There is a certain amount of pain that comes when you leave the hospital and your baby doesn't come with you. It was a feeling I wasn't fond of and hope never to feel again.
We spent 4 long days with Isaiah in the NICU, and I don't know how parents can emotionally handle any longer than that. The worst part of it was the doctor kept saying, "He can probably go home tomorrow."
Each day started with the hope we'd be bringing our tiny human home, only for something else to go wrong.
Originally, he went to the NICU for breathing problems and low blood sugar. He was taken off the breathing machine after 24 hours. They said it would take 2 days for him to be weaned off of the IV for his blood sugar and onto breastmilk. They asked me if it was okay to supplement him with formula if my milk wasn't enough. I said yes—which is a mistake I will never make again.
Two days went by, and he began to develop jaundice. The doctor decided to watch him overnight. The next morning, he was as orange as a pumpkin and to no surprise, his jaundice levels were rising. Thankfully, his blood sugar levels stabilized. They said maybe we could take him home in the evening if his levels peaked and started returning to normal.
(Above) Our little jaundice pumpkin of a child
Of course, that did not happen. When we returned that evening, the nurse was concerned because he'd started vomiting. We returned home, I sat down on the couch, and I cried.
The next morning we returned. The vomiting continued. The jaundice levels kept rising and they decided to start treatment for him. I sat by his little bed only pulling myself up to clean the vomit from his face watching him under the blue lights.
That evening after dinner we came back for his feeding time. The nurse handed me a bottle of formula.
Me: Did y'all run out of breastmilk?
Nurse: Yes, we've been supplementing him anyways, so we've just started giving him the formula.
I said I'd bring up more milk for them later that night and started to feed him. He'd barely taken any of the formula when he threw it all back up on me and refused to take anymore.
The nurse and I tried to get him to take more, but with no success. A doctor came in to check on him and started talking GI testing and holding him for more days. The tears came fast and quickly for me.
On Tuesday, when I was delivering him, the doctor said to focus on the fact that I'd be holding my baby at the end of it all. It was Friday and I wasn't holding my baby. I was watching him be probed, prodded, and laying naked under a UV light.
Poor Wesley and the nurse tried to comfort me, but I don't think there is comfort for a mother who is watching her baby become sicker with each hour.
That night Wesley and I went to pick up groceries and while we were at the check out I started packing the groceries. He snipped at me for putting items in the wrong bags. I snapped back to leave me alone, we both knew it wasn't about the bags. We just wanted to take our baby home.
An hour later, I brought bottles of breastmilk back up to the hospital and asked them to stop giving him the formula. I wondered if the stress of his situation and being given formula was causing the vomiting, the nurse agreed this could be the issue.
The next morning we returned to the hospital. The vomiting continued, but was much less than the night before. His jaundice levels finally started to decline—although slowly. The doctor told us if his jaundice levels continued to get lower, and he continued to improve on the vomiting, he could go home.
Wesley and I spent the day at his side watching him under that UV light, feeding him, changing his diapers. He was eating a healthy amount, he stopped his vomiting.
They came to check his blood sugar and jaundice levels in the late afternoon and they both came back clear. We were taking our little mister home.
Finally, I got to watch them start to remove all the little wires from his body and got to put his coming home outfit on. We were discharged and Wesley put him in his carseat for the first time.
It was strange walking out of the hospital actually holding our child, but nothing had ever felt more right. We drove home and surprised my mom at the door.
Reflecting back on our time at the NICU, there was so much I learned.
1) God provides. This was a lesson to be relearned in those long days. I often feel in my walk with the Lord that I forget this. He always provides what we truly need.
He provided my mom who cooked us meals, cared for our dog, made sure I was taking my medications, made sure we both had time to sleep—all while sleeping on the bean bag in our 1 bedroom apartment.
He provided a community of people who were praying for us and willing to help us out where we needed it.
He provided the money and resources we needed.
He provided incredible nurses and doctors who diligently cared for Isaiah and made sure we were okay and our questions were answered.
2) God gives us more than we can handle. I'm thankful for it as I'm reminded I need Him. The troubles of this world will quickly overcome us. It is a choice you make in the midst of a crisis to say, "This is hard and it hurts, but God is sovereign."
3) I couldn't fight the pain. I had to allow myself to grieve. It was okay to be broken hearted over my situation. I had expected to have a healthy baby and bring him home and I didn't. I had to grieve my unmet expectations, grieve the sight of my baby hooked up to all the monitors, and grieve the loss of time with him.
Often times, as Christians, many times I think we try to push our pain and tears aside because to be a "good Christian" is to trust God and suck it up. We forget that Jesus cried too. He was tired, he was sad, he was angry. He had emotions. We're allowed to have emotions and express them to God.
4) I needed to lean into my person. Wesley and I agreed a long time ago that we wanted to be each other's "breath of fresh air". We didn't want to take out our pain on each other. We wanted to communicate and let the other person carry that burden with us. It is a choice to do this during a crisis situation. We get snippy, we're tired, and we don't want to talk about it.
After getting snippy with each other at the grocery store, we got in the car, took a deep breath, and decided this whole thing would be a lot easier if we gave each other some grace and listened to what the other person was feeling.
Isaiah 40:31 | ...But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The NICU is not a happy place, it is filled with sad parents and sick babies. Yet God still met us where we were at. He filled our needs and continues to do so today. I pray that little Isaiah will rest in the hope of Christ one day. I pray he'll let the Lord guide his steps and cling to Him in his lowest moments. And finally, I pray that he always knows how loved he is by so many. But most of all, the Lord, who planned him and knit him together in my womb, for he is fearfully and wonderfully made.