Johnny with parents and godparents, Ian and Jacqui.
After the baptism Johnny's godparents stayed to visit for a while. It felt like it had been ages since we had done something as normal as hanging out with friends, and it felt great! Then, shortly after Ian and Jacqui left, we got a call. Jacqui (who was 36 weeks pregnant) had just felt her water break! We were in the middle of our big adventure and now they were just beginning their own. Later that night we got word that they had had their own little boy! We love to reminisce about how the last thing they did before having their baby was come to our babies baptism.
We spent the rest of Saturday holding our baby, or at least holding his hand through the window of the incubator, pumping (just me) and trying to remember to get meals. It doesn't sound like a lot of activity but by the end of the day we were exhausted. It was then that I noticed my left leg was quite swollen. Postpartum women are at risk for blood clots, and having an epidural puts you at higher risk. We asked Johnny's nurse to take a look and she thought my left leg felt warmer than the right. So we decided we'd better go to the ER. At least it was just down a floor and few hallways over from where we were! Johnny's nurse also called for a wheelchair for me. She said she sees it all the time, mama's who have just delivered are so worried about the babies in the NICU that they forget to take care of themselves.
So there we were, Saturday at around 11:00pm, in the ER. I thankfully did not have a blood clot. But my blood pressure was elevated. The doctor I saw thought it was probably just stress related (ya think?) But that I should follow up with my GP in a couple days. Thankful that I was ok, Alex wheeled me back to the NICU. It was now 1:00 am, so I decided to stay at the hospital instead of going to my parents. Alex and I got cozy on a fold-out couch that was about the size of a twin bed, and had yet another fitful night of sleep.
The next morning we waited anxiously for Johnny's operating time. When it was time for him to go we kissed his little hands good-bye and they wheeled away his incubator. I sat down on our "bed" and cried. After a few minutes Alex suggested that we do the liturgy of the hours. This was the reading from morning prayer that day.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,
so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Co 1:3-5
It never ceases to amaze me how our Lord will find a way to tell us what we need to hear. After we had our miscarriage someone from our church told me that God would use that experience to minister others. Within a year two close friends lost babies of their own. Being able to sow seeds of comfort made my own suffering so much more redemptive. I do believe that the Lord will use us again at some point to minister to others who are experiencing the same difficulties we went through with Johnny.
Surgery lasted only about 45 minutes! Then he was back in his room with us. He had a big purple blob on the side of his tummy (which, by the way, already looked much less distended) which was actually his intestine. It was still too swollen to be fitted with the ostomy bag, so it was just covered with some gauze. Surgery had gone very well, he was still on a breathing machine, and they would wait until he started breathing on his own to take him off of it. But as soon as that happened and he was fitted with his bag then we could work on feeding him!
It took Johnny about 24 hours to come off his breathing machine, which is much longer than we expected. And even after he was breathing on his own it took a long time for the effects of the anesthetic to wear off, so he was very sleepy. The number one goal now was to get him eating on his own so that we could go home. I always thought breastfeeding would be easy, it looks like the most natural thing in the world. But it is hard, and frustrating, and takes a long time to prefect. There I was holding Johnny, the lactation nurse was trying to coax his mouth open, one nurse was holding a pillow under Johnny, another nurse was shoving my breast into his mouth, it was really just comical how many people it took to breastfeed him. And Johnny would just fall asleep. Alex had a little more success giving him pumped milk in a bottle. He would strip him down to his diaper to try to keep him awake. He took a little, but it was a struggle. I had wanted to breast feed my baby so badly, but it seemed like it was never going to happen. I was resigned to Johnny being bottled fed if it only meant that we could go home.
On Wednesday, almost a week after he was born, the IV line that had been in his head blew out. So his nurse put one in his left hand. A few hours later that IV blew out. So then she tried the right hand, and that one lasted only a matter of minutes. Our nurse really didn't want to put another one back in his head so she suggested we try without one for the night and see if he would pick up on his feedings. If not then they would feed him through an NG tube. I think having him off IV fluids finally allowed him to develop more of an appetite because that's when we turned a corner with breastfeeding. All of a sudden he just got it! He was latching, sucking and swallowing! That night I cried again, this time tears of relief that something had finally gone right. Being able to breastfeed Johnny is such a blessing. After all our turmoil and separation I count it as a precious gift from the Lord.
Little by little he was taking more from the breast and less from the bottle. Friday morning they took out his NG tube and he was eating all on his own, and he was gaining weight. The nurses were beginning to wonder why we were still there. So were we! Then finally on Saturday June 8, after being in hospitals for 12 days straight, we got our discharge and were going home. After packing up our things Alex had to make four trips out to the car. It was amazing how much stuff we had accumulated while we were there! As we were leaving many of the nurses we had met throughout the week were there waiving us off.
We were going home--
our baby! With
baby I couldn't believe it, and I couldn't stop smiling. That first week of June had been so cold and rainy but Saturday June 8 was beautiful and sunny. Everything was so green and alive and flowers were blooming. It was a perfect day. We stopped by our church on the way home and took Johnny in to offer up our thanks to the Lord, for our baby and for seeing us through that long, long week. I said before that the most triumphant moment of my life was when Johnny was first born and I first held him to my chest, and it still is. But a very close second was when we carried him up our front steps and brought him into our home.