of the night was "baby names" As we were settling in during the previews, a name flashed up on the screen.."Kieran Culkin". I looked at Dave; he looked at me, and decided right there that that was what we would name our boy, if it were a boy. While Kieran was in the hospital, I recalled what I had read in a baby name book shortly before he was born...
"Kieran...Irish origin...Means Little Dark One: Fighter..." FIGHTER. That’s when I knew that I had a little (but long-22 1/2 inches) bruiser sleeping next to me where I sat, and he was fighting. And Kieran won his gift of life.