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Britton's Birth Story, Part IV

I have never been as grateful for family as I was in the hours and days after we had to rush Britton to MUSC for those tests. While Landon rode in the pediatric ambulance with our little girl, my mom and Landon's dad rushed downtown to the hospital to meet the two of them there.

Since I wasn't even 48 hours out of surgery, the nursing staff begged me to stay where I was; I could barely walk and was still incredibly weak, so I chose to remain in the hospital with my dad, my sister, and Landon's mom by my side.

As soon as Britton arrived at the research hospital, the staff there began to run tests on her to determine what was causing her to vomit so violently; they also needed to figure out a way to keep her heart rate and blood oxygen saturation stable. She was x-rayed, and the attending physician determined that Britton had an infection in her lungs, possibly pneumonia. She was given antibiotics for that, but, since the pediatric radiologist wouldn't be able to see her until the early morning, we still didn't know if she had an intestinal blockage.

That night was the longest night of my life. I couldn't sleep, even with all of the pain medication I was taking. I could only sit and stare at the ceiling and worry about my two-day-old baby who was going through something I couldn't help her with. The worst part was that I was so far away from her and completely helpless myself. I was told that I would be discharged as soon as I could get up and walk around, so my sister and I walked the halls as much as I could in my weak state. I was determined to see my baby the next day.

Saturday morning finally dawned, and the pediatric radiologist at Britton's hospital administered the tests to see if she had a bowel obstruction. Two tense hours later, Landon called with the news that Britton's tests had come back negative! The doctors had determined that the infection in her lungs and her abnormal vomiting were two symptoms from the same root cause: her aspiration of meconium during her delivery. While that wasn't great news, it gave us a course of action to take--one that didn't involve surgery (thank goodness).

When the day shift nurse at my hospital came on, she assured me that I would be placed at the top of the list for discharge. By 1 p.m. that afternoon, I'd made the horrendous journey into the heart of downtown Charleston. It wasn't horrendous because of the distance (it was only 7 or 8 miles), but because of all of the potholes and uneven roads, which were not kind to my brand new abdominal scar.

I was so excited to see Britton and Landon again. Britton looked really great, even after being poked and prodded for all two-and-a-half days of her existence. Landon had been up all night with her, holding her and keeping her company.

Even though Britton made my heart happy, I hated being up in the NICU at that hospital--there were so many very sick babies, some of whom had been there for months. There was one baby across from Britton who had been permanently sedated to keep him out of pain; he'd been in the NICU for six months and was still extremely delicate. Seeing them made me that much more grateful for my almost-healthy baby; I only wish all of those babies could have the quick diagnosis and recovery that Britton did.

Even though she was doing much better when I got up there on Saturday afternoon, she wasn't out of the woods yet. Britton's doctors wanted to make sure that her lung infection cleared without any more complications and that she was able to eat without additional vomiting.

I got extremely frustrated with the nursing staff because I wanted to breastfeed her (the one part of my birth plan that I had clung to since I'd had to make so many other changes in my labor and delivery); even though they claimed to be friendly to breastfeeding moms, they didn't want me to pick her up very much (so how can I breastfeed?!?) nor did they want to give her the tiny bits of milk that I was producing at the time (but what else can one expect--usually milk doesn't come in until the fourth day or so). I ended up pumping as much as I could, but it still wasn't enough for them. Landon and I argued and argued with them about not giving her formula (our original plan), but they told us that if we let them supplement what I was pumping with formula, they could then see if she would really eat, and she could go home soon. That Saturday, I stuck to my guns and told them that I only wanted her to have breastmilk.

When I went back up to the NICU Sunday morning (after getting up every two hours to pump), I was exhausted and ready to bring my baby home. Landon, who'd had all of about nine hours of sleep since Thursday night, was edgy and annoyed. The nursing staff had all but thrown him out of the NICU around three that morning when they couldn't get Britton's IV in. They still weren't feeding her what I had worked so hard to pump, and Britton was solely on a dextrose drip to keep her blood sugar stable. Their rationale: if we give her just the little bit of milk that you're producing and we don't supplement, then she'll still be hungry and will get upset. Maybe so, but if Britton had been home like a regular newborn, she'd only be eating what I was producing anyway.

I saw Britton for about twenty minutes that morning before I had to step away and collect myself. I just couldn't stand looking at her IV that they'd stuck in her leg or the black and blue marks on her little hands where the nurses hadn't been able to get the IV back in. The charge nurse found me in the family waiting room around the corner, bawling my eyes out. She and I had a frank talk about Britton's treatment, and we tried to come up with some answers to make everyone happy.

The nurse told me that Britton was really a Level II baby, but MUSC's Level II nursery didn't have any open beds. They couldn't move her to Level I because she hadn't eaten yet and, thus, still needed an IV. Our insurance wouldn't cover a transfer back to the Level II at our original hospital, so we were stuck in a situation where we had the healthy, recovering baby in a room full of extremely sick babies. In an effort to get Britton closer to being released, Landon and I agreed to allow the nurses to feed her what I had pumped and then (and only then) give her formula to supplement. It wasn't ideal, but I wanted my baby home.

I went back to my parents' house that night at 7 p.m., exhausted from a long day at the hospital and sore from moving around so much. I had just stretched out to take a little nap when my mom brought the phone into my room: it was Landon. "Can you come back down here?" he asked, and my heart stopped--I immediately assumed the worst. But then: "The night staff is going to discharge Britton as soon as you can get up here."

What a surprise! I jumped up and threw clothes on. I was going to bring my little girl home! I didn't even care that I had to bump along those terrible roads in downtown Charleston again: the pain and exhaustion would be worth it.

By the time my parents and I arrived at MUSC, Landon had dressed Britton in her going home outfit. He and I went through a quick discharge meeting with one of the nurses, and then the nurse helped carry her to the car. Four days after her birthday, Britton finally came home!