How Our Healthy Boy Became a NICU Baby
On June 25th of this year, I was sitting in my weekly Prenatal appointment at my OB’s office. I was officially 36 weeks pregnant and was ready to hear how everything was progressing. Honestly, I was ready to be done with the pregnancy thing! A few days prior, the OB called me in for some bloodwork due to some itching I was having. Today, we were going to review the bloodwork.
“Most everything came back normal, but some of your ranges are right on the verge of being concerning,” she said to me.
Matt and I looked at each other and asked her what it all meant.
She evaluated my symptoms a little further, flipped open my bloodwork chart again, then looked at me and said,
“I think to be safe we should induce you on Tuesday.”
“This Tuesday?” I said, a bit stunned. I mean, I was ready to be done with pregnancy but this all seemed a bit quick!
“A week from today,” she nodded her head.
What ensued immediately following felt like a whirlwind. My OB diagnosed me with a condition called Cholestasis, which basically meant I was in no danger, but baby was if he didn’t arrive before the end of my 37th week of pregnancy. The clock was ticking. That week was insane – we didn’t even have a carseat yet!
We spent the week preparing, were thrown for a loop when our induction hospital changed at the last minute, but then finally headed to our new hospital a week later to be induced overnight. Henry was born the next day, the first day of my 37th week of pregnancy, July 3rd, 2019, with very little fanfare. My whole induction was a great experience, and Henry was in prime position for me to avoid a c-section.
But everything changed in the span of about 120 seconds.
They placed Henry on my chest right after he was born and immediately my nurse started massaging his chest. I thought everything was normal – to me, the noise he was making seemed like crying.
“That’s not crying – that’s grunting,” the nurse corrected when I brought it up. She took him from me about a minute later and said she was going to go check him out over on the infant table. She rubbed his back, massaged his chest, and gave him a little oxygen mask, all to try to get him to stop the little infant grunting and start crying for real.
I began to get worried – what was going on? A few minutes later, the NICU team was called in. They told me they would have to take him upstairs for evaluation, but he would probably be back in a few hours. Just like that, my healthy boy was dubbed a NICU baby.
I didn’t hold Henry that night until almost midnight, and by that point, he was hooked up to what seemed like a million monitors and tubes. We received an update from his NICU doctor the next morning – Henry had a small pocket of air outside of one of his lungs and a tiny hole in his lung as well. His “a few hours” NICU stay just turned into 3-5 days.
Acts of Kindness in the Midst of Darkness
Going home from the hospital 2 days later with no baby in hand was heartbreaking, but the road that came next was even harder. Henry’s 3-5 days as a NICU baby quickly turned into 7-10. By day 6, I was over it. I was tired of watching my baby on a small monitor, scrubbing in to touch him, and only getting to hold him at certain times so as not to overtire him. I was tired of counting how many bottles he finished and how many were tube fed, because that was the only way we would ever get him home.
I would sit next to his little plastic-walled bed and hold back tears every time we got an update from the nurse or doctor. We would wait for hours for the head doctor to round, and every time I would get my hopes up that we would get a release date only to be let down. I stopped wearing mascara to the NICU because every time, I would cry it all off within the first hour.
But even now, only 3 months later, I look back on that short time and what stands out are the acts of kindness we encountered from everyone there. Our labor and delivery nurse was absolutely amazing. She checked in on us days after Henry was out of her care, she messaged me on Instagram to check on us, she told us she was praying for us. Our nurses in the NICU let us literally camp out in the NICU for 8+ hours at a time. They taught us how to hold our little NICU baby with a million wires, they encouraged me about breastfeeding, they taught us to change diapers, and check Henry’s temperature and blood pressure. Nurse after nurse encouraged us, held our hands, cracked jokes when they saw our sadness. They were the light I never knew I needed.
That acts of kindness they gave us were small – but they will never know the impact they had on us. They didn’t know where we came from. They had no idea that only a week prior I was sitting in that doctor’s office waiting to hear bloodwork results. My husband, Matt, and I had just been thrown for a total loop. We went from that doctor’s office right into a tornado – from rapidly prepping for baby, to an induction process that left us exhausted, to adjusting our thinking from healthy baby to NICU baby, to late nights at home with a breast pump instead of a baby, and the list goes on and on. They didn’t know. But they cared anyway. They didn’t know my whole story, but they saw my pain and that was all that mattered to them – they stepped in with kindness and it rocked my world.
A Surprise NICU Visitor
Somewhere in that first week, I received a direct message on Instagram from someone I hadn’t heard from since high school. Her name is Kayla, and she messaged me to say she volunteers in the NICU and prays over the babies – could she please pray for Henry next time she was there?
I saw the message late one night when I was watching him on the web camera the NICU set up for us, and I broke down in tears. Messaging her back, I said OF COURSE. Nothing would make me happier than to know he wasn’t alone in that NICU bed and that someone I knew was sitting with him and praying for him.
I ended up seeing Kayla in the NICU a few days later when we were there to visit Henry. She hugged me and we caught up quickly before talking about Henry. She said she prayed for him, and I couldn’t help but get teary eyed. She will never know the impact this small act of kindness had on me.
For Kayla, she was just doing what she always does – blessing people through her volunteer work in the NICU. That day, she came in with a smile on her face and made me feel normal for the first time in over a week. She wanted to catch up, give me a hug, pray for our baby. She came in and flooded light all over my darkness. She had no idea I literally was crying in the chair next to that NICU bed just moments before. She had no idea, and it didn’t matter. Again, my world was rocked.
Serendipity Has a Name
Kayla and I knew each other from the theatre program at the high school we both went to. We were friends, but by no means were we close. It was surprising that she reached out to me, because it isn’t as if we keep up regularly. We literally probably haven’t spoken since high school!
After our encounter that day in the NICU, I thought about her reaching out to me. I thought about how I always second guess myself when I want to reach out to someone whom I haven’t spoken with in a while. I think about how self conscious it makes me feel, and how I wonder if they will think I’m weird. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I have a feeling you can relate.
I don’t know what Kayla thought when she reached out to me, but I will be forever glad that she did.
Serendipity is defined as “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. I don’t know which part of our shared story is serendipitous, but I know that a number of things had to take place to allow for our miracle meeting in the NICU that day.
- We went to high school together
- We did plays together while in high school
- Kayla decides to volunteer at the hospital
- My hospital gets changed at the last minute to that very hospital
- Kayla is volunteering and sees a baby is admitted with my last name
- Social media allows us to connect
Honestly I could go on even further – so many things had to take place to allow for our little Serendipity to happen. I know God has His hand in all of this, and I know none of this was any surprise to Him. I think He is the king of serendipity – He just loves doing stuff like this!
But serendipity can’t happen without us stepping out on a limb sometimes. Serendipity isn’t possible without us taking action. If I was in Kayla’s shoes, I would have felt so awkward to reach out to someone I hadn’t spoken with in so long – I would sit in fear of them thinking I was weird. Maybe Kayla felt that way or maybe she didn’t, but her small risk of reaching out anyway was an act of kindness that changed my whole demeanor. Her small act of kindness of praying for my little NICU baby rocked my world.
Sometimes it is the smallest steps we take in Faith that make the largest impact on others.
God lays out His beautiful plan (always full of serendipity to make things fun of course!) and most of the time, all we have to do is take a small step of faith. To us, it will likely seem small, but we have no clue the impact our small act of kindness can make on someone else.
Serendipity and the NICU
Our little NICU baby came home on day 12 of his “few hour” NICU stay. Our adventure with Henry started off like a total rollercoaster. Looking back on those very early sleep-deprived days is like looking into a fog, but it’s also like looking right into the eyes of Jesus.
That whole time was a fog, but it was punctuated throughout with acts of kindness from nurses, family, and of course, Kayla. Serendipity gave us our beautiful encounter. She probably doesn’t think on that time at all – for her, it’s all in a day’s work to bless someone with what she does. For me, it was the only thing I could see through the fog.
Our lives are all full of potential for serendipitous encounters just like these. I truly believe this. You don’t need to volunteer in the NICU to make it happen either (although you could!). Today I want to encourage you to look around in your life for the serendipity that already exists. Who can you reach out to today, (it’s worth the risk of awkwardness!)who can you bless today, and who can you give a small act of kindness to? Your small act of kindness will likely quickly be forgotten by you, but it could be just the thing that rocks that other person’s world.
So today I also say, Thank you, Kayla. You lit up my world during that time. I will never forget it.
With Great Joy,