If you’re just catching this blog, yesterday I shared Atlas’ birth story (read it here). Today, I’m continuing that conversation and talking about the struggles we had before we left the hospital. The birth went wonderfully, but things changed afterwards.
There are some sensitive topics in this blog dealing with a sick child, the NICU and some photos from my boy in the NICU. If that bothers you, please stop your scroll. This blog isn’t for you.
The day after Atlas was born started off okay. More family came to visit and Lou and I tried to soak in all of the time with our new little guy, trying to get to know him. By the evening time, I noticed a change in Atlas. His skin was getting incredibly red and splotchy and he was growing more and more fussy. I thought that maybe he was having trouble breastfeeding, so I saw two different lactation nurses that day. They assured me that I was doing great. By the time night rolled around, Atlas was inconsolable. He was screaming and screaming and screaming. No matter what I did or what Lou did, nothing was helping him. We googled everything we could to find out what could be the problem. We thought maybe it was witching hour, but he continued on into the night. Mentally, I was as broken down as I was physically. There’s not a worse feeling in the world than when your baby is in distress and you can’t do a single thing to make it better. I felt completely awful.
It was a verrrrry long night alone with Atlas. Lou didn’t stay at the hospital with me because he needed to take care of the dogs. Somehow I made it through the night. By this time, it was Sunday and we were still waiting to see the pediatrician and get the okay for discharge. I was having an absolutely awful experience with the hospital from the day before, so I just couldn’t wait to get home. I finally had enough strength to get a shower when the evening shift nurse, Marty, came in and heard Atlas screaming like crazy. She immediately told Lou that the baby needed to eat, which I had just finished an hour of breastfeeding. This nurse is someone I am so incredibly grateful for. She knew something just wasn’t right and sprung into action right away. She took his temp and found that he was running a fever and noticed how dry his lips and skin were and thought he was dehydrated. She grabbed some formula right away and we fed Atlas. This nurse, bless her heart, spent more time assuring me that this wasn’t my fault, I was doing everything I could for him and that this didn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. She knew the words that I needed to hear, hugged me when I needed it and cried with me. She was my saving grace, and Atlas’ too. After she made some calls to the pediatrician that saw him earlier that day, it was decided that Atlas needed to be examined by the NICU doctor. Upon examination, they made the decision to admit him for further testing. So while I was being discharged from labor and delivery, my three day old son was going to the NICU instead of going home with me. It was the worst moment of my life.
They took him down to the NICU to start running tests. I felt so awful for all of the poking and prodding they were doing, and I couldn’t even be around to make him feel secure and safe. He didn’t have a single person he knew there, and that made my heart ache. By the time we were able to get into the NICU to see my boy, I was so scared of what I was going to see. It had been hours, but I still couldn’t get myself together emotionally. The second I saw him, I started balling. I knew he’d be hooked up to tons of machines, but no one warned me that he had an IV in the top of his head. The site was jarring - I broke down completely and couldn’t stop. I was scared to hold him. I couldn’t even look at him without crying. The truth is, he looked so peaceful and calm, which may have been the only thing keeping me from hysterics.
The Akron Children’s NICU nurses were so unbelievably wonderful. They told me he did great during the testing and assured me that the IV in his head wasn’t bothering him one bit. He was so dehydrated that none of his veins except that one could handle the IV, and he obviously needed the fluids. As hard as it was to see him with that the first day, I totally forgot about it as the week went on and focused on his recovery. We called it his crown to keep our spirits up.
Through the whole NICU experience, I kept telling myself that I didn’t want any of that to stop me from documenting my boy. I’m a photographer. I choose to hold onto moments in my life through imagery. Good moments and bad moments, I want to remember it all and be grateful. It’s all part of this journey and our story, so I allowed myself to freely photograph what we were experiencing - the smiles in his sleep, the IV and wires, his nursery, Lou sleeping on the couch, Atlas’ first Snapchat filter - all of these things. My phone is full of photos and videos from our time in the hospital and I’ve never shared any of those photos, until now.
While our week with our boy wrapped up and we knew he was set for discharge Friday, things for me went downhill. More on that in the next blog...
Again, the image of a newborn with an IV in his head and wires everywhere might be too much for some people. If you’re one of those people, please don’t scroll further.
Fresh 48 photos by Christie Leigh Photo