As I laid there getting sewn up, the pediatrician came over to talk to me. "Mommy, your baby is having a little trouble breathing. We're going to take her the NICU to get her in better shape."
One of the main reasons I wanted to have a homebirth was so that stranger wouldn't call me "mommy". It seems kind of petty, but I want adults to call me by name. How long does it take to check my chart? People called me "mommy" throughout our stay in the hospital. It just gave me a creepy, dominatrix-type feeling. I'm not your mommy! Ew!
Joan took Coleen down to the NICU and I got wheeled into recovery. I chatted with the nurse. As I laid there, numb from the waist down, all I could think was, "I want a do-over." It was 1 hour after the birth of Hazel and I was already thinking about the next baby. To say I was sad about having a c-section is an understatement. It was a supreme disappointment. We had spent so many hours talking and dreaming about a calm, private birth in our living room and I ended up with an alien abduction.
c-pap machine to help her breathe. Honestly, I was still in shock that she was a "she". I was SURE we were having a boy. Three other women at my work were pregnant and all of them were having girls. Statistically the chances were so low (what, 6%?) that all four of us would be having girls. But, it was a bit of a relief. When we first arrived, the resident asked us if the baby was a boy were we going to have him circumcised. Yet another decision we thought we had more time to make!
Joan explained that at St. Vincent's, to get a private room, you have to pay for it. $350 a night. With a shared bathroom. But, if we didn't get a private room Coleen would have to leave every night at 10pm and not come back until 10am. We opted for the private room. Joan also assured us that the baby was fine. She told us that for a 35-weeker she was big and breathing well. She thought the baby wouldn't be in hospital for long.
After Coleen went and paid, we were set up in our private room - which had an incredible view of Greenwich Village. For $350 a night, Coleen got a bed that looked like this and we would have had to pay extra to turn on the TV (we did not). Since Hazel's birth, it's been announced that St. Vincent's is going out of business. After charging us $55,000 for my c-section, $45,000 for Hazel's stay, and $1,500 for a crappy room how is this possible?! But, I digress. Once in our room I rested and Coleen started making phone calls to family and friends.
Later that day the lactation consultant came in to talk to me. Because the baby was still on c-pap, she suggested that I start pumping every 2 hours. We could take the colostrum down to the NICU and they would feed it to her. She got me set up with a breast pump kit and showed me how to work the machine.
Coleen wheeled me down to the NICU where we got to see the baby again. Because of the swine flu we had to wear gowns and latex gloves every time we went to see her. She was in an isolette with a million tubes going in and out of her. I took a picture and sent it to family and friends. Thank goodness I had just gotten a new phone with a camera and internet! All I saw when I looked at the baby, was her perfect face and full head of hair and I didn't realize that the picture would probably stress people out.
Those three days I spent in the hospital are kind of a blur. Here are some of my strongest memories:
I set my phone to wake me up every 2 hours to pump. I was exhausted and I was only semi-conscious. Waking up Coleen during that first night. I NEEDED to see the baby. She wheeled me down at 2AM. Why would you put the NICU on a different floor from Postpartum?
On the second day Coleen left to go home and get our stuff. Since Hazel was so early and we were planning a homebirth, we had no bag packed. She was gone for 7 hours. Four hours were spent at home. What were the other 3 hours? Looking for parking. Seriously. Only in New York does a hospital not have a parking lot.
While Coleen was gone, I asked one of the nurses to take me down to the NICU so I could deliver the colostrum I pumped. Each day in the NICU, Hazel had a different nurse. I took this as a sign of her good health! When I got down to the NICU, the nurse introduced herself - Sandra. I gave her my colostrum (about 20mL) and she said, "That's it? You know the baby has to eat, right?" Of course I started to cry. I had just spent the entire night pumping and having the colostrum delivered. My baby was not with me. And this woman was berating me for not making enough colostrum.
When we got down there, I was still feeling upset about the colostrum incident so I told Coleen what happened. The NICU is a pretty quiet place, but Coleen started getting loud. She asked Sandra where the pump was. Sandra said it was broken. I asked if we could bring the pump down from my room. "No, because of contamination." I started to cry again. Coleen said, "So she's not allowed to pump in the NICU?" Coleen walked away and asked another nurse to help us. She explained that the pump wasn't broken, I just didn't bring down the right parts. We then watched her be completely nice and pleasant to the straight couple across the room. Was Sandra a homophobe or just a terrible person?
Later that day, I was finally allowed to put her to my breast. That chest to chest and skin to was so wonderful. It was 24 hours after I wanted it to happen, but I finally felt like I had a baby.
I gradually got better and the Postpartum nurses were awesome. It became clear that I would be checking out of the hospital and Hazel would be staying. We checked out Wednesday and my mom was arriving on Friday.
Leaving Hazel in the hospital is the worst, hardest thing I've ever done. As I sat in the lobby, waiting for Coleen to bring the car, I watched a teenage mom with her new baby in a carseat. It all seemed so unfair. I had done everything right during my pregnancy. Exercised, ate right. I was still biking to work the week before she was born! Here I was going home with no baby and that girl got to take her baby home. I just sat there in the lobby crying. The only word I can think of is desolation.
After getting home, Coleen and I got into a system. We would wake up and go to the hospital and spend all day there. I would feed Hazel and then go pump, Coleen would hold her until the nurses made us put her down. Repeat every 3 hours. We usually got there around 9AM and left at 9PM. At night I was still waking up and pumping. We were both delirious. When we weren't there we called to check in. The first time I called, "Hi, this is Bethany Mills, Hazel's mom." I was someone's mom!
There were two other babies in Hazel's area and they had both been in the NICU for months. Honestly, I don't don't know how those parents did it. Being home and not pregnant, but also not having a baby. Part of me was surgically removed and living somewhere else. I felt like a zombie.
Things got so much better once my mom arrived. She made sure we were eating and helped Coleen clean the house. And when Coleen had to go back to work the Monday, my mom took over Coleen's role in the nurse, pump, hold routine.
The last day Hazel was in the hospital, Coleen didn't get off work until 10pm. They called me that morning and asked, "Would you like to take your daughter home?" The night nurses were pissed that they had to do a discharge so we got the bum-rush. But, that night Hazel and I were sitting in that same hospital lobby waiting for Coleen to pull the car around. We had our baby!