… we thought we were prepared for anything the little guy decided to throw our way. We were not, however, prepared for the possibility that we would spend the first 12 days of his life camped out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Throughout my third trimester, I spent a lot of time thinking about what Oliver would look like, how much he would weigh, what labor would feel like, and how the cats would react to meeting their new “brother.” I packed and repacked our hospital bag, making three separate trips to Carters to buy identical “going home” outfits and hats in different sizes in case he was bigger or smaller than expected. We installed the car seat, prepped his warm cloth wipes, and froze enough meals to get us through the first few weeks at home. We went shopping and stocked up on household essentials, made plans with friends and family for visits, and scheduled our family leaves with our respective employers.
We were of course aware that nothing is predicable when a newborn baby is thrown into the mix, but we thought we were as prepared as possible for anything the little guy decided to throw our way. We were not, however, prepared for the possibility that we would spend the first 12 days of his life camped out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Several weeks before I went into labor, I tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS) colonization. GBS is a bacteria found in the birth canal of between 14 and 40% of all pregnant women. Although it is harmless in adults, the consequences if passed to the baby during delivery can be severe. Common complications include meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia. In order to prevent infection of the baby, antibiotics can be given to the mother through IV during delivery. Where antibiotics are administered during labor, the chances of the baby becoming infected are about 1 in 4000.
I opted to receive, and did in fact receive, both recommended doses of IV antibiotics during my labor. I also consumed large quantities of probiotics in the weeks leading up to delivery in hopes of getting rid of the GBS before Oliver was born. In short, I did everything I could to prevent the little guy from being infected. Unfortunately, he (apparently) “beat the odds.”
Shortly (i.e., within one day) after Oliver’s birth, the nurses noticed that he was having intermittent bouts of rapid and labored breathing. They monitored him in the nursery and then decided that he was probably just having some trouble transitioning to life outside the womb. On day two, Vik and I decided we were uncomfortable taking the little guy home while he was still having trouble with his breathing, so we asked the nurses to have him looked over by a neonatologist.
Several hours later we were called down to the nursery to consult with the neonatologist. She was concerned about Oliver’s breathing and wanted to run a series of blood tests and also X-Ray his lungs. She also wanted to move him to the NICU for closer observation. So, around 6pm on March 17, Oliver was admitted to the NICU for what we expected would be a very short stay.
Over the course of the next couple of days, lab results slowly came in and it became apparent that our little guy was fighting some form of infection. His white blood cell counts were way high, he had “inflammatory markers,” his breathing was still intermittently rapid and labored, and his resting heartrate was a little too low. Blood cultures were unable to tell us exactly what the infection was (because he received antibiotics in utero, the cultures could not develop properly), but a spinal tap ruled out meningitis (thank God!). Because all signs pointed to GBS, the doctors made the decision on Friday, March 19th to keep Oliver in the NICU for (a total of) ten days to receive continuous monitoring and intravenous treatments of antibiotics.
We are now nine days into Oliver’s ten day NICU tenure, and are happy to report that he is doing great. His breathing and heartrate are normal, he is gaining lots of weight (he is already 12 ounces above his birth weight!), breastfeeding like crazy (hence the weight gain), and is generally quite content. Although we feel so, so lucky his infection was caught before it could develop into any of the more severe complications, and are very pleased with the quality of care he has received here in the hospital, the past week and a half has been terribly stressful/emotionally draining and we are beyond ready to take our little guy home.
I will post more about our NICU stay, including some of surprising benefits (e.g., round the clock access to NICU nurses and lactation consultants), in the coming days, but for right now I am too busy staring at my little prince and thanking my lucky stars that he is happy, healthy, and ON HIS WAY HOME TOMORROW!