I wish this was one of those birth stories where it’s a beautiful delivery, you get beautiful family photos, and you’re on your beautiful way out of the hospital in 2 days with your brand new beautiful baby. But, sadly, it did not go that way for us. It was tough reliving this long (reaaaaally long, be prepared to read a lot…sorry) 7-day hospital event in the NICU and an even tougher experience to go through at the time. Thinking about it though, I remember it all just like it was yesterday, the joy, the love, the pain, the nerves, the guilt, the sadness, but most of all, the happiness of getting our little Ivy into our hands.
So, here it is.
I was overdue. 2 days. I was upset I listened to my doctor (even if EVERY person said, “Don’t listen to your doctor!”). I had been 100% effaced and at a 3 for about 3 weeks now and she told me I would “probably deliver early.” Well, that didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I was still optimistic and full of anxious feelings of when all of this labor stuff would start happening. I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks or early contractions, therefore I was unsure of what labor was going to feel like. Finally, on the morning of October 1st as I was getting ready for work, I felt it. IT, as in I knew this had to be IT. A contraction. FINALLY.
Like a good new (anal) baby momma, I started timing. They were getting closer and longer, but not unbearable (yet). At about 11am, I was getting anxious and the contractions weren’t going anywhere. I decided to check myself in to the hospital because I wanted SOMETHING. Break my water, do something, anything to get this baby out! I remember walking back and forth from my car to the entrance about 10 times thinking should I bring my bag, no, yes, nahhh, ok yes, no, ok YES. I made my way to the counter and up to labor and delivery. I got hooked up to the contraction monitor, they checked me and I was at a 4 now and showing signs of progressions, but, they just sort of laughed at me. I was a little too calm for their liking and they didn’t think I was in actual labor. It didn’t help that John showed up and brought me my Jimmy John’s sandwich that I was shoveling into my face. They said, “you wouldn’t be doing THAT if you were in actual labor.” (They were right). So John and I decided to head out and try to induce labor quicker by walking around downtown on a gorgeous October fall day.
And it worked.
The contractions were starting to get really bad as we were browsing furniture at DeWitte’s (they had to have thought I was crazy), so we headed home, and I timed them again, and YAHTZEE. They were about 60 seconds long and about 2 minutes apart so I was definitely in active labor! Time to go to the hospital! We packed up and headed to Sanford around 6:00pm. We were giddy and anxious and scared and happy and excited and a whole other slew of emotions I’m not even sure I know how to articulate. We were on our way to having our baby!
We checked in at the front desk and about 5 various people asked me if I needed a wheelchair. I stubbornly replied no, as I was determined to stay mobile. I probably looked ridiculous waddling up the halls to the birthing place. I remember the walls were so cool and I would lay my head against it to relax. Haha. I’m sure that looked really weird :) Now that we were at the hospital, it put me in a totally different state of mind. I had gone from going with the flow through the contractions while walking around downtown, to holy s*** this is happening, and this f-ing hurts! When we got to the birthing room at around 6:45, I had progressed to a 6. And that meant we were getting closer to a 10 and pushing to meet Ivy! I had hoped for a quick birth like my Mother’s, so I was ecstatic that I was progressing quickly! And these contractions were S T R O N G.
I had read the book and taken a class on hypnobirthing, so I was all prepared for my natural labor, and I was quite determined to succeed. Trying to breathe and focus was my ultimate task. Throughout birthing, I knew I wanted to stay mobile, so I kept venturing around the room to keep gravity down and get baby moving (as fast as possible) through the canal. I actually weirdly liked the pain (hit me now, as I’m writing this a year later). I was used to striving to reach my goals and being very focused throughout my athletic running career, so I was able to get into this mindset of what I needed to do and how to manage the pain. It was very helpful! I knew I could do it! Don’t get me wrong! It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced!!! I just tried to manage it the best ways I knew how.
John was so helpful! I had wondered how he was going to as he took little to no interest in any of the birthing classes I made him go to, because Lord knows he was NOT going to read a book. But he was SO great! I remember the back pain being the worst and it really helped having John push on my lower back to counteract the pain. He acted as my own coach, pushing me through, cheering me on, telling me when he could see her dark brown hair, holding my hand, doing everything he could to help me deliver our baby girl. He was dynamite.
The pain got worse, but my focus and breathing got deeper, and pretty soon my body knew what to do, and I was pushing. They checked me, and sure enough I was a 10. My body instinctively knew, and I started pushing like my body told me to.
I’ll admit, I was not a stellar pusher. This is where I would redo it if I could. This is where I wish I wouldn’t have listened to when every single person wanted to share their birth story (and here I am, uhhhhh, sorry). This is where I should not have read what can happen to your body while birthing (umb, yuck, us poor women). This is where I should have JUST FREAKING PUSHED MY HARDEST. But I didn’t. I pushed juuuuust hard enough, but I was so scared to rip or poop (haha), that I held back a little. I would push, and she would come out a bit, then go back in, then I’d push, and she would come out a bit, then go back in. Ugh. Finally, the doc said to push in between contractions to keep her in position. Well, alright. So I held the push and eventually got sick of that so I JUST PUSHED MY HARDEST, and finally, f i n a l l y, our baby girl was out after an hour of pushing.
Our little brown haired, dark eyed, beautiful baby was here.
Ivy Rebecca Koch, was born Tuesday, October 1, 9:11pm, 7 pounds, 9 ounces.
We were so excited, SO excited! I couldn’t believe what just happened! We delivered a BABY! I immediately laid her on my bare skin to start the “Golden Hour” of skin-to-skin contact and just snuggled her. Analyzing how dark her eyes were, how she had soft little hair all over her body, counting to see her 10 fingers and 10 toes. She was all here. All here in perfect form.
Our family had formed, we made this little baby together. We are now, a family.
This was p u r e euphoria.
Then, it all changed.
Something was wrong with our baby.
The nurse came over after about 5 minutes of bliss holding her and gazing at her, and said she had a little low level of oxygen. She was at about 83% and they liked the babies to be over 90%. They had to take her from me to monitor her levels. I reluctantly let go. But what was wrong?
This was what was so hard. This was again where I wished I wouldn’t have read anything about the golden hour and how important skin-to-skin was. I had such anxiety that she wasn’t going to get that skin-to-skin and the connection I so desired between us. And the ultimate question, what was wrong with my baby?
After about 5-10 minutes, her levels weren’t raising and they were so confused because she was perfect pink and didn’t appear to have anything wrong with her. A low oxygen baby would have been a little blue. The doctors and nurses were talking in the hall with John and they came back in and gave word that maybe it was a problem with her heart.
WHAT. Stomach dropped. No. No. No. No. No. NO.
They continued to monitor her and decided to take her to the NICU to do further testing. But, on the way there, her oxygen levels raised a bit and they were able to bring her back to us. I held her tight and this time did NOT want to let go. She had to have an oxygen mask on her to help her out a bit. And that’s the only family picture I have post-delivery. I’m still so bummed about this. I see everyone’s perfect family pictures, snuggling with their babies, and I only have these picture. I felt so robbed. A bittersweet happy.
We got about 2 minutes of holding her, and her oxygen levels started dropping again. This time, they took her from me and what laid ahead was the worst emotional experience to ever happen to me, to us.
I didn’t get it. I did EVERYTHING by the book. I always said “I’m going to make the perfect baby.” I did it all right. I took my prenatal with DHA to give her the best brain power. I didn’t have a sip of alcohol. I exercised. I remained stress-free throughout the pregnancy (ok a little stress here and there). I loved my baby. I talked to her. I rubbed my tummy often. I didn’t get it. Why was this happening? Intense feelings of guilt took over my body and mind. What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong? I felt so bad for her. So bad for what she couldn’t control. What had I done? What happened?
I got all cleaned up (yuck, but only 2 stitches! FEWF) and wheeled to the terrifying NICU. The first sight of her was complete shock. She had a CPAP on and was placed in an incubator. Seeing that was heart-breaking and extremely scary. They made it look like it was really really bad. Like I had the sickest baby in the world. I could barely even see her face with all of the equipment on her. Nonetheless, I had an intense love for her, and only wanted to be close to her to care for her and make her feel special. I was not going to leave her side. I was so scared for her.
trying to hide the tears but happy baby is here
The neonatologist came to explain that she had fluid on her lungs which was causing her oxygen levels to be low, called transient tachypnea of the newborn. They showed us the x-ray and the lab results which explained the fluid and how it showed the infection in the lungs. They had placed her on the CPAP to help keep her lungs open during breathing and they started an antibiotic to help get rid of the fluid and infection.
Ok, so, not so bad. Just fluid in the lungs that can be cleared with an antibiotic. FEWF. We will be out of here in no time.
But, still, why did this happen?
They explained that sometimes with a fast delivery, all of the fluid does not get squeezed out and that she may have inhaled that. Or, they had to break my water as I was pushing her out, and she may have inhaled that. So, crap. WTF. Apparently this just happens sometimes. Nothing I could have done to prevent it and I didn’t do anything wrong. It will be fixed quickly with the antibiotic. Riiiight, then why do I still have intense feelings of guilt. I still felt like it was all my fault. I was responsible for building my baby and taking care of her in there, making sure she had the best environment to grow. And I failed. I felt so guilty.
The next few hours were hard. I had planned on breastfeeding and I couldn’t do that. That was very depressing. Again, everything I had read and heard was so strong towards establishing breastfeeding right away. This made me very stressed. I needed that connection. I wanted her to get this “liquid gold.” Not an option for me, right now.
She had so many cords all over and things coming out of her to monitor her. I hated it. My brand new baby and she looked so bad. I cried. A lot. So many feelings of sorrow and distress and guilt. I hated all of it. I hated that this had to happen. I’ve never even heard of this! All of my friends had normal births and normal babies, what was wrong with mine?
I just wanted to hold her. I wanted to bring her home and out of this sick environment. I was so scared of what was happening to her and if she was going to be ok.
The NICU was a tough place. I think of the NICU as a place with very sick kids. Kids that are dying, kids that are struggling to survive. And my baby was here. Just the stigma of the NICU is difficult enough to deal with. And having a baby that wasn’t really that sick in there was the WORST. Being around these parents that have been in there for weeks and months made me so depressed. It was a horrid environment there. I felt so bad for every parent. They all just wanted the best for their babies. We all just wanted out of there.
After day 1, her oxygen levels were much better and so they took her off of the CPAP and she just needed the breathing cannula to be safe, so that was a HUGE relief. I loved finally being able to see her cute face without all that scary head gear on!
She was so sweet, I could see right through all of the stress and sores from the CPAP that surrounded her as I gazed into her deep curious eyes. She looked around the room, so alert from the beginning. She was so little, so precious. My heart was filled with so much love for her.
On a good note, on day 2 she got the cannula AND feeding tube out!! She was breathing room air and holding her oxygen levels above 90%! She looked so bad though :( She had so many sores on her face from the tape that held the CPAP and the cannula on. I was so sad for her precious soft baby skin :(
Since she had the cannula and feeding tube out, I could start establishing breastfeeding! It took her a little to get used to it. She would latch sometimes, other times they would force me to give her a bottle, otherwise they would have to put the feeding tube back in and I was NOT going to do that. She wouldn’t take a bottle from me, so one of the nurses or a family member would accomplish it. One time, she wasn’t latching so I tried to give her a bottle when I was the only one there and she would not take it from me. The nurse that we had at the time, just started sticking the feeding tube down her throat before even trying to give her the bottle. I was trying to tell her to keep letting me try, but she kept trying to put it down her throat. I was getting upset and just at that time, my Mom walked in. She ripped Ivy out of my arms and away from the nurse and basically yelled at her that, “she’s a full-term baby, she doesn’t need a feeding tube!” AMEN MOM. I don’t think I’ve ever loved my Mom more at that moment. She sat down with Ivy and the bottle, and 2 seconds later, Ivy was feeding. My mom started tearing up, feeling so bad that she wasn’t there earlier, that she wasn’t there to help me when the nurse wouldn’t. I cried too. It was all just so stressful. Trying to learn all of these new mother things and trying to take care of myself and my post-delivery body and my sick baby. It was so difficult. I was so thankful for my Mom there. I never wanted her to leave. She helped me so much during that time. Advising me on what the Doctors were doing and what I can do with Ivy, helping me to understand what was going on. I needed my Mom there. She saved me during that time. She saved us. (Thank you Mom, xxoo)
Her levels continued to improve with the 3-day antibiotic. Unfortunately, after 3 days, the levels were good, but not great. The doctors advised us to extend it to the other option, the 7-day antibiotic. 4 more days of this?! MISERABLE. At least by now she was off of the cannula and breathing on her own. So that was good. But not good enough to leave. I was exhausted.
The next 4 days were rough.
Her IV to administer the antibiotic came out and they had poked her 5 times in various places to get it back in. They were all unsuccessful. I felt so sad for her. It had to have hurt so bad. Finally, the nurses decided on a scalp IV on her head and that worked. Ugh. A big IV right on top of her head. Not the best for pictures.
It was never just smooth sailing. Something was always wrong. Something else the doctors had to check or do. They would give us hope, then it would be shot down. The 4 days lingered on, slower, and slower.
I basically didn’t leave the entire 7 days, but twice to go home and shower as fast as I possibly could. John tried to take me to breakfast one day at the Original Pancake House, and when we got there there were so many people (like always). I was so scared and nervous that someone was going to see us and ask where Ivy was and I would totally loose it and break down. I was so scared of seeing anyone. I didn’t want questions. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to be there away from Ivy. I tried to control my fears as we got put on the waiting list. John saw a family with a new baby and goes, “aweeee, look at the baby.” I turned to look and TEARS, lots and lots of tears. I lost it. Uncontrollable. They had their baby out to eat for a nice family breakfast, but we didn’t have ours. TEARS. TEARS. I told John we had to go. I couldn’t get myself under control. I knew I couldn’t leave her again. I was too caught up in it all. Too scared, too emotional, too sad. I didn’t leave her again. She needed me, and I needed her.
Furthermore, I so desperately wanted to show off our new baby! We didn’t even have a good photo of her to share on Facebook and with our friends without all of her medical equipment on. And friends started calling and asking when they could come visit. I had to tell him what was happening and that we were still at the hospital. That was difficult. All I wanted to do was show her off! But I didn’t want anyone to see our baby like this. She looked so sick with all of the health equipment on, but she really wasn’t, she was just fighting off an infection, but it looked so bad. I didn’t want anyone judging her, so protective already. In fact, this picture on the left is the original, and I (shamefully) cropped out the IV when I posted it on Instagram :/
However, some family and friends did visit. I was instantly in protective mode. I hated how some of them looked at her. Like she was so ill, like she was really bad, like there was something really wrong with her. Her feet had gotten so black and blue from the pokes they had to do to her to check blood sugars. I didn’t want anyone to see her like that, or to look at her like that.I didn’t want anyone there. It was very very hard. I only wanted it to be us and to hurry up and get out of there.
However, it was very refreshing to see family and friends. As hard as it was to have them see her like that, the emotional support they gave us helped a tremendous amount. We were so lucky to have them there for us! I don’t know what I would do without friends or family! They were our lifeline during that week! THANK YOU
My moral continued to be at a drastic low scared of what was going on in her little body. My heart ached and my mind hurt. In addition, she also had levels of bilirubin, so she had to be in the blanket and get a special light on her to lower those levels. Ugh. Does it ever STOP?
I felt so sad for my husband and the Koch side as we were going through this with Ivy. I especially didn’t want this to be happening to them. John had lost his sister Becca to a 2 year battle with cancer in February, and now this? This was NOT what the Koch’s needed. It was all so draining. They just went through so much grief with their daughter and now this, it was so emotionally and physically draining. We were living in a nightmare again scared of what was wrong with their Granddaughter and what was going to happen. Ivy was named after Becca, Ivy Rebecca Koch, so we knew she had her own angel watching over her, and it was all quite special, but this was extremely hard. This what just NOT what the Koch’s needed. I can’t imagine how they were feeling and what John was going through. It’s one emotional roller coaster when it’s a sister who is sick, but then your own daughter? I choke up just thinking about it. I felt so bad. So bad.
I just needed to remind myself, she’s not even very sick, just had some fluid in her lungs, the antibiotic will clear it, then we will be out of here. But it was hard to be positive. The NICU made it seem so bad. I could hardly bear it anymore as I was sleeping there day and night. I did not leave her side. I wanted to be there for her if she needed me. I wasn’t going anywhere. Exhausting. I had severe feelings of nostalgia. I just wanted to be home with her.
We were almost to the finish line of the 7 day antibiotic, and then, the doctors came in.
They explained that sometimes with these cases of newborns and babies that have fluid in their lungs, they can’t tell whether the infected fluid had traveled up to the brain or not, which could mean meningitis. They advised getting a spinal tap, or lumbar puncture (lp), to check.
WHAT. I knew what that meant. This humongous needle going into the back of her lower spine.
NO NO NO.
My mom instantly said no.
She had seen babies with meningitis for 25 years and said Ivy was not one of those babies. She was just fine. She didn’t even think Ivy needed to be in there for the 7 days. She said Ivy looked fine after 2 days and should have been sent home! So here I was, stuck in a hard place of trusting my Mom, or Ivy possibly having meningitis and not knowing. What the hell would we do. My Mom was adamant. And I agreed with her and trusted her. I did not want to have that done to Ivy. I felt like the Doctors just had to do it to be safe and rule anything out. My friend Shannon, who was in her Pediatric residency at the time, sided with the cautious doctors and suggested that it’s always good to rule out. Two people I trust dearly with two very different opinions.
And then there were my feelings. Anguish. Heartache. Grief. Exhaustion. Stress. Depression.
How was I going to make my baby go through that?
We eventually decided to go through with it. A “better safe than sorry” approach, if you will.
When the doctors came in, we had to sign papers to ok the administration of the lumbar puncture. I could not even sign it. I passed it on to John to make him sign it because he wanted the test. He wanted to rule out anything else that may be wrong with her. I still didn’t know how I felt. And I cried so many times about it. I didn’t want to do it, but I also wanted to make sure that she didn’t have anything else wrong with her. So, paper was signed.
On day 6, they came into the room to administer the test. Several nurses, specialists, and the neonatologist gathered in the room. They had to squeeze her into a very tight ball to stick her spine out. She cried. I knew I had to stay strong. I wanted to be in the room, to watch it, to make sure of what they were doing. I gave her some of the sweet sugar water they gave me to help ease her pain. She kept crying. The neonatologist poked the enormous needle in her spine, and out came red blood. I knew that wasn’t spinal fluid. It should be clear. I said, “that’s not right,” and he explained he must not have gotten in the right spot.
WHAT. Kill me now. REALLY.
Ok, poke number 2 and now he gets it. She’s in pain. Crying. Hurting. My poor baby. I hate this. I hate everyone here. I hate all of this.
They get done and I hold her so tight. I don’t ever want anyone to hurt her. I don’t ever want to make her go through anything like that ever again. I don’t want us to be here. The team leaves and I’m stuck with an intense headache after seeing that and a crying baby.
This is about as low as I could be. This mothering thing is not working out so well yet. I felt like such a failure in protecting my baby girl! I had developed an intense protection order against every person and am just trying to do my best with her, all while battling my own feelings of guilt, anguish, and sorrow. I just held onto her, as tight as I possibly could.
Finally, the day we get to leave arrives, 7 days later. October 8, she’s now 1 week old. She receives her last dose of antibiotic at 11:00am, they take the (ugly) IV out of her scalp, we take some photos, and we dash out of there about as quickly as we possibly could (I swear, it was like 11:01am).
That was a glorious feeling. Ivy seeing the sun for the first time and taking a breath of clean fresh air put a huge smile on my face. We survived, Ivy. We survived. I will take you home and we will start our lives together, the way I wanted us to. Safe and sound. Safe and sound. And full of love and snuggles.
As we walked into our home, I dropped all of my stuff right at the door, took out my baby, and just held her for the next 24 hours straight. It was glorious getting to snuggle with her on the couch and in our bed, at our own home. No interruptions from nurses or doctors. No more pokes. No more monitoring. She was so precious. The week was so scary and I wanted to forget it all. We had our baby now, safe, healthy, and at home. I think I kissed her about a million times that day. And Daddy finally got a million snuggles. Little Daddy’s girl.
1 week picture
Although her NICU stay was a low-level emergency, it felt like such a difficult battle. Overcoming that hurdle was a grueling experience and I wish that every family could just have a healthy baby boy or girl. I felt so robbed of many “firsts” that I so looked forward to. First family photo, first cuddle session, first night sleeping together, first nursing session, and more. Even not getting that skin-to-skin contact or getting to breastfeed right away still breaks my heart. There are so many pressures on a new mom and I have tried to learn from this experience. Somehow.
At my 6 week appointment, my Doctor told me that her and a team of other Doctors were trying to get low-level NICU stays like ours to be done in the nursery in the birthing place instead of having to go to the NICU. She said that her team of Doctors are strict in getting their patients to start establishing breastfeeding right away, and when their patients head to the NICU, the process there and the nurses and doctors are not helpful in the breastfeeding situation. The babies should be able to stay with the parents and receive an antibiotic right there in the nursery. I was hopeful that that really does gets done, because with a full-term baby who only had to receive an antibiotic, they sure made it seem like it was so much worse than what it really was. Not to mention the stress put on the family and the baby.
Thinking ahead, I am already nervous about my next delivery (when that day comes) because I want it to be so different than this. I want it to be the beautiful delivery, the beautiful family photos, and to be on our beautiful way out of the hospital in 2 days with our brand new beautiful baby. Hopefully, just hopefully. Until then, I’m just happy that we have a smily, healthy, perfect little baby girl now. We love you so much Ivy. We love you. And even though your entrance into this world wasn’t the easiest, your entrance into this world meant the world to us. xoxo