But, Why?

Part of my voice on this blog is for Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Advocacy. The uncorked side. The side that some people won’t show you; how it makes you feel, how medical trauma shows up randomly, and how you learn to cope. Whether it’s CF you advocate for something else, I hope that these words will resonate with you.

“But, why?” I feel like I asked myself these two words, in that order, everyday of 2021. Maybe even more than once a day, most days. It completely sums up the year. From January to December.

For starters, the birth of our son in January of 2021. Pregnancy had been smooth. I mean, I can’t complain. No sickness, no risks, no nothing. Toward the end, there was gestational diabetes which meant we were inducing at 38 weeks, but overall, nothing that modern medicine, or myself, wasn’t prepared for… or so I thought. We went into the hospital on Sunday, January 3rd at 5:00pm. We were feeling all of the emotions – excited, nervous, ready (is this even a feeling for first time parents?!), full of love, and laughter. Again, much like my pregnancy, super uneventful. A labor we had prayed for and even the nurses mentioned, “An uneventful labor is what we want to see!” Aye, Aye Captain! Ask and ye shall receive, right?!

We did the waiting, the epidural around 2:30am, water breaking around 5:00am or 6:00am (it’s all a blur now), some dead legs falling off the bed and my husband having to help turn me, then around 3:00pm we began to push. My only request, “I don’t want to be in labor for 24-hours…can we make this baby come by 5:00?!”

At 4:12pm on January 4th, 2021, Brooks entered the world!! Whew, under 24-hours! Hallelujah! When he made his appearance, everyone in the room yelled, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” It was one of the sweetest moments. Then I remember hearing the doctor say, “Go get the NICU team. Everything is fine, don’t worry!” Any of you that have been through child birth, you know the emotions and the reeling in those first moments, it’s all a blur. You’re just happy to have your baby out, in the world, and for you to get to meet this perfectly well-known stranger that has been apart of you for the past 9 months. When they laid him on my chest I only slightly noticed the large mass coming from his stomach. Later, my husband even admitted, “Well I noticed it, but I’ve never seen a baby that fresh before! I thought maybe he was just swollen or something!” Bless him. After the team assessed Brooks, in all his new fresh baby glory, they rambled off some medical terms and I, in my stupor of new mom bliss just smiled and nodded. My doctor, whom is a wonderful woman, looked at me and said, “Do you understand what they’re saying? Would you like me to break it down for you?” I just looked at her kind of in a daze and shook my head. She then told me in very simple terms that our son was born with what appeared to be his intestines outside of his body, however, they were covered by skin, so at this point no one knew if it was a hernia, omphalocele, or just plain swelling of the abdomen.

I was handed my son, all wrapped up in a blanket, for about 5 minutes. Then he was taken to the NICU. We knew we were not a the most NICU equipped hospital. Would that mean transfer? Would we get to go with him? Would we have to go in a few days when we were discharged from this hospital? What did this mean? My husband could see the question in my eyes and just tried to comfort me the best he could. Everyone cleared the room as quickly as they had shown up for the birth. That’s when our wonderful labor and delivery nurse made sure the door was closed and came over to the bed. She gave us two pieces of advice right then and there. The first I can’t remember, but the second slapped me in the face. “Take time to process this…just you two. Don’t tell family or friends yet. They will worry and they will worry you to death and you don’t even have answers yet. Take the moments to take in the newborn baby bliss, and then worry about your baby. But just you two..together. You’re going to get through this together.” That’s when I lost it. I had not cried once since finding all of this out until that moment. Within minutes, the transport team was there to take Brooks to the bigger, better equipped NICU at the sister hospital of where we delivered. Thank the Lord it was only 20 minutes away. We also found out we would get to go as well, but Brooks would be in one ambulance, I in another, and my husband in our car. We came as two, planning to leave as three, but there we were, all leaving individually.

They assured us by the time we got to the hospital, Brooks would be set up in his NICU pod and we could go see him right away. Even the ambulance driver must’ve seen the concern in my eyes. He said, “Don’t worry, the ride usually puts them right to sleep. The bumps and movement feel normal to them. We’ll take good care of him!” And away he went. An eternity later…it was only a hour and a half… the ambulance showed up for me. I was loaded up and taken away. My husband took everything with him, hoping we had left nothing behind, and followed the ambulance. He stopped for food, knowing good and well it had now been 28 hours since I had eaten and that I was not about to leave the NICU until I was forced out. When I got to the new hospital, in our new room, I was alone for the first time in over 24 hours. All alone. Freshly labored and delivered. Freshly somewhat traumatized from post-birth (more on that later). Feeling ALL of the emotions. Within 15 minutes, my husband arrived, and to the NICU we went.

There he was. Brooks Fisher Dalton. Laying in a tiny baby hospital bed all hooked up to wires, IVs, monitors, and sleeping peacefully. Since my husband had not held him yet, I told him to go ahead! That’s a moment I’ll never forget. Whew…the emotions! Then we settled in for a long night. We didn’t know what was to come. The nurses were wonderful. We had so many questions, but of course, they came in pieces. We weren’t expecting this. We weren’t planning for this.

We thought we were going to have a baby, do the thing, get the advice, and go home 24 hours later to start this journey of parenthood. So our questions were random, some minor, others major, and some things we never thought we’d be asking about OUR baby. The surgeon came by around 10:00pm. He pushed on Brooks’s stomach, shoving all of the outward contents in, making my husband and I very uncomfortable, and said, “We’ll fix it Wednesday! Any questions?!” Don’t get me wrong the man is a genius, an amazing pediatric surgeon! We trusted him from the start of our journey and meeting him…but we had ALL the questions! Of course we asked, “What is it?” In short, it was his intestines and it appeared as if his intestinal wall had not closed fully. The surgeon wanted a second opinion before officially naming it so we were waiting on rounds the next morning to hear from the neonatal doctor as well.

We spent hours in the NICU that night. The nurses assured us, we should go rest. We would be there indefinitely and would need our strength and moments to reset. There were only two hours a day when the NICU closed, and that was during shift change. My husband told me over and over, “If you wake up at 2am and want to come down, we will. I promise.” So off we went, as new parents, back to our hospital room…without our baby. We cried, we restlessly rested, we slept. I remember waking up really early and trying to shower and all on my own, still a little woozy from the epidural and pain medicine, but my husband was so exhausted. He didn’t have to tell me. I could see it on his face, even as he slept. He was worried about all three of us so I felt it best he sleep. Slowly, I did what I needed to do. I survived. Probably overdid it a bit, but oh well. I wanted to get back to the NICU!

“But, why?” hadn’t fully shown itself yet. I was still in a fog.

More to come…


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