I had been assured that I would only be separated from my little fella for a few minutes; long enough to sew up my incision. And true to what I’d been told, I was wheeled back to the recovery room and my sweet Devin was placed on my chest.
So many feelings and sensations swept through my body and heart. Here this beautiful creature lay near to my heart and yet I couldn’t feel my toes!
I tried to take in every inch of him. His beautiful dark hair, his long fingers and toes, his eyes… were closed! Oh how I wanted to see his eyes. But he wouldn’t open them! Were they blue like his brother or brown like his sister?
We began to try nursing but for one reason or another, he wouldn’t latch on. Hindsight I really believe he was just tired and not interested but fear swept over me as rumors and half truths of connections between c-sections and difficulties in breastfeeding I had heard and read about filled my mind. I had breastfed my first two. It was something that was very important to me.
In addition to his disinterest in nursing, his breathing was hurried and irregular. The nurse told us that it was probably nothing but they wanted to take him to the NICU just in case.
And just like that, he was gone. My heart was hollow.
I was stunned. Devin was born at 8:02 and before 9 he was no longer in my arms. Shortly after this departure I was moved to my permanent hospital room. As they rolled me down the hall, I wondered when I would see him again. I would swing between thoughts of he’ll be fine to what if something is really wrong? What if he doesn’t make it? When I made it to my room, I was greeted by numerous nurses who helped move me to my bed, started checking my vitals, and helped me settled in. Marshall left to go see how Devin was doing and we learned the results of the chest x-ray. There was fluid on his lungs.
The most difficult reality was that I could not physically go to my child.
My body was numb from my stomach to my toes. I felt so defeated. The tears were silently falling in steady heated streams down my face.
The next few hours were a blur of checking vitals and my incision and waiting. I felt so alone and helpless.
Then I met my next angel: Kim. She was the nurse tech. She was such an amiable person. We talked about Devin and what was going on. She shared that her daughter had experienced a similar plight and like music to my ears she said: “Would you like to go see him. We can wheel you down there?”
I didn’t know that was possible. I was overwhelmed and so excited. I was going to see my baby boy! There was a glimmer of hope.
It took some time, a lot of assistance and a wheelchair but we were off to the NICU to see my sweet little guy. We had to wash our hands in this special sink and our phones aka cameras had to be placed in ziplock bags (all this to prevent spreading germs). They rolled me to his space and there was my baby boy.
There were wires and machines connected to different parts of his body. They were measuring heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure. A lot of measurements! When I look back at pictures it doesn’t seem that bad but in the moment….oh my…seeing your baby hooked up to machines and you can’t touch him or hold him…it’s a dreadful feeling*.
We lingered for about an hour and then made our way back to my room. We were told he would need to stay in the NICU overnight and so we made our peace with the situation and made plans to start pumping to provide him what milk we could and work on recovery for me. Our first night of Devin’s life was spent every three hours pumping milk for Marshall to take down to our sweet boy to receive. Marshall was able to feed him my milk along with some formula in a bottle.
Marshall fed him first.
I felt guilty for being jealous. I shared this with a few friends and was thankful for the affirmation I received. My dear friend reminded me: I grew this baby inside of me for 39 weeks. I underwent major abdominal surgery to bring him into this world. And yet another one of the most important things in the world to me didn’t happen. I was not able to feed my son. My feelings were valid.
When morning came I was hopeful for good news that my son would be returned to me. A phone call confirmed that he had a very good night and was waiting to be seen by the dr in the NICU. This was exciting news for me. We made plans to visit him. Most of the measuring tools had been removed and he was swaddled up looking so beautiful. And then I was able to hold him for the first time since those early moments of his life. I cried, I swooned, I found healing. There he was so perfect. The hospital dr walked in and shared that he was doing well and pending approval from our pediatrician, Devin would be moved to our room. We were hopeful we would see our baby boy no later than noon. We made our trek back to my room and I started working on trying to get some exercise walking around as suggested by the drs and nurses.
Noon came and went and no baby. Phone calls, questions and still no answer as to why my son could not be brought to me. I did my best to keep busy pumping and moving my body but the stress and the recovery got the best of me. The colustrum (milk) I had been successful in pumping was dwindling. Each time I’d mention it to a nurse, she would assure me that it was normal to wane but in my mind I felt like they were lying to make me feel better. I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt the most horrendous bring-you-to-your-knees pain. I began crying and trembling uncontrollably. I wasn’t sure if it was the pain in my body or my heart but both felt broken. And my baby was not with me. Adjustments with my medicine helped with the physical pain and tears relinquished helped with my emotional pain.
We continued to wait and wonder. My dear friend and angel Leigh Taylor aka Devin’s baby nurse (if they would let him leave the NICU!!!) had written a verse on the whiteboard in our room:
I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8
Oh how shaken I felt but those words brought comfort. In the midst of all this we had made arrangements for Dominic to come by. Surely by 3 he would be in our room! We FINALLY got word that he was coming this way. We waited and waited and just couldn’t wait any longer so we asked again where he was. We learned he was now in the nursery being examined. At this news I completely lost it. He had been under watchful surveillance for nearly 30 hours in the NICU and now they were examining him. Of course I know there’s procedure and protocol but in that moment all I could think about is all the moments and hours and time spent without him.
And then Leigh Taylor wheeled him in and I saw him and the tears came and all the thoughts and words and hurts and anxieties I had been feeling spilled out onto LT’s kind ears. “I know this is so small compared to what many face in childbirth but this is so hard!” And she listened without judgment speaking only to affirm that my feelings were valid. And when I continued to struggle to feed my child, my dear friend went in search of the head of lactation to help me figure out what was wrong. When this woman walked in the room, the presence of Christ came with her, and the stress and fear melted away. Within minutes of her arrival, my son was nursing like a champ.
In that moment as I held my son, truly held him, and saw his beautiful eyes, God began redeeming the time lost in the past 30 hours. He was mine, he was perfect.
We had a few more challenges before we left the hospital and even some major sickness that hit our house after coming home…all shook me…all tested my faith and trust in God. But God remained faithful. He redeemed every moment that I felt broke me. From an unwanted delivery route to an unexpected stay in the NICU to challenges with breastfeeding….God redeemed every moment and brought angelic creatures into our lives to remind us of our Heavenly Father’s unwavering love and faithfulness to his children.
Devin is six weeks old today. He’s nursing like a champ, sleeping through the…well…we’re still working on that one. Our family is complete and whole and continuing to trust God in all things especially when they do not go as planned because as I believe with all my heart:
Life. Is. Beautiful.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
* My son was in the NICU for 30 hours. The most excruciating 30 hours of my life. I can’t imagine the difficulty others I know have faced in being separated from their child for much longer than this. I now understand and honor those strong parents who have braved the NICU with their baby for days, weeks, and months. You are my heroes!