I stayed in the delivery room for a while longer, pushing out the placenta. When it was all over, I still needed to be examined. They told me that I had a boggy uterus, whatever that meant. Before I was transferred into my own room, the intern thanked me profusely for letting her attend the birth. It had been the first birth she’d ever witnessed and she thought it was wonderful. I shrugged it off, not sure how to respond. I had been too busy pushing and being in pain to really pay attention to her or anyone else in the room.
I ate some food finally and fielded some phone calls from some overly eager long-distance family. Faye left and I was alone for several hours. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t despite the pure exhaustion I felt. I was worried. I longed to see my husband and baby girl, but they were not around. At nearly midnight, Jason appeared with a nurse behind him. She wheeled in our daughter and suggested that I try to feed her. Ana latched on and ate a bit, but not much before falling asleep. Jason and I settled down for the night, which wasn’t easy considering the hurricane that was producing a wild thunderstorm outside.
A nurse came to check my vitals just a couple of hours later. She noticed that Ana’s body temperature had dropped, so they whisked her back to nursery to put her under the warming lamps. I worried about her, wondering when I would get a chance to bond with my newborn daughter. It wasn’t until after breakfast that the pediatrician came in and announced somberly, “She didn’t make it.”
We were stunned and speechless, which was good. It wasn’t as bad as we thought. Had we spoken too soon, we might have created a huge drama where there didn’t need to be one.
He continued, “We were hoping to keep her out of the NICU, but we had no choice but to put her there. She isn’t regulating her body temperature just yet and her blood sugar is low. We need to keep an eye on her for a while. You are welcome to go up and visit her any time though.”
We decided to take a trip up to see her just a short time later. We entered the dimly lit and quiet area unsure what to expect. We were told to wash our hands and were directed the room she was in. A nurse told us we could feed her. She took her out from underneath the warming lights and handed her to us. I sat down with the bottle they gave us and fed her the high calorie formula they insisted we use. It was incredibly comforting to hold my daughter in my arms for longer than a few moments.
I was released from the hospital after my traditional two-day stay. Ana was to be transferred to another hospital’s pediatrics wing. They took her by ambulance for the short fifteen-minute ride. We weren’t allowed to ride with her, so we went home and then went to see her a little bit later. I was able to get a proper shower, change clothes, and eat something. I also checked the mail and found that our Medicaid was approved and was retroactive. That was relief considering how much money it had cost to have our daughter and then on top of that how much it was going to cost to keep Ana in the hospital for a while longer.
We spent all afternoon and evening with Ana in her room. The nurses came in every couple of hours to help us feed her. She was too sleepy to eat, but they insisted she needed to down several ounces at least. We had to jiggle and jostle her around to get her to take what little food was required of her to ingest.
I wasn’t allowed to breast feed and I didn’t have a pump just yet. I became engorged rather quickly, my breasts swelling up to the size of a porn star’s. I begged the hospital for some relief. The nurse brought me a cheap hand pump and then later they wheeled in an electric one. The electric one brought some much needed let down. I was able to freeze the colustrum I produced and feed it to her later.
It was during this transition period from pregnancy to proud parent that our parents showed up from out of state. I was both happy to see them and frustrated that they invaded our home when all I wanted was peace and quiet. I would have had them stay at a local hotel, but both sets of parents were too poor to afford such a luxury.
Jason and I slept in our own bed that night, leaving my mother to stay with Ana. I felt guilty for leaving my baby girl’s side, but I was too exhausted and stressed to stay with her around the clock. We didn’t stay at home for long though. The next morning Jason, his parents and I all went back the hospital to be with Ana. I stayed all that day and that night. Jason returned home with his parents.
Ana was finally feeding better and her billirubin levels were dropping. The nurse said it was likely she’d go home soon. Ana spent a total of six days at the hospital, four of which were after I was discharged. We arrived home to a stork sign stuck in the yard as announcement and welcome. You could hardly see our tiny preemie baby in the infant car seat, but there she was, sleeping.
Jason’s parents left a day later and my mother stayed behind. She stayed for another week, helping with laundry and other chores while I recovered. My stepfather drove down, stayed over night and then they left together to go back home. I was both sad and happy to see her leave. I missed the company and help, but I was thankful to have time alone with my new family.