All right, the story continues! When I left off, Elliott, our new baby, and I had just moved to the postpartum unit around 7pm, and our baby was doing pretty well. Elliott had gotten my dinner order and left to pick up a celebratory meal of sushi and sparkling wine.
The night nurse took over, and around 8:30 while Elliott was gone she came in to check on our baby. She spent a while watching his oxygen saturation and his respirations, which unfortunately had picked back up to 90 breaths/minute. To my dismay, she then called the NICU team to come observe him again.
The NICU team came in, and the NICU fellow saw our baby for the first time then. Crushingly, she made the call that he should be transferred to the NICU. She felt like he needed extra breathing treatment and antibiotics, as well as closer observation by the medical team. The tentative diagnosis at this point was TTN — transient tachypnea of the newborn — and she wanted to address his slightly labored, rapid breathing and find its underlying cause.
I texted Elliott to give him the update, knowing there was nothing I could really do (with a clean conscience, anyway), but panicking slightly because I knew things were slipping out of the range of “normal” and we were headed for a whole new world with our baby.
I took this photo as I followed our baby to the NICU with the two NICU nurses. He was calm on the way over and as they hooked him up. Elliott found me there, both of us feeling bewildered and like we had lost a lot of control as parents. The nurses said they would be putting in an IV now and starting CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure, a form of breathing treatment to open up his lungs), and did we want to take a little break to eat our dinner? I couldn’t nurse him or do anything to help, and our baby seemed calm and at peace. We left, feeling helpless.
When we returned after our “celebratory” meal, we found our baby screaming in his NICU bed with 4 holes in his arms and feet from failed IV sticks and also two little plastic tubes stuck into his nostrils blasting air into his lungs. I started crying just looking at him–I’m about to cry again just thinking about it. I cannot imagine how parents go through agressive medical treatment with their children on a regular basis!
Elliott was upset because he wasn’t convinced that any of the treatment was necessary, and, even days later, I am still not sure if it was. The medical team decided to stop the CPAP early because our baby was just not tolerating it, and holding him in my arms and nursing him and seeing his peace and comfort after that was one of the sweetest reliefs I’ve ever known. The medical team also started antibiotics at that point, which they hoped would clear out any infection in his lungs due to the fluid they had seen on a chest x-ray.
Elliott and I stayed for another couple of hours, with me nursing as much as I could. Our fear was that being away from our baby (me on the postpartum unit on the 8th floor, him in the NICU on the 7th floor) would mean my milk would not come in like it should. The nurses talked about pumping to increase production, but I wanted to just try to nurse as much as I could and go from there. I had no idea what I would do if our baby had to stay longer in the hospital than I did… but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.
Eventually, around midnight, our nurse encouraged/sent Elliott and me up to our postpartum room to sleep for a few hours. Our baby was calm and fed. The nurse agreed to text me from her hospital phone as soon as our baby woke up hungry.
Sure enough, at 4am she texted, and I slipped on shoes and hurried through the hospital in the middle of the night in my gown and robe to nurse my little one. I was able to lay him down after that, slipped upstairs to sleep again, and then returned again at 6am.
And thus began our hazy, harried two days of postpartum and NICU life. I spent almost all my time at our baby’s bedside, and Elliott was with me almost every minute, too. We took turns holding him, and I nursed him whenever he seemed hungry. Every few hours I would slip back upstairs to clean up — since I was still bleeding a great deal after having delivered a baby only hours before — and shovel food into my mouth from whatever meal tray was waiting for me in my big, sunny, gorgeous, very empty postpartum hospital room. Elliott would hold our baby while I was gone, and almost always I was away only for 15-20 minutes before he was texting me to come back and nurse.
Whenever I was on the postpartum unit to eat, the nurses and techs would hurry after me into my room to offer me pain medication (thankfully I really wasn’t in any pain), take my blood pressure and temperature, and make sure I was feeling ok. Then I would be gone again for hours.
Our hours at our baby’s bedside were slow and uncertain. I never knew you could spend so much time staring at a tiny baby, gazing deeply into his face, both of you locked in on him, praying endlessly for and about so many things, wondering what was going on inside him, what tomorrow would hold, how we had gotten here… and what we would name him! We felt unmoored, being away from our other children and so tied to this brand new, unknown, completely beloved little newborn son.
Lena, Gil, Forest, and my parents-in-law came to meet our baby after church on Sunday. He was almost 24 hours old then, and thankfully doing pretty well. The children were all able to hold him, and we were so grateful to see them all together, but also emotional with the unknowns and lack of sleep.
We also finally decided on a name that afternoon. We had gone around and around with a few final options. Naming children is so hard! At long last, we chose Amos Elliott for our little boy. “Amos” is for the Old Testament prophet who followed God’s call to prophesy in Israel despite his everyday vocation of shepherd and gardener, and who spoke a message of covenant faithfulness and justice. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) I have loved that name for a long time, and it grew on Elliott over the hospital stay as we discussed it, until we both sincerely loved it more than any other choice. We chose “Elliott” for his daddy and also for the heritage of the Elliott family (Amos’s grandmother’s family) and their faithfulness to God as pastors, fathers, and people of God throughout their whole lives.
And so: welcome to the world, Amos Elliott Garber!
That second night of NICU life was similar to the night before, but then around midnight the medical team ordered another chest x-ray and blood draws. I was alone with Amos and growing increasingly exhausted, and Amos’s nurse could see it. She finally suggested I go sleep and she would text me as soon as he woke to feed.
When I came back around 3am, Amos had been moved to the “step down” side of the NICU for healthier babies who were getting ready to go home. Such good news! I fed him twice that night, and then Elliott and I stayed with him that whole day, waiting for an update from the medical team.
We were thrilled to hear that the plan was to send Amos home that evening if all went well — which would also the same time that I would be discharged. Amos had finished his course of antibiotics, and his breathing rate and oxygenation continued to stay within normal range now. Whenever anyone asked me how I thought he was doing, I could say with a clear conscience that he was behaving just like my other newborns. He was nursing well, I could feel my milk coming in, and he didn’t seem distressed at all with breathing, eating, or sleeping. I couldn’t wait to get him home!
Finally, around 6pm, we were ready to go! His nurse took his IV out of his tiny little hand, checked my ID and his arm bands before cutting them off, and gave us a folder of paperwork. Then we buckled our little Amos into his brand new car seat — and left for home!
As soon as we pulled up, all three of our older kids raced off the porch where they’d been waiting. My heart swelled with joy to see them all dashing down the steps — Forest pausing to turn around and carefully go down backwards — and standing by the gate until the car door opened and they could hop into the van beside him. Those first few minutes of bringing a new baby home are always so surreal and precious, especially after a more eventful hospital stay.
That night Elliott and I slept beside Amos somewhat nervously, unsure how his first night at home would go, but he did so well and slept just like a newborn — even deciding he was ready to get up for the day around 4am! Welcome to real life at home, right? Since then Amos has continued to behave like a normal newborn, complete with plenty of blown-out diapers, 5am wake-ups, and sour milk running down our arms and over our shoulders — and lots of darling newborn grunts, squeaks, and snuggles, too. His breathing also seems normal, both to his pediatrician and a home health nurse that came to visit us, and to all of us watching him at home, too.
While we’ll never know completely what was affecting Amos’ breathing — an infection in his lungs? his lungs taking a longer time to transition out of the womb than normal? extra fluid? all three? — we’re grateful now that he seems unaffected by his rougher start to life. Thanks be to God for health!