I was planning to wait until tomorrow to post this portion of Katie's birth story... draw out the suspense for you and all. But I'm just not patient enough! So here you go. I'll just warn you, though... if I've done a halfway decent job of painting the picture for you, this will be a gut-wrencher. It was certainly gut-wrenching to live it. Writing it out has been quite a process - a helpful and healing one, I think.
Part 5 - After birth
Dr. Pyle (and the rest of the L&D and pediatric contingent) arrived in our room within moments of Elizabeth Katherine's birth. Having arrived a few days shy of 37 weeks gestation, she was a little thing, but oh so perfect! Five pounds and three ounces of preciousness. She was healthy in her tininess and was judged to be at 37 weeks gestation by all tests but one. More on that in a bit.
The hospital staff was actually pretty cooperative with our desire to have mom and baby together as much as possible immediately following her birth. They took her off to the side to weigh her and such, but we got to breastfeed and have bonding time right away, and I think they truly made an effort to get her back in my arms as soon as possible.
Everyone there was in high alert mode because Elizabeth Katherine had decided to join us a bit earlier than is usual. The in house pediatrician had been in while I was laboring to discuss things with us briefly, and the peds department swooped in in full force as soon as she was born. The following days would give us a much more intimate view than we had ever desired of the intense pressure that a hospital staff can put on parents to get them to cooperate.
As Jonathan watched over Kate's newborn examination, he had an interesting discussion with the nurse. She explained to him that the reason that Kate's hips were so loose was because she was born frank breech (bottom first, basically folded in half). In the next breath, she told him that despite the fact that Kate rated a 37 weeks gestation on all other counts, the reason she was going to give her a 34 week gestation rating was because her hips were so loose. How is that for excellent logic?
Now, at last, they had achieved a crisis, because with that little piece of twisted logic, they suddenly had a preemie on their hands!
Katie was born around 11.30pm. Some friends had come up to visit me in labor and instead had to wait for everyone to finish up their post-birth duties and clear out of the room. We were thankful to see them so quickly after the birth, though – thanks Liz and Jeannette!
The next few days are, to be totally frank, a blur of awfulness. The highlights shine through, of course... nursing sweet Kate, enjoying her precious newness. But really, it was a constant fight for what we believed to be best for our much loved baby, and seven years later, I still tear up at what they put her through. Though we had prepared intensively for labor and delivery in the hospital, and felt blessed and thankful for how cooperative folks were during L&D, nothing had prepared us for the degree to which the hospital staff would consider our baby their own once she was born.
Because they had labeled her a preemie, every thing was a big thing. And we gained a whole new understanding of how parents can let doctors and nurses do things to their babies/family members that they don't believe are best. The “your baby might die/be permanently damaged if you don't do what we tell you” card is incredibly powerful. Matters were further complicated by the fact that the pediatrician we had chosen for follow-up care did not have privileges at the hospital where Kate was born. So we dealt with multiple pediatricians, none of whom actually knew us.
Over the course of the next few days, Katie was subjected to untold poking and prodding. She spent most of her time in the hospital nursery in an incubator with “bili lights.” We were also bullied into letting them give her antibiotics because of their fear about Group B strep infection. We saw negative effects from those antibiotics for several years... which would have been worth it if they had been truly necessary. More on that in another post.
Little details from the blur...Kate was not released from the hospital until Wednesday or Thursday (having been born on Saturday night). I would have to walk down the hall to the (freezing cold) nursery to visit, nurse, and hold her. The first few days, it was all I could do to make it down there, from the emotional and physical exhaustion. Jonathan was back and forth from the hospital (an hour away from home, remember?) to take care of our other four children. We had friends who could watch the children part of the time during the day, but after that first night, he went home every night and for many hours of each day to care for them. The hours that he was gone were the worst. I remember one afternoon just sobbing from the exhaustion, the loneliness, the frustration of having to fight for our daughter every step of the way. I very much needed to nurse Kate, and yet I was far too tired to make it to the nursery by myself. I felt so very alone, and cried and cried... for my baby, and for my Mama.
Some happy highlights from our stay at the hospital: 1) Our nurse midwife was wonderful to us and brought us terrific home cooked meals. 2) The hospital provided a “hospitality room” for us to stay in after I was released, just down the hall from where they were (from my perspective) keeping our baby hostage. I was so thankful that I did not have to stay at a motel. 3) God is faithful. Even when times are dark and we cannot see His plans, we can trust His heart.
We finally got to take Katie home with us (equipped with a bili-blanket in which to wrap her most of the time). I was so very glad to be home and in the same room with my precious baby!
Poor Katie's poking and prodding wasn't over yet, though. We had to go to our pediatrician's office every weekday to have her bilirubin levels checked. On Friday morning, July 6, Jonathan left for a business conference in Tennessee, taking the older children with him (his parents were going to meet up with him and watch the children, then come back with them to help us out at home). About a half hour after they left, the pediatrician's office called. Katie's levels from the day before had him concerned, and he wanted her at the hospital for a couple more days of intense light therapy. I wasn't supposed to be driving yet, and called someone from church to see if she would take Katie and I to the hospital. She kindly did, and dropped us off at the door (her own baby was only a few weeks old).
So Katie and I spent two nights alone at another hospital. This time, she at least got to be in the same room as me. We were actually in the pediatric ward, so I got the hospital bed, and she got the latest arrival at the hospital – the bili-bed. It was a rolling cart that had a photo-therapy light under the clear surface of the “bed.” A special blanket reflected the light to the “up” side of the baby. We stayed there Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Katie hated the bili-bed, and I did my best to cuddle her while she lay there. I wanted to nurse her constantly, just so I could hold her, but knew that we would be allowed to leave sooner if I let the lights do their job. Those two days are very vague... I don't even know what or how I ate! At last, Sunday morning arrived, and with it came two wonderful gifts – Papa and Mama Byrd's arrival from Kansas, and Katie's release from the hospital. Praises!
Thankfully, after Katie's second release from the hospital, life settled into a sense of normalcy. We at last got to enjoy seeing our children all together and being as normal a family as our crazy bunch ever manages to be! My next (and last) post in this series will be a reflective look back... why we believe Katie was perfectly healthy at birth, what I've learned from the experience, and good stuff like that.
Katie's Birth Story -
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture