Over 14 months ago my world was rocked, and it hasn’t been the same since. My son was born on May 25th, 2011- the day my world fell into place and my heart stepped outside of my body to walk around on this earth. Like all new moms, I had no clue what I was doing. I read some books, I tried to pick up on some things about motherhood and babies, but I really had no clue. I was never a big baby person or kid person. I wanted children for sure, but Tommy and I were surprised to start that journey after just 2 years of being married. I had no idea what was coming. And now, knowing what I know, I wouldn’t change a thing. But aside from new motherhood and the whirlwind that is the day of your first child’s birth, I had something else that rocked me to my core. Jack, our gorgeous happy boy, was sick. Here’s his story.
He was born at 10:24 am on a Wednesday. He was a little distressed before he was born with the cord wrapped around his neck, but he looked great at birth. He had Apgars of 9 & 9 and was deemed perfectly healthy. We were thrilled and I was totally clueless how to take care of him at all but so excited to learn. I tried nursing him. We tried getting him to sleep. We unswaddled and re-swaddled. We held, we hugged, we adored. He was grunting. This really weird nose. He kept grunting. We were starting to think that we had a grumpy baby with a potentially rough parenting road ahead of us. Around 1 I was moved from the Labor and Delivery floor up to the Mother/Baby floor. The woman who moved us up there [a transporter for the hospital] was pretty inpatient as we gathered all of our stuff up. Tommy and my dear friend, Jessica, finished grabbing everything while this woman went ahead pushing me in the wheelchair with sweet Jack in my arms. Jack kept grunting the whole way. As we passed the nurses station on the L&D floor they all looked in response to the noises but no one said anything. As we got in the elevator, this transporter told me to have the nurses check my baby because it could be a breathing problem. I honestly didn’t give it a second thought for two reasons. 1. My baby was perfect and I was certain nothing was wrong with him. And 2. She was a transporter– nurses, doctors, and people who’s entire purpose was in examining newborns had given him the clean bill of health. What did she know? [I’m embarrassed to even say this now, but it was definitely what I was thinking at the time.]
We hung out, playing with our sweet new guy that afternoon. He still wouldn’t eat or sleep. We had several nursing checks, and then finally my family arrived around 4:45. They were so excited to meet Jack! My mom held him, and within the first minute of holding him she said “This baby’s hungry. He needs to eat, Lauren.” I told her I’d tried but he wouldn’t eat. She thought he seemed uncomfortable. Then she passed him off to my sister who held him for about two minutes before the nurse came in to check on him. She was just doing a routine check on the little guy and put him in his bassinet to check on everything. She listened a little longer to his chest this time, and then said that she thought everything was fine but that she wanted to get him checked out by her nursing supervisor just to make sure he was ok because he sounded a little wheezy. We gave her the ok to take him, and she left with him. It was weird, but I really didn’t even give it a second thought. I fully expected her to be right back in with him.
Awhile went by, longer than I had expected, and we finally heard the door open. I said “here he is” but instead of our nurse returning with Jack, someone I didn’t recognize was coming in empty handed. I thought she was there to see me but quickly realized that wasn’t the case. She introduced herself as one of the neonatalogists in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] and said that she had some bad news about Jack. I can still remember her standing on my right talking to me so calmly as I lay in bed feeling so helpless. She said that Jack was down in the NICU. She explained that the nurse felt he was having difficulty breathing, so they checked his oxygen saturation level and it was pretty low [in the 80s]. They ordered a chest x-ray where they found that his lungs were completely 100% covered. She told us it was a very bad x-ray, and they weren’t sure if it was infection but that his lungs looked very bad. She said he was “very sick”. She was so calm. She explained everything so well to us. She told us that the nurses were about to do shift change but that after that we could come down and see him. She told us that she wanted to prepare us for what we would see, so she explained to us that Jack looked like a different baby than we had held in our arms just an hour earlier. She told us of all the leads they had placed on his sweet little chest, the pulse-ox meter they had attached to his little tiny foot, and of the big line they were getting ready to place as soon as we gave them permission. She explained that he needed oxygen right now and that they had him on an oxygen hood to support him. She told us they were prepared to do whatever they needed should he get sicker. She explained to us the necessity of putting a line in his umbilical cord stump. She explained the risks. We signed the consent form. She asked if we had questions. The only one I could think of was “Is he going to be ok?” She responded with “We’re going to do everything we can for him.” We were all in shock. Later I could think of a million and one questions but at that time, I was stunned silent.
I remember her leaving but I don’t remember anything after that until it was time for us to go to the NICU. I don’t know if I looked at Tommy right after she left. I don’t know if he was sitting beside me, across the room or standing up. I don’t know who spoke first after she left or what was said. It’s all a blur. But at exactly the time she told us we could go down, we did. We all went down together- me in the wheelchair. Tommy and I scrubbed up before entering while everyone else waited outside the NICU for us. We went to the desk saying we were Jack Morgan’s parents and Dr. H had asked us to come down. They took us to her, which was so reassuring at the time. The NICU is an amazing place, a place I have such a thankful heart for, but on that first evening, it scared the pants, or hospital gown, off of me. Dr. H showed us around the NICU and told us that our baby boy was in NICU A and took us to him. As I think about that moment, even now, I can remember exactly how the NICU looked and smelled. I can remember exactly the turns it took to get to Jack’s bed. Even now, as I think about it, I feel my stomach jump into my throat. My throat swells up as I remember what my son looked like in that moment. He was, as she had described him, with lines and leads coming off of him and hooked up to all sorts of machines. He had a huge oxygen hood over him, but what broke our new parent hearts was seeing the fight in our little guy. He was restrained at his wrists and his ankles to keep him from pulling at all the wires, and he was fighting it. I will never forget watching him arch his back to try to loosen his arms. I will never forget watching his chest rise and fall so rapidly, much too rapidly. I will never forget the pain he was in. I will never forget that while my heart was breaking right in that moment, the image before me so beautifully displayed the glory of my Savior on the cross. And in that moment, that was all that kept me standing there.
Tommy and I just stood and watched. I don’t know how long it was- I have absolutely no concept of that. I don’t know what words we spoke to each other or to Jack. I don’t know at what point we pulled ourselves away from our boy. All I can remember is that next we went back to Dr. H’s office, where she showed us his x-ray. She showed us what healthy lungs look like and then showed us Jack’s. To these 4 non-neonatologist eyes it looked bad but she explained why it was so very bad. They had their plan to help him and they were watching him all the time. We knew he was in the very best of hands, so we left him there. We walked out through those doors leaving him in the care of strangers who would become our closest companions during that time. And we took a deep breath, looked at our family, and lost it.
Over 14 months ago, my world was rocked.
Read Part II here.