Our sweet Olivia was born on February 17, 2021 at 1:15 am. She was a day shy of 41 weeks and even then she never seemed to want to arrive. Much like Greyson (who was born at 40-41 weeks, too), Olivia was just happy as could be in mamas womb yet I, on the other hand, was more than ready to get this show started.
I had a routine weekly appointment with my OB – who wanted labor to start naturally. Every appointment she’d check my cervix and time and time again I would show little signs of progression. Finally, we discussed the option of inducing should labor not start on its own. Thankfully, we agreed that if by our following appointment labor hadn’t started she would admit me and we would begin labor – and that’s exactly what happened (you can read more about her birth story here).
During the final stages of my labor with baby girl, my nurse had checked my dilation and became slightly concerned when she detected meconium. Meconium is a black tar-like substance that is baby’s first bowl movements. Because Olivia was almost 41 weeks, it’s common for it to be present. However, it also raises the risk for infection – especially if she ingests it.
After laboring for about 15 hours and pushing for little over one hour, our sweet Olivia Pierce was born. NICU was present because of the meconium, however upon her initial screenings she seemed fine. She did have a slightly elevated temperature at birth (mine was normal), but other than that she checked out beautifully. We had our golden hour of skin-to-skin and even tried to nurse. When we were admitted into our recovery room, our nurses continued to monitor her with the routine temperature checks and such. I began to notice that the nurses were coming fairly regularly to check on her, which was a little out of the norm for me since I don’t remember them doing that when I delivered Greyson. I could tell they didn’t want to alarm us, but eventually a nurse came and told us that her temperature had dropped and that they wanted to do blood work to determine if there was an infection. This, paired with her lack of appetite, caused our care team to be concerned enough to run some tests.
My husband accompanied Olivia the entire time while I recovered and rested in our room. I hated being away from her so early on, but I knew she was in the best of hands. After all, it was just out of precaution, right?
After some time my husband came back to our room without Olivia. My heart sank because I knew that there was something wrong and this wouldn’t be a typical delivery experience for us. He told me that they detected a sepsis infection and that she would be taken into the NICU for observation and to begin IV antibiotics. Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t scared or worried. I knew that, again, she was right where she needed to be and I was grateful the nurses and doctors caught her infection early. Olivia would receive the best of care and I told myself should anything happen, nurses are right there to address it.
That was the beginning of our NICU stay.
Welcome to NICU
When your baby enters NICU it becomes a controlled environment. Feedings are scheduled and the time/amount is recorded, wires are applied to monitor everything from their heart rate to oxygen levels, and it’s one of the most secure area of the hospital. There’s a regulated check-in and out process parents have to go through every single time they visit and breastmilk is treated like medication – you use unique stickers with your (the mama) barcode and patient info along with writing the date and time of your pumped milk. We were able to visit with her 24/7 and encouraged to nurse and bond. Even though our stay looked and felt completely different this time around, I was grateful to her care team and nurses who not only made it comfortable for us, but for Olivia as well.
She remained on her IV antibiotics for a few days then her blood would be retested. Thankfully her temperature began to regulate itself without the use of the heat lamps. After her test came back with better numbers she spent a day or so coming off her IV. Before she could be discharged, Olivia had to show signs that her temperature could remain normal (which it was) and her labs clear of any infection. After the typical three days post-delivery, the hospital was preparing to discharge me as a patient and it was difficult to go home without my baby. Olivia would stay overnight and labs would be run one more time before she could come home – we were happily anticipating the following morning when we could pick her up.
Unfortunately that wouldn’t happen.
That night we were able to spend some quality time with Greyson for one more night before his world would change forever. I actually enjoyed being able to be home and have a night where I could shower and rest in my own space after being in the hospital where the water was out due to the freak winter storm. Another reason to be grateful and to see our circumstance as a glass-half-full. The following morning we woke up and were leaving our neighborhood when we received a call from Olivia’s doctor. She was concerned that her numbers after being off her IV antibiotics continued to be slightly elevated – which meant a bit of the infection was still present in her blood. In efforts to be cautious she wanted to keep Olivia one more night for observation. We were devastated and our hearts completely sank, but we understood that it was in Olivia’s best interest and health to stay.
My husband and I visited her anyways and as strong as I had been throughout this whole process, it wasn’t until we were walking down the hallway to the NICU I completely broke down in tears. I was upset that I couldn’t bring my baby home with me as planned and I was upset that I had to walk this walk once more. However, once we got to her pod and could hold her and nurse her those feelings dissipated and feelings of gratitude and grace once again took over. Olivia’s doctor came to us and explained her blood work and that out of an abundance of caution she wanted to keep her one more night and that was confident that her next lab would be clear. I appreciated the doctor’s ability to meet us where we needed and explained everything in a way that reassured us but was also honest. She told us that it would be far more traumatizing for us to take her home to then have to come to the ER and readmit her due to complications – I knew she was right. While Olivia was awaiting her final blood test they wanted to give her a dose of photo-therapy for her jaundice. It was a little jarring to see her under the light, but if it meant it made Olivia the healthiest she could be then we were all for it.
The following morning we were on our way to the hospital when our doctor called us with the good news that Olivia could be discharged. Prior to that call I realized that I needed to change my perspective. We were both so devastated the day before when we couldn’t take her home as planned, so I kept telling myself (in efforts to not repeat the feelings of the previous day) that we were going to see her, but it wasn’t guaranteed we would be bringing her home. That helped me prepare for the worst-case scenario but thankfully her labs came back normal and we received the news we wanted to hear. Olivia was coming home.
I was relieved to see her off her wires – it was as if she were a typical baby and everything was going back to normal for us as a family. We were able to spend some time with her – I had a session with the hospital’s lactation specialist to help find my groove to breastfeed Olivia. Afterwards we dressed her, spoke with the doctor once more, got her discharge paperwork and were finally clipping her into her carseat.
Since bringing her home we had our regular wellness checkups for her. We did an additional blood screen around 4 weeks old to make sure her infection was, in fact, gone – and it was. Now, our sweet Olivia is almost three months old and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect soul.
Grace & Gratitude
During our experience with Olivia in the NICU I had to remain positive because that was about the only thing I could control about our circumstance. I gave myself grace through this knowing I was not only physically healing from childbirth, but emotionally going through it as well (you know, hormones and all). I hated not having her by my side but I continued to have grace on the nurses and even through the disappointment of not being able to bring her home when I was initially discharged. The gratitude I felt 100% goes towards our nurses (both mine and Olivia’s), doctors, my husband, and family for getting us through it all. So, if you find yourself in a similar position just remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel – your tunnel may be longer or shorter than other families, but it nonetheless will come to an end. The important part in all of this is bringing home a healthy baby!