As I sit here waiting on the instructor for the neonatal resuscitation program(NRP), my thoughts again drift back in time. Every two years, for the past ten years, I have attended this exact class. Last night I was anxious and couldn’t sleep. It isn’t due to being nervous about taking this class, but to the place that I have to go to take it. It is held at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. On the same floor as my daughter was on. It is held in a classroom on the neonatal intensive care unit(NICU). Some of my readers may know that six years ago, I gave birth, prematurely, to a dark-haired baby girl. We knew(doctors and myself), that my baby girl would have something wrong with her, we just weren’t exactly sure what. When I went into labor at 33 weeks and they couldn’t stop the contractions, she was born. The hospital was concerned about transporting me to the original facility I was supposed to deliver at, the one with the specialty pediatric ward, so I had her at a rural hospital. When she was placed on my chest, she was a beautiful pink color and looked like a perfect little doll. She was also hard like a baby doll. Something was definitely wrong with her. The nurses swept her off my chest onto the radiant warmer next to me. There was a flurry of activity, then they took my baby away. I’m not sure how long it took for someone to come tell me news about my baby, but it seems like an eternity. They told me I was to come to the small nicu area. That Vanderbilt’s Angel team was there ready to transport my baby. They said they never let anyone go back here. That made me nervous to think that they’re letting me and my husband go back. I’m thinking my daughter was in a dire state for them to offer this. They told me that they had given her several drugs to help her and that she was sleeping and may not respond to me. There she was, lying in the radiant warmer, attached to many tubes, she was intubated(a tube down the throat to administer oxygen) and she wasn’t breathing on her own. The staff gently placed her in my arms for me to hold and see her since at her birth, I wasn’t able to. Too soon for me, they took her back. Out to the special ambulance that Angel transport had waiting. They would take her an hour away to the hospital I was supposed to deliver at. I wasn’t able to go with her. It took several hours for me to be discharged. By the time I got to see my daughter again, it was midnight, 7 hours after her birth. The attending doctor we saw that night was absolutely horrible. He pretty much interrogated my husband and I before he let us back to see our daughter. After doing some scans, they noted that she had a severe brain anomaly. We were so tired from the day that we briefly saw her and then went back to the rooms the hospital kindly provided patient’s parents. The next morning, we went back to see her again. An older doctor was there this time. The first words out of his mouth were, “You did nothing to cause what is wrong with your baby. It is not your fault.” I immediately liked this doctor. What a different approach he had than that awful doctor the night before! This doctor kindly and patiently explained his findings. Unfortunately, her cerebellum didn’t form properly during development. The cerebellum is responsible for multiple functions of the body. Which includes breathing and swallowing, two major needs to live. He told us that we could take time to decide what we wanted to do. How long we wanted to keep her on life support. He said that we could keep her on it for as long as we wanted, but said her quality of life wouldn’t be good for an extended period on life support.
The next day, a new nurse was there caring for our baby, Ansley. This nurse had been a former hospice nurse and was amazing. She had me do some care on our baby, like changing her diaper, giving her a sponge bath and changing out soiled clothes and linens. She also helped us make foot and hand cast of Ansley. My husband and I had decided to take her off life support the next day. We wanted family to have time to come visit her while she was alive. It was a hard decision, but we just could see our little baby suffer any longer. She would be lying there, unmoving. Some of it was due to the drugs they were giving her, but she had no motor control of her body. If they hadn’t given her those drugs, she would be in constant contracture(which is when your muscles seize up and won’t release). We took photos of her and loved on her. Family came and went.
The next day came too quickly. I didn’t want to let her go. I held her while they removed life support. Her little heart beat strongly, but she wasn’t breathing now that the tube was removed. It was about an hour before her heart stopped.
Today as I walked out of the big, double doors, at the hospital after my class, I was overcome with sadness thinking that I had carried my baby out these doors. She wasn’t alive when I carried her out. I was able to take her to the funeral home myself.
So, you now see why I get so anxious each time I need to renew this certification. The class is top-notched. That’s why I still go back. But, the memories are strong. This never will go away. I don’t wish them too. The pain isn’t as raw now as it was six years ago, though it is still there, inside of me, like my memories of my precious daughter. In a few weeks, she would be turning six here on earth. My May baby.