In the NICU: My daughter's first weeks of life

This week, Anchel gets misty-eyed as she goes back and shares Syona’s birth story and her experience in the NICU.

Syona on Day 4.

A week before Syona was born, Dilip and I took a hospital tour as part of our prenatal class. I remember looking into the NICU and seeing a nurse hold up a teeny, tiny baby. I had a fleeting thought about how hard it must be for parents to have a child in the NICU.

I had no idea that, a week later, my girl would be lying in that very same NICU for the first two weeks of her life.

Syona decided to make her appearance about a month early. When we arrived at the hospital, the intake nurse was pretty sure I wasn’t in labour. (“Most women can’t talk while they’re having contractions,” she said.) She was wrong. Syona’s heart rate wasn’t responding to contractions the way it should have. There was meconium in my water, a telltale sign of fetal distress, and I was taken for an urgent C-section a short while later. Syona was born at a whopping 4 lbs. 3 oz.

She was much smaller than the doctor expected, but at least she was crying. They quickly held her up and whisked her over to the table for an exam. The room grew quiet as the doctor delivered my placenta and told us it looked “aged” (not how you want the thing that nourishes your baby to be described). It turns out something had been wrong throughout my pregnancy and no one had a clue.  
Syona was born in the afternoon, and in the hours that followed her delivery I willed my legs to move. They wouldn’t. Finally, at 9 p.m., I was able to wiggle my toes, move my foot, and I finally convinced the nurse I could walk so that I could see my daughter in the NICU. She was hooked up to more tubes and monitors than I could count. I didn’t get to hold her until the next day. (To this day I openly weep thinking about missing that moment where you get to hold your little baby immediately after delivery.)

For the next five days I held my breath and wondered if this little beautiful girl was going to make it. This is a fear that I can speak of now that she is happy and healthy. (Even though she has cerebral palsy, she is a healthy kid.)

While in the NICU, Syona had several medical complications, but over the next few days, everything was resolved due to some luck, her strength and great medical care.

Then came what I call “Day 4.” I have a love/hate relationship with Day 4. I love that day because Syona’s life was saved. I hate that day because I’ve never been so scared. We were informed that Syona required a platelet transfusion because her counts were extremely low. As I sat in my hospital bed, a wave of despair washed over me and I broke down for the first time since she was born. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or have anyone ask me if I was OK, so I timed my sobs with the cries of my roommate’s newborn so no one could hear me. Day 4 was also the day I was released from the hospital. I had to go home without my baby. The truth is that I went home, took a shower, attempted to eat something and came right back to the hospital — the house felt too quiet and empty. Fortunately, the transfusion was a success (I have no words to thank the amazing blood donors who so generously and anonymously saved my baby’s life).

As the days went on, Syona continued to make good gains. One of her doctors requested a head and abdominal ultrasound. The abdominal ultrasound was fine, but the head ultrasound showed shadows. We were told there was no cause for alarm and that the shadows could have simply been a poor image. A follow-up was ordered. The shadows were still there. During these days, Syona continued to get better. The doctors said she needed to come back to get another head ultrasound four weeks after discharge. She came home 14 days after she was born. At the time, it seemed like forever but I realize now that some parents endure this pain and long wait for months. I remember when we finally went to bed that night. Syona slept soundly in a crib next to us, and my husband and I talked about how the hardest part of our experience was behind us. I really didn’t believe that these “shadows” would amount to anything.

Next week I’ll share all the ups and downs of our first year, and how, even though I thought the hardest part was behind us, it had actually only just begun.

For now, I’d like to know: How did your delivery go? Is there anything you wish you could change?

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