I Thought There'd Be More Flowers
Then I found out that I was about nine weeks pregnant. We hadn't planned to have children, so hubby and I found ourselves wondering how we'd manage this unexpected change. There was a lot of discussion about how children change your life, and not necessarily for the better. We told family and they were shocked and excited, and life moved on, for a week.
On March 6, I was forced to resign from my job due to an error I had made seven weeks earlier, not realizing it was an error. Even though the error didn't cause the customer or the business any loss whatsoever, I was told that the policy is the policy and I could resign or be fired. If I resigned, I could be rehired, if I was fired I could never come back. I was devastated—a pregnant mom without a job and the health insurance benefits it provided. I had not even had a chance to tell my co-workers about the baby and I had to pack my desk up and leave. I shed many tears, overwhelmed and disappointed.
After a few weeks, I was hired on in a different position at that same company, but had a SIGNIFICANT pay cut. But I got to keep my health insurance so it seemed like a good move. We struggled, adjusting to the lower pay, figuring out what else we could cut, having already cut back on many things and living pretty basic. But we were going to have a baby, people told us it would be great, and we just had to figure out how to make it work. We needed so much: baby furniture, new flooring, a couch. How could we get them and not get deeper into debit? Our car needed new tires (still does, in fact) and a belt, and somehow we had to figure out how to pay our bills and get these things in place before our baby was born, on my reduced pay and my husband owning a small retail business in a struggling economy. There was a lot of stress.
I tried to keep a positive attitude and outlook, and most people thought I was amazingly happy and positive for being pregnant. But I went home many days and cried alone, wondering how we'd gotten ourselves into this and how we'd ever get out.
My doctor realized that I was of the "high risk" age and we discussed extra tests and exams that I should consider to see if our baby looked good or if he might be born with Down syndrome or something even worse. After some blood tests and ultrasounds, we now knew we were having a boy, and that he appeared not to have those mental development issues. However, when it came time for the blood sugar tests, we didn't do as well. We found that I had gestational diabetes and had to start a diet plan. That didn't help us improve as much as the doctor required, so I had to go on glyburide, an insulin pill. That pill required us to visit the OB's office twice a week to do a non-stress test on the infant to make sure that the pill wasn't causing him too much stress and that his heart was functioning well. The pill didn't help, and I became more and more frustrated. Eventually we saw some improvement in sugars, but they were easily upset, and forced me to prepare ALL food I ate myself. The doctor made me feel guilty when my sugars were too high, and when I lost weight following their plan, and being pregnant became a chore.
The day our baby entered week 36 my water broke and the clock began ticking for him to come out. He was less than the ideal 37-week age, and we were, of course, worried about this. Nurses at the hospital tried to reassure us, telling us that most babies born at 36 weeks are fine. My labor wouldn't progress, even with a hefty IV drip of induction medication, and we almost lost the baby a couple of times. I cried, my husband cried, our family cried. This was not the way this was supposed to go. We were going to see a movie that weekend, to finish getting the baby's room ready - there was supposed to be time but it was gone. And the labor was supposed to be natural, a struggle but successful—instead we had to be read the Cesarean section disclosures, asked if I was an organ donor, monitored internally for hours, and rushed to an operating room.
But the baby DID come. And he was evaluated and we were told he was good—no need for him to go to the NICU, he could be with us. We slept little that night, interrupted frequently by doctors and nurses and that baby's constant gurgling and wining. That next day my husband looked terrible, pale and tired and he seemed irritable and out of it, all while trying to be supportive and happy. I sent him home to nap and tried to spend quality time with our new baby. My eyes would become heavy and I could hardly keep them open. My arms would become tired and I'd have to call a nurse to take him, as I could not yet walk much after the c-section. We could not get him to breast feed, or really eat much of anything. Family came to see him. A pediatrician came to see him. All gave him a clean bill of health. Yet he still didn't want to eat. I worried to myself, and blamed myself for having flat nipples and a c-section.
That evening my husband went home to sleep and I was all alone in the hospital room, having asked the nurse to take the baby and just let me know when it was feeding time so that we could continue the challenge of getting him to eat. I slept little, being checked often by medical staff and trying to sleep in a strange place on a less-than-comfortable bed. At 2:45 am the nurse called me, informing me that my son still wasn't eating and that she was concerned, but would try to get him to eat there instead of bringing him to the room, and that she wanted someone to check him again as he seemed to be breathing a bit heavy. I stayed in bed, tired and out of sorts, instead of going to see him. Then an hour later the nurse called again to tell me that my little boy had been admitted to the NICU because he was having trouble breathing. Fear and guilt washed over me, and I cried. She asked if she could take me down to see him, but I didn't want to go without family, so I made the calls and soon my husband and my mom were there. I cried the whole time, alone in my room, waiting for them. I could barely explain to them what I'd been told, as I was sobbing so.
We went together down to the NICU and saw our baby and the doctor explained what had happened. I continued to cry, seeing my small boy with IV's and monitors, being kept in a plastic case. The doctor was optimistic, we just needed to be patient and let our infant work it out, but the alarms on the monitors did not make us feel calm. I cried on and off that day.
On the third day of my stay the on-call doctor from my OB's practice came by to have me released from the hospital. I technically could stay another day, but was doing well, walking on my own with minimal pain, and really should be working on recuperating outside of the hospital walls. I refused to go. As long as my baby was there in the NICU I wanted to be there. I'd been pumping breast milk for him and could bring it down fresh in time for his feedings, as they were finally trying to get him to eat again in the hope of taking him off of the IV in another day or so. The doctor recommended against it, urging me to go home, but I would not. In fact I stayed even after that next day - the hospital allows NICU parents to have a free room, as long as one is available, while their child is admitted. I spent a week in the Mom/Baby ward, watching moms and their new babies come and go, seeing flowers and balloons being delivered at all hours. Hearing healthy babies cry out to be fed as I walked my pumped breast milk to the NICU for my son. All the while I was in my room, often alone, praying my baby would get well soon and occasionally crying.
He began to improve and we thought he'd go home on Thursday. My husband made plans, we, finally excited for the first time since the baby was delivered, told family and hospital staff the great news--the baby was going home Thursday. Then Thursday morning the doctor called and informed us that he was staying another day or two, as he was developing jaundice and they wanted him to be treated for that before leaving. Our plans were changed, and my spirit again was dimmed. I cried, tired of being in the NICU, upset that we'd made plans only to have them ruined, and just wanting to return home with my new baby.
Finally, on Friday we took our baby home and began our new lives together. We got little sleep as he needed to be fed and he had trouble adapting to his new environment that first night. I cried, not knowing why he was so upset and wondering how we could get him to calm down and sleep without holding him. My eyes would barely stay open and I was sure I'd fall asleep and drop him. Finally we figured it out, and I got a few hours of sleep.
On Monday he woke up but wouldn't eat for over 5 hours. Panic again set in and I cried, frustrated that something was wrong with him. My husband called the doctor and we went in. She assured us that babies just do these things as they adjust and that he seemed perfect. That night he slept little, wanting to be fed every 15 minutes. I was sure I had no milk left after 3 hours of this, and was exhausted. My husband got up and I gave in, letting the baby be fed formula, feeling like I was once again incapable of properly caring for a baby.
It was payday and our mortgage payment comes out automatically that day as well. But when we looked online I had only been paid $120 and the mortgage was coming out. My husband had to quickly transfer money from the financially struggling business to our personal account to make sure the mortgage was covered. I made calls to my employee as well as to the company that covers our short-term disability to find out when I'd get my maternity leave pay. After nearly a week I was informed that I would, in fact, NOT be getting pay. While other benefits stayed in place during the short time I was not employed with the company, the pay benefit for maternity leave was reset, and I would not qualify for paid leave until 11/1/09—right AFTER my 8 weeks of leave would end. When I had checked with the company five months before, I was assured I would get pay, but now I was being told differently. My husband spoke to a lawyer who informed him that, by the time it would be settled, the pay I wanted would be eaten up by legal fees. Our financial situation went from bad to worse, and I looked into a hardship withdrawal from my company 401K, but was told that my situation didn't qualify—only if I was unable to pay the mortgage and had a foreclosure letter or if I had no insurance and unpaid medical bills or if I was going to return to school or had a death in the family could I qualify. I had none of those, so my last ditch desperate move, my plan B, was now gone too. And again I cried.
What was supposed to be a happy time was filled with tears. More tears than I've cried in a long time. None of this was supposed to happen. Where was the joy? The celebration? Why did my heart ache and my head hurt and my eyes burn from crying? How could this be a happy time when it's been filled with so much struggle and disappointment? What had we done to deserve this? Where was our chance to live and be happy? Why couldn't just one thing in our lives come easily, without struggle and stress? Why weren't there more flowers?