Going Home Alone: A Tale of Survival in Neo-Natal ICU

We all prepare for having our first children in different ways.

Many superstitions and religious beliefs help us prepare ahead of time or wait until after the baby is born. Some parents want to find out the sex of their baby as soon as they are able to, and some want to be surprised. Some find out the sex of the baby and want us to be surprised (don’t really understand why that would make a difference to me).

But, we all handle our fear and excitement in different ways.

I had two pregnancies that were anything but pleasant. I was sick practically the night of conception, and vomited every day until delivery.

I tried everything from drinking mint tea to meditation. Nausea is usually the sign of a high level of progesterone, so it is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is just a bad way to exist. I find nausea one of the most difficult conditions to cope with.

I gained a total of 28 pounds. I was very thin and looked like I was carrying a football in my abdomen. In my fifth month, I was sent for some tests due to the odd way I was carrying. After seeing the doctor, I was told that my child had a dysfunction in the swallowing mechanism and I was holding too much amniotic fluid. This accounted for my large, odd, football shape. I was advised to get genetic counseling. The counselors told me that I would be having a genetically deformed child and that I was diagnosed beyond the legal limit to make any decisions whether to continue the pregnancy. I had to live the remaining months with this information in my head.

After a full term pregnancy, my water broke and I went into labor. After 27 hours of intense, excruciating pain, without any medication (their idea- not mine), I was brought in to have an emergency caesarean section.

A beautiful, perfect girl was removed from my womb. No genetic dysfunction, no problems- just perfect! The fear that instilled in me was all for naught.

She, along with my son, are the light of my life!!

Although I must admit, my pregnancy was far from a pleasant experience, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Others have gone through difficult times, as well.

Irena and Igor came to me initially to talk about becoming pregnant and how it would change their lives and marriage. Shortly after beginning therapy, Irena became pregnant. They were both thrilled and very nervous. Through the next few weeks, we worked on realistic expectations of Irena’s pregnancy and life changes. Igor was very supporting and loving and their relationship was strengthened during this time.

Both Irena and Igor or Russian, and although Igor has many relatives living in the United States, Irena’s family remains in Russia. This can be very unnerving for a woman to be without her family at this time. She had to rely on her husband and his family for all outside support.

The baby, a boy, was due on May 9th. As time approached, the nursery was decorated, and they prepared for the birth of their first child.

Then, 7 weeks before Irena’s due date, she began experiencing terrible contractions. Igor raced her to the hospital, where their son was born, 7 weeks premature.

What follows is Igor’s account of this experience. Please remember that English is not his first language, and I felt it worthy to share his story exactly as he wrote it. The spelling and grammatical errors do not take away from his message or his wish to enlighten others.

Imagine the scariest thing you can fathom and no longer being afraid of it….

My son, my first born, entered this world 7 weeks before his due date. One evening, my wife came home experiencing some pulling in her abdomen and pains which felt like cramps. Within two hours she went from uncomfortable to I cannot speak because of pain. After a brief call to her doctor a car ride which seemed like eternity and we are admitted to the hospital. While in the room a variety of medical personnel keeps coming in and out. Amidst what looks to me like let’s get as much medicine into his wife as possible a nurse offers me an explanation of what is taking place. Apparently instead of having spaced out contractions and gradual dilation of the uterus, my wife was having one major contraction. She was not catching a brake at all.

We were admitted at 8:30 pm our doctor showed up with a medical team, four from the NICU (neonatal intense care unit), for the baby and four for my wife. At 1:30am the baby was born and whisked away before I realized what happened. My wife was present during the labor, but only physically. The entire process took 25 minutes since she began to pushing to the point when the nurse turned the lights off and instructed us to get some rest….

The next month was the most agonizing and excruciating month for my wife and I. Daily trips to the hospital to spend time with our son, who was living inside a see through box, was very hard. The NICU staff kept calming us down and explaining that he is doing everything a preemie is suppose to do, were not comforting. At that age the central nervous system is not fully developed, any “episode” which basically means a drop in the heart rate, a drop in oxygen intake or collapse of lungs could mean THE END. Operating on pure faith, optimism and support for one another got us through what was the scariest time in the life of my wife and I.

Today our son is 7 weeks old, and he has been with us for 2 weeks. His episodes stopped and the hospital released him to where he was suppose to have been starting, his actual due date.

Whatever doesn’t break us makes us stronger… Having the new found strength at the expense of my son and the agonizing experience is more than I bargained for when my wife told me we are expecting.

Irena, Igor and son are doing well. They are finally living as a family and often stay up at night watching their little miracle breathe. They realize how lucky they are, and are very grateful for this positive outcome.

During this process, both of them told me they were fine. Irena was pumping milk and bringing it to the hospital, where the nurses would feed her son, and when she was there, she would feed him herself.

It was not until the ordeal was over, that they both realized that they had basically gone on “auto-pilot” and put their emotions on hold, taking one day at a time.