When I tried to write this the first time when Chase was 3 months old, (now he’s 8 months!) I was trying to be factual. But if I’m being honest, I don’t remember all the exact details. And they don’t matter as much as the story. So here I am, 8 months later, trying to write our story because it’s important. And in a way that makes you believe me when I say our time in the NICU wasn’t horrible or stressful or full of worry. Because it wasn’t. It was full of hope and promise.
Yes, we had some really hard and sad days as you will read below, but many times as I was driving to the NICU, I knew it would be a good day. Like the first part of Chase’s story, (You can read it here!) you’ll see that my joy was not from me. God calmed every anxious tendency and worry and instead filled me with joy and life. Because of God, I look back on this time with love and happiness, not sadness.
In the Hospital
Rolling into the NICU room for the first time felt foreign. (and YES, I actually rolled into the NICU in a wheelchair!) Chase had so many wires and machines hooked up to him. The top of his bed was on top of him creating a little dome to keep him warm. We were so nervous to touch him because we didn’t know how much we could move him. It was dark in his room because there were zero windows, and he was fast asleep. The nurse kindly told us Chase was doing great! That first visit we just put our hands on him and talked to him for a little while before going back to our hospital room. We didn’t know what else we could do yet and sleepily went back to our room.
It felt strange to be in my hospital room without our baby sleeping next to me. The quiet and calm filled the room, but it forced me to sleep and focus on my recovery. I wanted him next to me of course, but I wasn’t sad. I knew Chase was in the right place with the nurses who could help him. The cords and machines were still intimidating to us. And the 24/7 access to the NICU made it easy on my heart because I knew I could visit at any time.
How God Saved Me
My doctor checked on me to see how I was doing. I felt so much better than the first time, so I told her that! My doctor then said the most interesting thing,
“I’m so happy you called when you did.”
Before this moment, I didn’t think about how scary an emergency c-section was. I actually could have died. And the doctor was telling me right in those words how scary it should have felt. If I hadn’t woken up or if I hadn’t been certain about going to the hospital, we could have lost Chase or me! I knew in that moment that God was protecting me from the fear. But not only that, He is the reason I was still alive. I couldn’t help but be thankful in that moment for exactly where we were.
We didn’t know the severity of Chase’s breathing problems until almost a full day after he was born. The doctor finally caught up to us and told us his lungs were not developed like they should be because he was so early. This was a normal thing for a preemie baby especially when they are born a month early. It wasn’t a severe problem, just a condition where he needed extra help for the first few days/weeks of his life. His surfactant was low when he was born, so the doctors gave him that in addition to him being hooked up to the sipap machine.
I am not a nurse or doctor, so a lot of the terminology went over my head. The nurses were so amazing and helped to explain everything that was going on! But every time we walked into Chase’s room, he had new exciting updates. It seemed to us that Chase was improving faster than we could have imagined. He started on the bubble, but the doctor quickly switched him to the sipap machine because it was better for him.
On Wednesday, two days after he was born, I was discharged from the hospital. Chase was still on the cpap and not yet on room oxygen, so I felt in my heart that he wasn’t coming home until after the weekend. So we left “early” from the hospital instead of staying for 4 days to see Trevor. I was so excited to see Trevor and felt great leaving the hospital. We weren’t leaving Chase! We planned to see him that night, so I was happy until we pulled into our neighborhood.
I immediately started tearing up when I saw our house. All of my hopes for having our full family all together, taking pictures of us coming home, and his first few days at home shattered. And then, I saw Trevor and Josh’s mom, and I lost it even more. I don’t cry easily, but something about those hugs made it all real.
That night, we drove back to the hospital after Trevor’s bedtime. Chase was breathing on room oxygen when we walked in! That meant he didn’t need extra oxygen to breathe. This was a huge milestone that I wasn’t expecting yet. We were so excited because the nurses were optimistic he would be discharged by Monday. At this point, I started to hold our hope that Chase would be home for his 1 week milestone.
Our New Normal
Thursday morning we drove into the hospital. I remember looking at Josh and was so grateful to be with him, driving to see our baby after spending the night and morning with Trevor. The excitement and joy of seeing Chase overwhelmed me. I looked at Josh and asked him, “Is it silly that I am so happy? This is a really hard thing we are going through, but I don’t feel stressed or anxious. Just happy.”
Josh looked at me and said, “No. It’s not weird. God is in control and Chase is improving! Our life is great and we are very blessed! I’m really happy too.” When we walked into the NICU, we sat down with the doctors and they explained that they expected Chase to be completely weaned off of the cpap in 2 days! We were in shock and so excited! He was eating well, and kept making progress. We couldn’t have been happier!
Good news kept coming
By Saturday, they had weaned him completely off of the cpap and gave him a trial run without any assistance! It was the first time we saw his full face without machine on his face since he was born! It was beautiful! I overwhelmed at his cute little nose. A full 5 days on machines and his face was all smooshed in the cutest way! We were so proud of him and the nurses and doctors were optimistic. They told us to start preparing for him to go home on Monday by bringing in his car seat on Sunday.
That night we went back after putting Trevor to bed (our new routine) and found his feeding tube had been removed! The nurse seemed to think it was the right time for him to remove it because he had taken his bottles. I left that night so excited for him to come home on Monday. The nurses and doctors were confident he would be home.
The Turning Point
Sunday morning, Josh and I drove to the NICU with Chase’s car seat. It was like a badge of honor bringing that into the NICU. All the parents knew what that meant. We were going home soon. In order to be discharged from the NICU, Chase had to pass a test where he sat in the car seat for an hour while monitored to make sure he was prepared to breathe on his own in the car. We couldn’t contain our excitement that Chase may be home before he was one week old.
When we walked into Chase’s room that day, it felt different. Something felt off. We walked in with the car seat, and all the nurses looked at us like we were crazy. Then I walked to his bed and saw it. His feeding tube was in his nose again. The nurses were still optimistic, but definitely were less enthusiastic that Chase would come home soon. So we left that morning feeling a little less exciting with the uncertainty of when.
When we returned that afternoon, the doctor sat us down and told us,”Chase isn’t ready.” I just couldn’t understand. The day before this same doctor was telling us Chase would be home on Monday. But suddenly, my hopes of having our boy home when he turned one week old was shattered. And worst of all? We had no timeline of when he would come home.
I sat there in disbelief and cried for the first time in the NICU since Chase was born. I was sad. Sad that I couldn’t take him home with us and to meet Trevor. But I knew in my heart, even while I cried, that he was meant to be in the NICU for a little while longer.
I never expected this story to become such a long story! Stay tuned for the rest of Chase’s NICU journey soon!