First off, you don't get to make a lot of decisions. No one ever asked me if I wanted an epidural. They just gave me one. They don't ask if you want your water broken, or how you feel about pitocin. If it's necessary, it happens. They certainly weren't about to ask me how I felt about a c-section. They were ready to do it, in case it was necessary to save my baby's life.
As soon as he was born, they took him away to put him on life support. They said it was my husband's job to go with him, and leave me in the OR with just a doctor and a nurse or two. That I'd see him when things settled down a bit. I didn't question it. I didn't even think about how it would feel to not see my baby, or to be left alone. In that situation, feelings don't matter. It's all survival mode. Literal survival mode. Please save my baby, and do it fast.
After I got to spend a few minutes with my new tiny baby (while he was getting his very first IV put in...aww! I got to experience a "first" already!), the first thing I had to do was sign a paper saying that if I didn't pump enough milk for him then they could use human milk bank milk. That was the very first matter of business. That is how important breast milk was to his tiny, underdeveloped, immature digestive system. I gladly signed it, even though I didn't know before that moment that there was such a thing as a human milk bank.
Then, a few hours later, a lactation consultant came to my room with a pump and asked if I wanted to pump and eventually try to breastfeed my baby. Uh...of course...you mean I can breastfeed him? But holy cow (no pun intended), I was not mentally prepared for that. You mean...just how does this work? Oh, so you're going to help me? Great...let's just throw privacy and propriety out the window then. But eventually I got to the point where half the medical professionals in Utah County had seen me try to breastfeed my baby and I hardly felt the need for a shirt when I was in the NICU. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but still. It was just a fact of NICU life.
Then, later that same day, there were two different people who came to my hospital room to request our participation in medical studies. Who knew, right? The very day I delivered a baby at 27 weeks. He didn't even have a name yet! One requested a whole vial of my saliva, and a swab of the inside of Caleb's cheek, to try to determine a genetic link behind prematurity. The other wanted to pull a card out of an envelope to determine if Caleb would go on a "high flow nasal canula" or a "continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)" machine when he was ready to be taken off of the ventilator, to determine if one showed better results overall. He was chosen for the high flow nasal canula, in case you were wondering, but he eventually ended up using both at separate times. I never heard of the results of either of those studies. Nor the study that they did a month or so later, trialing a machine that monitors oxygen flow to the brain. But of course I wasn't going to turn down the chance to participate in these studies. Anything to help out babies to come.
And those were the unique experiences surrounding the delivery of a premature baby. Those are all things that seemed so small, but absolutely did not happen when I delivered a healthy baby.
If you're interested in seeing the whole story behind Caleb's crazy entrance into the world, here it is.
It's always so weird to me that in our photo files, this picture:
Is followed by this picture:
We were soooo unprepared for a baby!
My first time touching him...on the only extremity that wasn't occupied by a monitor, tube, or wire:
What a sweet, beautiful little surprise!