Thursday, May 29, 2008

But I kept singing.

Babies make noises. They cry, coo, gurgle, sigh, moan, fart, squeal and laugh. If they are like Baby J, the little, they do a mean pterydactyl impression. They even grunt.

The thing is, there's grunting and then there's grunting respirations. If your baby is grunting when they exhale, that's not cute, it's not a normal baby noise, it's reason to seek medical attention. Now.

In the moments after my son was born, as I started to become worried about whether he was ok, he'd started grunting. The nurse told my husband "we don't like that noise" and what she really meant was "this is not good." With some oxygen, they were able to get it to stop.

12 days later, we were not so lucky. My husband, daughter and I had a cold when the little was born. I worried so much about that, but everyone kept telling me that my breastmilk would help protect him. It didn't hurt, but it couldn't prevent a crisis either. The day had started pretty normal with the only oddity being that he was sleeping a bit more than normal...but he was 12 days old, newborns sleep a lot and he was still feeding frequently. He was sounding a bit stuffy, but we'd had him checked by the doctor a couple days prior and he was fine. I didn't like that he had a cold, but I was suctioning his nose to keep it clear and he was eating like a champ.

At around 4pm, he was sleeping in his swing and sneezed. A huge glob of green snot came out. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have called right then...but it was the end of the day, I was pretty sure we wouldn't get into the dr with an hour left to the day, and I planned to call the next morning.
As it turned out there was no need. By 9 that night I was telling my friend on the phone that he'd gone an extra two hours between feedings, and as she was on the phone with me I decided to wake him and get him interested. Nothing worked. He would wake, but he wouldn't nurse and he just felt wrong. I rubbed him, took his clothes off, put my nipple to his mouth...nothing . I let my friend go. I changed his diaper, I talked to him, I called the doctor who said give it one more hour and if he wouldn't eat, come to the ER.

At that point my husband came in and I told him what was happening. He held him for a moment and I watched as in a manner of seconds, he turned blue and started grunting. I think I will be able to see that image in my mind for the rest of my life, hear that noise, and I hope one day I will stop dreaming about it.

We started throwing together his car seat, grabbed a diaper bag, waited at our car until my MIL could get to our house to stay with our sleeping daughter. If I had it to do over again, we would have, should have, called an ambulance. I didn't know. I just...I didn't know.

He grunted the whole way to the hospital....a trip that normally takes 15-20 minutes that time of night took us less than 10. When we got to the hospital, he was skipping breaths and it was the only time I saw a triage nurse actually move quickly.

At one point, there were a dozen people touching our son - not counting us. We'd had to move out of their way, so we went from being able to try to comfort him, to touching his toe, to standing, watching, praying and crying. I remember holding onto the hat he'd worn in, that cold night, turning it over and over in my fingers, wondering if it was going to take on a grim significance.

I mentioned before that I've been surprised by how calm medical professionals can be, and I admire that trait in them...the ability to be calm even when it seems the walls are crashing down.

The thing is, I can tell you when your son crashes on the table that they lose their calm too....but I pray you never, ever see that. When the neonatologist started yelling, when a nurse started tearing up, when they brought someone in to hold our hands because they thought our son was going to die, I thought I was going to die of a broken heart right then and there.

I can tell you that fear didn't kill me, it just closed my throat so I felt like I couldn't breathe. It made my heart feel like it was going to stop beating, and while I squeezed that tiny little hat for dear life, my husband held onto my shoulder. I had perfect impressions of his hand on my shoulder for at least 8 days. The memories have not faded so quickly.

When they finally got him stabilized enough to be moved, we went up to the pediatric intensive care unit. It would be our home for the next 8 days as he fought bacterial pneumonia.

As a mom, I wanted to make it better, I wanted to comfort him, but there was nothing I could do and he was so sick that he wasn't even upset. There was a moment when our pediatrician came in to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. He and the nurse showed us the position he needed to be in, explained the importance of helping hold him still, etc. I don't sing in front of anyone but my kids, but this was important and I didn't want him to get upset and cause further harm.

I sang "You are my sunshine" in a wavering voice as my son had a needle pushed into his back and didn't move, didn't flinch, didn't cry. I once thought seeing my child in pain and upset was the worst thing I'd ever see. Seeing him fail to react to a test I'm told is incredibly painful was worse than if he'd screamed. When I got to the part about empty arms, I cried for all of us. But I kept singing.

They asked me many times "how are you doing, mom?" At the time, I thought it was just because of the stress of the situation. I didn't know I was white as a sheet, didn't know I was running a high fever, didn't know my body was fighting the same bacterial infection that my son was fighting. I just knew that my son was sick and my husband was upset too, and he was very much the forgotten guy in the room.

Before it was over, a lot would happen in that tiny room. The little would get worse, better, worse again before he would heal. I'd declare I wasn't leaving him for anything only to be told if I didn't leave to seek help for myself, I might die. My marriage would suffer a serious and almost crushing blow. I'd find out who my real friends were and I'd learn that when the going gets tough I have to be reminded to breathe. Ultimately, the little would spend 5 days on PICU status, an additional 3 hospitalized and 2 weeks on oxygen at home. I'd also acquire the memories for some serious flashbacks that still haunt me, asleep and awake.

Recently, he had his four month shots and on the way home I heard that familiar grunting. I pulled over to the side of the road and watched him breathe. It passed quickly, without repeat....until a few days ago, the reason for my post about breathing.

We were at a store, the little in his carrier in big part of a shopping cart, when he started grunting, turning blue around his mouth, breathing quickly, then skipping breaths. He did it twice that day and once the next. We don't know why. His chest xray was clear, but I am in a hypervigilance mode after finally reaching the point where I was less worried about his breathing, finally relaxing a bit.

I don't know what's going on, I don't understand it, and reflux has been mentioned as a possibility...but I'm just not sure. All I can do for now is watch, ask lots of questions, and focus on breathing. For all of us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG! I'm practically in tears reading this.

Has the little been examined for heart issues at all? If not, PLEASE, don't hesitate to get him to a pediatric cardiologist. Do whatever you have to to rule out heart problems. Please.

Heart issues are something near and dear to me because one of my cousins had problems and needed to have a couple of surgeries before he was even 3 years old.

Please make sure you leave no stone unturned here. And, know that you and the little are in my prayers.