The lady emptying my bladder into the bedpan told me that I had completely filled the bedpan but seemed to be "going" still. She stopped me and spilled urine on the floor as she carefully walked the bedpan to the bathroom to empty. Apparently, my modesty had completely gone out the window that day because I wasn't bothered by any of this. Instead, I stared at my phone and waited to hear news from Lee about Ellie when he sent me this picture:
There she was. Be still my heart. I wanted to hold her and love on her so badly. While studying Eleanor's picture, I noticed my bedpan was leaving. Wait! I wanted to remind her that she had told me that I wasn't finished but I couldn't gather my words quick enough. My family started entering the room and I was distracted again. I was visibly shaking from the Pitocin now and my emotions were high. It was hard to carry a conversation or care much for anything being said to me because my heart was in NICU but I soaked up every ounce of information that I heard about Eleanor. Meanwhile, I was thankful Brandi was able to catch up with Lee and capture this first moment shared between Lee and our baby girl:
It wasn't long before I was wheeled into a larger room where I would stay the next 2 nights. I don't remember getting much rest when I got there. We had several sweet visitors throughout the day. Everyone was excited for us and wanted to meet our baby girl. We must have relayed the details of what landed Eleanor in NICU 100 times. It was dark outside and I still hadn't seen or held my baby again. It was torture. Fortunately, Lee was able to be by her side and take one visitor at a time to see her. No one was allowed to touch her yet but I was green with envy that they could be that close to her and I could not. It was after 8 PM and all of our visitors had left for the night when I was told that I could be wheeled to NICU to see our daughter. There was a line to scrub in at the NICU door when we got there. It must have been obvious that this was my first time to visit the NICU as the nurse assisted me to the washstand. The others standing in line before me parted ways to let me move to the front of the line. They all had been in my position before and probably knew how desperately I wanted to get to my baby. I was eternally grateful for this kind gesture but said nothing. I couldn't. It was eerily quiet as the water ran over my hands and I felt everyone's eyes on me. I remember crying while scrubbing my hands clean for the instructed 3 minutes. I was overwhelmed with emotion and doing my best to ignore my nausea as I stood there. I had never been in a NICU before so I was taking it all in as Lee wheeled me behind my nurse. My nurse then introduced me to Eleanor's nurse. I searched the long room for Eleanor and suddenly there she was at the very end of the room nestled in the corner. The wires and tubes broke my heart. All I wanted to do was pick her up and snuggle her close to me.
She had a feeding tube and I wasn't allowed to do skin-to-skin to attempt nursing.
The only time we couldn't be in NICU was during the shift change of the nurses so that's when Lee and I went back to the room to rest. As we walked away from our little corner in NICU, I felt like we were abandoning our daughter. My heart felt unbearably heavy. Eleanor Blake looked lonely and ever so tiny. She was considered the "big kid" by the nurses since she was full term. The very small, not full term baby behind the curtain next to her sounded like a screaming cat while Eleanor snoozed peacefully. Still, I selfishly felt like my child should have a NICU nurse all to herself when we couldn't be there. Leaving her was incredibly hard. When we got back to the room, I tried to pump again. Nothing. I fumed inside. This isn't fair. It was storming and the thunder was loud. I asked Lee to come sleep with me in my hospital bed. I was surrounded by people but I felt so alone in my thoughts. I set my alarm as Lee tried to get as comfortable as he could with two giants in one hospital bed. It had been a long day but I fought sleep for fear I would oversleep. I needed to be back in NICU at Eleanor's next feeding. We had been given hope by the previous nurse that I might be able to do skin-to-skin and I wasn't going to miss that opportunity! And we didn't.
Eleanor got a blood clot in her IV and they had a hard time finding another vein in her hand to stick her again so they put it in her head. I nearly fell over when I saw it.
We were told that the doctor thought she might have a collapsed lung because they saw a dark spot on one of her x-rays but (PRAISE THE LORD) the next day that was ruled out when more x-rays were taken and the spot had disappeared. He said it must have been a little leftover meconium from birth.
We were then told that they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis! But, that was ruled out in a hurry when Eleanor’s appetite picked up.
Then we were told that she might have pneumonia so more testing needed to be run since she had an elevated fever. Thank you to more prayers, those results came back clear too. Seriously, it felt like one thing after another but we felt so blessed that it all amounted to nothing.
Lee and I had been home a few days after my release and I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained. When I would sleep, I would cry myself to sleep. I felt guilty for resting at home when our baby was still at the hospital. At the end of the day, Lee would often insist he bring me home to rest at night and he would go back to the hospital to sit with Eleanor through the night. Leaving her was hard on us both.
The day before Mother’s Day in NICU, the doctor finally told us that we have a healthy baby but they would like to complete Eleanor’s 7 day antibiotic in NICU. When the antibiotic was complete, then she could be released to go home. Like we would say no? Our nurses had been great. Like I mentioned previously, my nurses and also Eleanor’s nurses were truly angels in scrubs. I cannot sing enough praise about those kind souls that took care of us. Unfortunately, the NICU doctor was not our pediatrician. Instead, he was hard to communicate with and very dry. His bedside manor was lacking and often the nurses would come up behind him to interpret what he had been trying to communicate and relay information to us in laymen’s terms.
I had met with the lactation nurse a couple of times but I still wasn’t having any luck getting my milk to letdown via pumping. Hearing the doctor say that Eleanor wasn't ready to try latching yet would cause me to fume myself to tears. When her feeding tube had been removed, we supplemented with formula since I barely had any milk to share at each feeding. I felt so useless. When Eleanor was 5 days old, the NICU doctor finally gave me permission to see if Eleanor would latch on for a feeding. Eleanor had been given a pacifier (also not in the birth plan) in NICU without our permission but I was thankful she was able to find comfort to soothe herself to sleep when we couldn't be there. However, that binkie didn't help us when it finally came time to try nursing.
We were very excited to meet Transition Day. It's a very exciting goal for all NICU families. You get to move into a hospital-like room all to yourself inside NICU. The only time you get assistance from a nurse is when you ask for it or when they come to deliver your antibiotic.
This was our first night as a family without any interruptions and Eleanor's wires were removed for good. We were thrilled to leave the hospital ALL together the very next day too! It was a special night!
Basically, we watched her sleep and high-fived one another all night while watching TV and eating takeout. It had been days since we had turned on a television. We had no clue what had been going on with the rest of the world.
Before we went home, we had to complete infant CPR training and watch a couple of videos before we could be released. Miss. Eleanor Blake slept through all of it.
She gave us a Grumpy Cat face when we interrupted her nap to head home.
Having our baby in NICU for 7 days was by far the hardest thing my heart has endured but we consider ourselves very lucky. Very blessed. We know firsthand the trials and severe obstacles families face when transferred to NICU. Sometimes it's a new battle everyday in a NICU. Our prayers are with NICU families daily. We are very fortunate that our story has a happy ending as so many others do not.
It took several days for my milk to drop. My girls finally blew up but I had to really work at it to maintain my supply. I took Fenugreek vitamins and tried to maintain a high calorie diet. I pumped extra when Eleanor wasn't nursing too. I read so many tips and tried so many things. I was determined to keep going. I say with MUCH pride that I nursed and pumped for 6 full months. It was quite a commitment for me. Those middle of the night extra pump sessions were no joke. Finding privacy at work to pump and pumping in your car during a trade show wasn't a good time either. About a month after we stopped nursing, I discovered that postpartum I developed life threatening thyroid issues. This may have been the root cause of my milk supply issues but that's another story for maybe another day. I've got my TSH levels under control now and a happy, healthy baby girl.
If you made it through Eleanor's Birth Story Parts 1-3, I hope you enjoyed it! Here's a reshare of a video I made last year after her birth. xx