Just over three weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our first son, Justus. We are all home, healthy, and happy!
Life right now is pretty much how we would have hoped and expected before Joy was in labor and we went to the hospital. But the journey in between was quite different than we had expected.
The “due date” for Justus’ birth had come and gone days ago, and Joy was very ready to have our baby. As any woman who has been 40 or more weeks pregnant could attest, it’s virtually impossible to be comfortable and sleep is difficult at best. I was at home with Joy on a Tuesday afternoon when she started having some contractions – her first sign of labor. To try to speed things up later that day, we went on a very long walk with our dog. The contractions slowly got a little stronger, and we started making preparations to go to the hospital. Joy took a shower, and it was then that her water broke.
We knew that if her water broke and it wasn’t clear and scentless, that meant we should go to the hospital right away. It definitely wasn’t clear. Green. This meant that Justus had a bowel movement already, and may have swallowed amniotic fluid. A sense of urgency was already in place, but kicked into high gear, and we got everything together as quickly as we could and got out of the house.
Once checked in at the hospital, everything seemed to be fine; vitals were all good for Joy and baby. But because we knew Justus was sitting in meconium, we knew there was some extra risk involved. Thankfully, the hospital we were at has an excellent NICU, so we knew no matter what happened, our baby would be in good hands.
The labor went slowly — my poor wife. She endured hours of contractions before they became too much and she asked for an epidural. That was around 2:15 AM, and was a huge relief to her, and to me. After that, Joy was able to sleep a little bit, and so was I. Once morning came and the staff had changed over, they administered pitocin to Joy to speed things up; her dilation hadn’t progressed much since getting the epidural. The pitocin helped, and be 11:30 AM she was dilated to a 7. At 12:43 PM the nurse checked again, and she was dilated to a 10 and it was time to push!
It took a little while for the doctor and all the nurses to get ready and in position in our room. Because of the meconium (the green stuff in the water that is the babies first feces) the NICU doctor and a couple nurses also came to our room and were at the ready. The doctors had informed us that he would likely have swallowed some of the meconium, and the risk was that he would get it in his airway and lungs. After being delivered, he would immediately be handed over to the NICU team to clear out his mouth and airways; they told us that we didn’t want him to cry until they were able to clear it out, so that the meconium would not get into his lungs.
Everyone was in place and Joy began pushing at 1 PM. She was amazing, and on Wednesday, May 25th at 1:33 PM Justus was born!
Justus was immediately handed over to the NICU team, and they began suctioning. They had to suction three times to get everything out; he was having trouble breathing on his own, so they gave him oxygen. After a few minutes, he began to breathe better on his own, and Joy was able to hold him for a couple minutes. Because he had trouble breathing on his own, and because they found that he had very low blood sugar, they transferred him to the NICU. The prognosis was that he would be fine, but there was enough risk that a stay in the NICU was necessary.
At around 2:00 PM Justus was checked into a room in the NICU. I stayed with him the whole time; I hated having to leave Joy, but she was a trooper, and the nurses helping her were great. Justus had to get an IV to provide nutrients because of his low blood sugar. He really did great through the whole process! The chest x-rays showed that there was nothing in his lungs, which was our biggest concern, so that was a huge blessing!
I went down to help Joy at around 3:15 PM, and then we went up together to be with Justus again, and Joy got to finally hold him again.
The next few days were incredibly difficult. We were both exhausted, especially Joy. We were worried about Justus and didn’t know how long he would be in the NICU. Our room was a floor below the NICU where Justus’ room was. Every three hours, Justus needed to eat, so we would go up to his room, feed him, hold him, talk to the nurse, and then go back down to our own room. This was an hour to hour and a half process, so left only an hour and a half or so to rest in the room; plus we had to eat for ourselves, and Joy had to be checked by nurses and take meds, and pump every three hours. Exhausting.
Justus wasn’t eating great at first, but we really needed to get his blood sugar levels up so he could get off the IV. Joy’s milk hadn’t completely come in yet, so we were trying to bottle feed him with formula. What milk Joy did have we made sure to feed him first before any supplementing. But we had to do both breast milk and supplementing; Justus needed more calories than he would have if he had a less traumatic birth and had normal blood sugar levels. It took a couple days before he got better at eating, and before his blood sugar levels became healthy and stable. On Thursday, they began to wean him off the IV and decrease the amount he was getting. His blood sugars stayed high, and every three hours they would decrease the level by a ml. By Friday evening, Justus was completely off the IV!
Because Justus was doing well and off the IV, we were able to transfer to a different room in the NICU where the three of us could all be together. It was so nice to finally all be in the same room for the night. On Saturday, we were able to leave the hospital and take Justus home. What a relief!
Reality did not match all our expectations. Some of our expectations were met: very little or no sleep, stress, incredible joy and wonderment at the miracle of new life given by God, and unspeakable love for our baby boy. Some expectations were not met: we had hoped Joy to be able to hold her baby and have skin to skin contact for the first hour of his life, we had hoped she would be able to breast feed him right away, and we had expected to all be together in the same room after he was born. Those few days were way more difficult than we had expected, yet it was all worth it. It was not fun, and I wouldn’t want to go through it again… but I would in a heartbeat, because my son is worth it. He is so precious and valuable, and he is worth any amount of trial and pain. We thank God for blessing us with Justus, and for the work He will do in us and our son as we journey on in life!