Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The First Days

Disclaimer:  We're all (relatively) happy and healthy and doing well at the moment.  That said, when Anna was just a few days old, she gave us a little scare-- sending us back to the hospital for two nights.  Read on for the full story.
This time around, Mason & I were sure we had this baby thing figured out.  We weren't going to fret.  We weren't going to worry.  We were going to be easy breezy pudding pie.  Babies cry, parents lose sleep, everyone survives and so will we.  We were going to be cool, calm, and relaxed.  Spahnville was going to be a continuous state of zen perfection.  (Or something like that.)

Anna's first day and night home were uneventful.  She slept and cooed and cried a little.  She quietly slept in her swing or bassinet while we ate supper as a family.  "Isn't this nice?" we said to each other. "She's so sweet!  She's so perfect!  It's so beautiful outside, let's go show her off!"  We happily began lacing up shoes and tossing on sweatshirts when all of the sudden, Mason yelled, "She's choking! She's choking!"

I ran out to the living room where he was holding Anna like a football, patting her back.  Her face was red and she wasn't breathing-- and not making any sounds either.  Finally, she took what sounded like an incredibly painful gulp of air and gasped for breath.  "She's fine she's fine she's fine she's fine" I murmured as I scooped her out of Mason's arms.  But as I looked at her, she looked different.  Her eyes seemed far away and her body was as limp as cooked spaghetti.  I cooed softly into her ear and assured her that she was in fact, fine-- although I wasn't sure if I was trying to convince her or me.  We finished gathering our gear for the walk and I began to set her in her carseat when I notice that she looked....different.... again.  Mason rushed over and told me that she was choking again so we quickly removed her from the carseat and repeated the drill we had just gone through.  Again, when she had resumed breathing, her whole body was limp and lifeless.  Her eyes looked far away-- and though I only had known her for three days, I felt like something could possibly be very wrong.

I cradled Anna in my arms and walked (paced) around our house-- whispering reassuring messages in her ear.   As I walked past our mirror, I caught a glimpse of our reflection and couldn't contain the tears that were forming.  Suddenly, staring at the two of us in the mirror, everything seemed much scarier.  Here I was, with my brand new baby-- a gift that I wasn't sure we would ever have again-- and now something might be terribly wrong.  I held her and cried and whispered and pleaded-- nothing can be wrong-nothing can be wrong-nothing can be wrong.

During the next few minutes, Anna endured two more "spells" and Mason was on the phone with my uncle-- a pediatrician who occasionally listens to our after-hours concerns.  He agreed that it might be a good idea to take her to the ER and have her checked out.  (I didn't need the green light from him-- my mind had been made up much earlier)

After a quick call to an angel of a friend who took Charlie for the night (His first sleep over! He was so excited!) we floored the swagger wagon to the Waterloo ER.  And let me tell you, the actual ER is much different from the TV version of the ER.  There are no swinging doors and throngs of nurses and doctors already clad in surgical gear.  There's nobody waiting at the door to whisk you away the moment you walk through the door.  No, instead there's the drone of elevator music on the speakers and a late-night infomercial on the tv.  A receptionist wearing scrubs chomped her gum and asked us questions as her long painted fingernails typed our responses into the computer.  She didn't seem to sense our urgency as she casually asked us to have a seat and told us that someone would be out to see us soon-- like we were there to file our taxes instead.

The next few hours are a complete blur.  We saw several doctors, who ordered tests and x-rays and eventually admitted us to the pediatric floor for overnight observation.  Poor Anna was poked and prodded and monitored almost continuously.  By the next morning, the combination of worry and crying and lack of sleep had left me exhausted.  Fortunately, the nurses on the Peds unit were fantastic and helped me get some much needed rest while they kept a watchful eye on Anna.  We ended up staying in the hospital for two (never-ending) days to make sure that she was on the mend. She had four "episodes" in all-- but the doctors ruled out seizures and brain related concerns.  In the end, the doctor gave us several guesses on what had been happening-- but nothing definitive.  We were sent home on Friday with specific instructions about feeding, after-feeding, sleeping, and monitoring her-- and of course, we followed them them precisely.

While our hospital stay was not pleasant, I couldn't help but think of the families who have far more serious concerns with their children.  My heart ached for what other people experience within hospital walls and I couldn't help but be overcome with gratitude for my healthy children.

Bringing Anna home from the hospital the second time was not quite as carefree as it was initially.  Our easy-breezy attitude had been shaken.  We were back to worrying and fretting-- but we weren't going to let it control us.  Charlie was thrilled to see his sister again, but he offered her a stern warning: "I love you Baby Sister!  But don't do that thing again that made Mommy cry, okay?"  Now, nearly a month later, things have relaxed quite a bit.  Anna hasn't had any more medical issues and appears to be doing really well.  We've been able to relax when it comes to eating and sleeping, which means we've been given a little more time to devote to 'real life' again. We're adjusting to life as a family of four and admitting that maybe, just maybe, we don't have this whole parenting thing figured out.  And even if we did, we definitely were reminded that life can throw us a curve ball that we'll just have to endure, at any time.  

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