Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emma Peace Turns Three

Three years ago today I was staying alone in a room at the University of Iowa Hospital. After six weeks of complications, monitoring, and worry, I awaited the induction of my third baby. It was a month before her due date. There was much concern for her health. The following is an excerpt from a journal entry I later wrote:

It was a sunny, lazy Sunday morning for me. I had no where to go and nothing to do. I wrote some in my journal to the baby. Then I realized that I really hadn't felt the baby move at all that morning. When the nurse came in to check on me I told her. She promptly returned with some monitoring equipment on a cart and hooked me up for a non-stress test. I tried to tell her not to bother, since this baby had never passed one before, but she went ahead anyway. Half-an-hour later it was concluded that baby had flunked the non-stress test with her heart rate at a constant 120 bpm, as always. I was sent to the labor and delivery ward to have a biophysical profile conducted. This time the doctor and I were both alarmed at what we saw on the ultrasound. The baby's heart was beating but she was lying completely motionless in my womb. There were no breathing movements, no body movements, just eerie stillness. The doctor was consulted and she told them to induce my labor that afternoon.

I called Matt and told him to hurry down, but it was several hours before the induction was underway. Pitocin was started, followed by several hours of mild contractions. At 8:20pm the doctor broke my water and contractions became suddenly strong. Surprised by the strength of the contractions and anticipating hours of pain, at 8:45 I rescinded my previous vow to natural labor and called for an epidural. By 9:00 the pain was unbearable. I was required to stay in bed with an oxygen mask on my face because the baby's heart rate was so flat. Contractions were now back to back with almost no break, there was no way to find relief. The nurse turned off the pitocin completely and assured me that the anesthesiologist was on his way. She called for a doctor to check my progress but I was only 6cm dilated. I began to shake and shiver and feel immense pressure. Again, the nurse called for the doctor to check me, sensing that delivery was imminent, but at 9:20pm the doctor declared me still only 6cm dilated. Just two minutes later the nurse saw me grimace and hold my breath. "Don't push," she said, then after looking, "Don't push! Don't push! The baby's here!" I wanted to tell her I wasn't pushing, but I truly couldn't speak from the pain. "There she is!" Matt said, astonished, as the nurse quickly caught our daughter. The room hadn't been prepped for delivery--the nurse hadn't even had time to put gloves on--but Emma Peace Eby arrived at 9:24pm on Sunday September 9th, 2007. She was eerily still and quiet. The nurse assured me that baby Emma was fine as she called for the doctor. Just a minute later doctors and nurses flooded the room. They swept Emma away to the warmer to be examined. It was a whirl of activity, I just tried to recover.

After a long examination the neonatologist said Emma had weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs 2 ozs and her lungs were fine, but he would need to take her straight to intensive care for some testing to determine the cause of the polyhydramnios and for monitoring because she was pre-term, had had fetal distress, and because of her kidney condition. I asked him to let me hold and nurse her for just a few minutes first. He smiled softly at me and agreed. Emma was calm and sleepy, not at all alert as Naomi and Hannah had been. She refused to nurse. They told me this was normal for a baby who had just been through such a rapid birth. After a kiss I let them take her away. Matt followed her to the NICU and my mom stayed to keep me company as I recovered. Around midnight Matt returned from the NICU saying they hadn't really been able to determine the cause of the polyhydramnios, but there was some question as to Emma's ability to swallow so I would not be allowed to nurse her yet. I was moved to my old room in the postpartum ward. It was strange to be away from my baby.

I was up early the next morning and eager to visit Emma. It was a large, confusing NICU. Emma was in a warmer in a small room in Bay 2. She was awake and fussing. That was good to see. I finally got the go-ahead to nurse her, and after a few awkward tries she caught on. I watched as other babies in the NICU were left to cry as the busy nurses had to tend to others. I knew I would be discharged the next morning, but I could not go home and leave my baby an hour away. I needed to be near her to establish breastfeeding and to give her that human touch that is so important in the early days. I called the Ronald McDonald house down the street, but they did not have any openings for me. I prayed that God would make a way for me to stay with Emma until she was discharged.

The next morning I packed up my bags and moved out of my postpartum room. I sat on the recliner in Emma's tiny cubicle watching the commotion around us, wondering where I would stay. The doctor came by on rounds. I heard him discussing Emma's case with some med students just outside Emma's room so I invited myself to the conversation. He said that Emma's creatinine was fine at 0.9--a huge relief--but that her sodium and white cell counts were high and she would need to be monitored until those came down. I told him how I wanted to stay with Emma. He thought a moment, then spoke to his students, "Isn't there an opening in the new Bay 5? Let's move Emma there." Bay 5 was a unit of the NICU for more stable babies, opened just 2 weeks earlier. It had large private rooms with private baths where parents could room in with their baby. I hadn't even known it existed. I was amazed at God's provision for us.

Emma ended up staying a total of eight long days in the NICU. I became very lonely and frustrated as each day passed and I was told it would be another day or two. My milk was very slow in coming in, which left Emma dehydrated and requiring IV fluids. She needed IV antibiotics for a suspected infection because of her high white cell count and she couldn't seem to gain any weight. Finally, on Sunday September 16th, my milk supply was well established, Emma was hydrated, her sodium and white cell counts were down and she had stopped losing weight. Matt came to pick us up and take us for the happy drive home.

All of Cono gathered around as I came to church that evening with precious baby Emma snuggled in a sling in front of me. Many prayers had been answered and many thanks were offered to God that evening. True to her name Emma was a peaceful baby. She remains a sweet, laid back little girl.
Happy 3rd Birthday, Emma Peace, we are so glad God gave you to us!

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