Sunday found Little Abbey doing very well. So well, that the doctors allowed us to hold her and even try nursing her. I gently collected all her wires and tubes and wrapped her up in a blanket and gently passed her to my wife. When the proper body parts were exposed, it took all of five seconds before Little Abbey latched on and started sucking away. It was one of the most beautiful things to witness. The rest of the day we would spent going back to the room for a brief nap, or medical procedure on Mrs. Abbey by one of the nurses, followed by trips to the nursery for more nursing. By evening, we were both mentally shot from the stress and lack of sleep. Feeling like bad parents, we brought this up to the doctors and nurse staff and every single person almost pushed us out the door after my wife was discharged and told us to come back tomorrow.
The hospital provides a free bed and breakfast for couples in situations like that as long as rooms were available and they had more than enough beds so our room would become our motel room. We were free to come and go as we chose and no staff would bother us except to clean once in awhile. Breakfast was a free buffet but the other meals and medications would become our responsibility. It sounded like a deal so we took them up on it. After feeding Little Abbey one last time last Sunday night, we drove home and went immediately to bed, together for the first time in a quite a few days. Sleep was deep and dreamless. It was definitely the sleep of the dead.
We both awoke early on Saturday but kept putting off going to the nursery until the doctors had finished their rounds that typically last until 8:30 or 9:00. They don’t allow anybody in the nursery during the rounds. So Mrs. Abbey got her pain medication and took a shower for the first time and then I wheeled her down the hall for breakfast. We had just finished eating when the pediatrician stopped in to say that Little Abbey was doing excellent. She was off oxygen, the latest x-rays showed that her pneumonia was drastically reduced and that her blood gas was normal for the second time in a row. The only not so good news was that she was developing jaundice and might have to be put under lights to cure that but he said it was quite common among all babies, term and preemies.
We spent the day walking between the room and the intensive care nursery seeing Little Abbey as much as my wife’s legs would allow. As part of the epidural, they have to flush lots of liquid through the IV’s in a short period of time to keep the heart rate from crashing. As a result, her kidneys couldn’t keep up and her legs looked like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. They would swell so much at times that the circulation would be cut off and she would get that tingling sensation. But we both agree, despite the swelling that an epidural is the way to go. It allowed my wife to sleep during the contractions and allowed her body to relax which helped her dilate faster. There was not one drawback other than the swelling and my wife said that was much better than the pains from “pooping a pumpkin.”
Little Abbey was alert and looking around the room most of our visits. Now that she was off oxygen, my wife was allowed to hold her for the first time, which did wonders for her emotions. The oxygen plastic helmet or sneeze shield as I called it went back on for a few hours during the day when her oxygen stats fell a little but it was off again in the evening and this time would stay off.
Visiting relatives and phone calls would keep our minds occupied during the afternoon and I would actually find myself with an hour to catch up on some of my writing. Short of the dinner outing with my parents and my younger brother driving me home for a shower and to repack our bags for a longer stay and to catch up on emailing, I had been in the hospital three and a half days and I was beginning to get stir crazy. But there were two girls that needed me so I kept a good face on and did what I could to ease their pains.
Friday started out with bad news, that got worse but ended up good. An emotional roller coaster seems like the understatement of the year. The first thing in the morning, the pediatrician stopped by to update us on Little Abbey’s condition. He first told us that Little Abbey had briefly stopped breathing in the delivery room and that they had to “bag” her to get it going again. The fever had turned into pneumonia but because of the antibiotics started minutes after birth, it shouldn’t get very bad. Her blood gas or ability to absorb oxygen through the lungs had gotten worse and if it didn’t get better, she would be on a chopper headed towards Iowa City and a level three facility where they could take care of her better. My wife was still in a lot of pain and hooked up to three or four different lines. I was operating on zero sleep and was at rock bottom.
My parents arrived and helped to relieve my mind. While my wife napped, we snuck out to lunch and the first time I had been out of a hospital in almost a day and a half. By the time we got back to the hospital, the news was looking good. Mrs. Abbey had her IV’s and other hoses removed and was very gingerly able to get out of bed and into a wheelchair for a visit to the intensive care nursery and the second time to see her baby. Little Abbey was starting to be more alert and was looking around. Her oxygen level was slowly being reduced and she was doing well.
That evening, the doctor gave us the best news. They had given Little Abbey a spinal tap to rule out meningitis and it has come out negative. The entire time she had fought the doctors “like a tiger,” using their words and all without oxygen. The doctor said that it was a definite sign that she was doing a lot better. The pneumonia was showing signs of remission thanks to the proactive use of antibiotics. The doctor cautioned us that things could still swing back the other way just as quickly but we clung to the good news anyway. In a hospital, good news is what keeps the world going round.
I spent the rest of the evening filling in friends and relatives of the news, taking care of my wife who looked horribly exhausted and emotionally fragile and finally trying to get some sleep in the chair that had been my bed the last two nights. It was a recliner but with all the gears stripped out so that it wouldn’t stay reclined. It wasn’t very balanced and kept wanting to tip over backwards when I was lying on it. Finally after much effort, I was able to wedge the back onto the wall and prop the leg rest up on a chair and fall asleep. Nurses would stop by to tend to my wife’s wounds every half hour all night long so sleep was brief and sporadic.