‘The nurse said the word ‘fetal demise’ and my heart stopped. I was disgusted with myself. ‘If you leave, we’ll call it an Against Medical Advice Discharge.’: Mom births NICU warrior amid pandemic 

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“My husband and I have been together for almost seven years and married for almost four. Due to financial reasons, we didn’t start trying to have kids until after we had been married for three years. When we started trying, we were blessed to get pregnant within a couple of months. We knew before 5 weeks I was pregnant, and we were so excited. We booked a photo shoot for announcement photos and wore these ridiculously nerdy shirts. We couldn’t wait to reach 12 weeks, so we could announce on social media. Our friends and family were so excited for us. Everyone had been waiting years for us to finally have kids.

My pregnancy was picture perfect, for the most part. I had some small issues, but I could have been the poster child for a classic pregnancy… until the point where everything went wrong.

Courtesy of Jacqueline Vega Photography

At the beginning of March, I couldn’t feel the baby moving anymore. We went to the hospital late on Sunday night, just to make sure everything was okay. They connected me to the monitors, took a few swabs, then sent me home before the swab results came back because the baby looked great on the monitor. On the way home, we got a phone call. It was the nurse from the hospital, saying my water had broken, and I needed to get back to the hospital for more tests.

I almost didn’t go back. I was tired, we both needed to work the next day, and I figured the tests could wait. But the nurse made it seem urgent, so we went back. The doctor saw me walk into the unit and literally followed me into the room, which was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced. She sat me down on the bed and told me I was being admitted immediately. She said there was an 80% chance I would go into labor and give birth within the week. Because I was only 30 weeks, they were going to give me magnesium to help the baby’s brain develop faster, and steroids for her lungs. Finally, she said if I didn’t give birth within the week, I would be staying in the hospital until I reached 34 weeks, which is when I’d be induced due to risk of infection outweighing the need for the baby to keep growing.

It was like my entire world had exploded. I was so confused. An hour earlier, I was fine and the baby was great. I’d had a nearly picture-perfect pregnancy. Now my and my daughter’s health were at risk, to the point I needed to stay in the hospital for a month?

I think I was in shock at first. I remember them wheeling me to my room and getting the IV placed, which I hated. I remember the first steroid shot, which I hated more, because I didn’t know it needed to go into my butt until they asked me to roll over. I remember the magnesium making me feel really hot, and wanting to go to the bathroom. At this point, they told me I was a fall risk and they’d be giving me a catheter, since I couldn’t get up for the next 24 hours. I refused the catheter, instead volunteering my husband to bed pan duty, because I firmly believed I was going to maintain a tiny shred of my dignity.

After that, everything was a blur. I remember my IV infiltrating and it taking two nurses and an anesthesiologist to calm me down enough to fix it. I remember my family coming in and out, bringing me things, and trying to help however they could. I remember crying because I felt like I had the flu. I was scared I would feel this horrible for the next month, and things weren’t going to get better. But they did. I finished the magnesium and immediately felt so much better. The nurse helped me walk to the bathroom for the first time in 24 hours, and then helped me move into a new room I was going to live in for the next month.

The month of March moved incredibly quickly, and slowly at the same time. I’m not much for the news, but I was seeing people talking about some coronavirus. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was adjusting to my new life in the hospital. At first, everything was fine. I had my own room, and my husband was allowed to stay the night with me and basically be there whenever I wanted. We rediscovered puzzles, and I drove the nurses nuts asking when they were going to remove my IV.

Courtesy of Jordan Silva

My family and friends visited often and made sure I felt loved and supported during a time that could have easily destroyed my already fragile mental health. I was upset about being in the hospital, but I was actually handling it super well, and I had a lot of privileges to make it better. They gave me permission to go off the unit in a wheelchair, so my husband and I went on ‘dates’ to this meditation courtyard in the hospital. I missed my home and my dog and two cats. But I was doing okay, and I was happy the baby had decided to stay in and keep growing.

Midway through the month, it was like a switch had flipped. All of a sudden, grocery stores were completely devoid of toilet paper, paper towels, and countless other items. My Facebook was filled with more of this talk about the coronavirus. My family seemed scared and worried, like they knew something I didn’t. My nurses started acting oddly. Then the restrictions began. First, a nurse told me I wouldn’t be allowed to have visitors anymore, except for my husband. I cried so hard. My family was half of what kept me sane, and made this whole experience bearable.

A lot of tears were shed that day. But when my husband took me off the unit for my nightly date, we noticed the hospital wasn’t screening visitors. So, we hatched a plan to meet my family in the cafeteria downstairs. My nurse laughed at our cleverness. Of course, that didn’t last and they started screening people. But I knew it was coming, and I accepted it. After that, they told me I wasn’t allowed to leave the unit anymore. I was angry, but at this point it wasn’t surprising. The news was being much clearer about the impact of COVID-19, and I accepted I’d be losing privileges.

Then the new rules went out: Absolutely no visitors unless you were on a maternity unit (and some other exceptions). This wasn’t surprising either, and I honestly didn’t mind since my husband was still allowed to stay with me. Then, 7 days before I was due to be induced, they refused to allow my husband back upstairs after he got off work, saying my unit didn’t count as a maternity unit. He flipped out.

Courtesy of Jordan Silva

They called my charge nurse, one of many incredible men and women who took care of me during my stay. My charge nurse told them I could go into labor at any moment, and I needed my husband there. This got lost in translation, and they ended up telling my husband I was in labor. He was really upset when he came upstairs to find me working on a puzzle and very clearly not in labor. But he was upstairs, and that’s what mattered. The nurse warned me they would probably be asking him to leave the hospital in the next few days, but he would be allowed to come back when I went into labor.

Hearing that broke me. I was so angry and so upset. I didn’t understand why I was being punished. I was doing everything they asked of me. My baby was doing great. We didn’t have any issues, and I had avoided an infection. But I was losing the one person I had left who was helping me get through this. I decided I wasn’t going to allow the hospital to make decisions for me anymore. I told my husband if they kicked him out, I was going with him. He knew better than to try and convince me otherwise.

My doctors didn’t agree with that plan. They said if I left, they’d call it an AMA (against medical advice) discharge. Usually this doesn’t really have an effect, at least not here. But my doctors had gotten to know me, and they clearly cared about me. I didn’t want to disappoint them. But I kept on with it until my nurse came in to make sure I understood the risks of discharging AMA. She said the words ‘fetal demise’ and my heart stopped. This entire time I was so wrapped up in my feelings, I had forgotten about the baby about to join us, after we had all worked so hard to keep her safe and growing.

I was disgusted with myself. What kind of mother was I to put her life at risk because I didn’t want to be lonely? After that, I let my husband go. I cried and hid in the dark for two days after he left, but I let him go. I finally understood what people meant when they said they’d give up anything to keep their family safe. Six days later, on the day of my induction, I cried when he walked into my room. Suddenly, the world seemed right again. I felt like I could really do this.

My labor and delivery went smoothly. I had an epidural that didn’t work on my left side, and it took five more attempts to get it placed. But, on March 28th, I delivered a beautiful baby girl named Olivia, who surpassed everyone’s expectations and came out screaming her little lungs out. I got to hold my daughter before they took her to the NICU, something they had told me was incredibly unlikely to happen.

Courtesy of Jordan Silva
Courtesy of Jordan Silva

Originally, they said my husband would be allowed on the postpartum floor with me. But of course, COVID-19 had to put a damper on the situation again. When the time came, I was informed he wouldn’t be allowed to stay with me anymore, because my baby was in the NICU and therefore, I didn’t need the support of my partner. At that point, I just told my doctor I wanted to discharge as soon as humanly possible. My baby was safe in the NICU, and I didn’t care about myself anymore. I just wanted to go home. Thankfully, I recovered beautifully, and my doctor let me discharge less than 24 hours after I gave birth.

Courtesy of Jordan Silva
Courtesy of Jordan Silva

Having a baby in the NICU is a special kind of hell you can never be truly prepared for. We knew the day I was admitted, she’d be in the NICU. But actually having her there was awful. There’s something heart breaking about walking out of the hospital after giving birth, but not walking out with your baby. Seeing her in the NICU was even harder. Naturally, COVID-19 had to remind us it was still there and adding more misery to an already tough time. My husband and I weren’t allowed to be in the NICU together; only one of us could visit at a time. We had to work out shifts and take turns visiting her. But thankfully, she only stayed there for 11 days and came home on a small bit of oxygen. The first time we got to act like parents together was the day we brought her home.

Courtesy of Jordan Silva

But COVID-19’s reach extends so far and has continued to impact our lives. Because of our fear of our daughter contracting the virus while needing oxygen, we made the decision no one would be able to meet her. She’ll be a month old next week, and my parents still haven’t touched their first grandchild yet. They’ve been fortunate to see her through a window. And that’s not all. We are afraid to take our daughter to the park, because we can’t trust random strangers won’t try to come up to her if they don’t believe in practicing social distancing.

We have to order groceries a week in advance, and if we are in need of an emergency item, we have to ask someone to get it for us and leave it on our doorstep. Our families have to settle for a daily update with one or two pictures because we’re just too tired to do more. We have had a massive outpouring of support from our friends and family, that ensured we received just about everything on our registry, despite being unable to have a baby shower. But the party we planned to thank all of those individuals and introduce them to the miracle that is our daughter, has been permanently put on hold.

Olivia has always been worth any and all pain we had to experience. But I can’t pretend we don’t feel robbed and cheated of so much joy that could have come from this situation, had it not been for COVID-19. We miss our families terribly. I’ve cried more than once because I found out someone I care about isn’t practicing social distancing, or lives with someone who isn’t.

COVID-19 has truly torn our world into pieces, and we can never get this time back. But I am still so grateful. We have a healthy baby girl. She’s absolutely beautiful, and she lights up our world. Our friends and families have seen to it that she is spoiled rotten by them, without even meeting them yet. We spend our days together, telling her stories about the people who love her. COVID-19 has stolen so much from us, but the one thing it can’t take away is the pure love that comes only from people coming together in hard times, and doing what needs to be done to help others. We have dealt with so much, but we will get through this, and we will do it together.”

Courtesy of Jordan Silva

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jordan Silva of Albuquerque, NM. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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