Bennett's Birth Story

Where to begin?!

I should start off with, I'm back! Haha. But seriously, I know it has been far too long since I put up a post and honestly its because life has been busy. Quick heads up, this post is important to me but will be long, detailed, emotional and possibly hard to read at times.

For a few weeks toward the end of my pregnancy I'd been having dreams of Wednesday. Every time I would dream of something good, in that dream it would be Wednesday so naturally every Wednesday I thought I would have the baby haha. I wasn't completely off but I didn't give birth on a Wednesday. This pregnancy was similar to Greyson's. Morning sickness through the beginning, everything was peachy in the middle but I had a few symptoms later on that I hadn't experienced before. I had a lot of discomfort in my hips, trouble walking, heartburn and sciatica which I've been told is all very normal for a third pregnancy. I'd been measuring two weeks ahead and with all my discomfort I thought something must be happening.
Fast forward to my 37 week appointment on Tuesday. The OB checked me and we both agreed birth was just around the corner. I'd been having some steady contractions, different from the braxton hicks I'd been feeling for the last few weeks because these were consistent and stronger. Timing of everything was crazy. On Wednesday afternoon I'd felt sick so I took some time for myself while Daniel played with the kids. I thought I felt well enough to join them and then my water broke!

We checked into a delivery room around 1pm on Thursday. I'll spare you the nitty gritty details but 4 hours later at 5:20 pm on May 5, 2016 our sweet Bennett Alexander joined the world. He was the tiniest, sweetest little guy. He was 6lbs 15oz and 20 inches long with a full head of hair. We got a few minutes with him on my chest while the team cleaned him up.
When he would breathe it seemed very difficult for him. At first we all thought he just needed to get more of that fluid out of his lungs, but that wasn't the case. The Neonatal team came in to swoop him away. This was new for us. We'd been used to having our baby and then quietly transferring to our hospital room where we would secretly hate being but live for the next few days before going home. I'll never complain about having that again.

Bennett was born 3 weeks early and his delivery was extremely fast. The team explained to us that his oxygen level was at 91% and he needed to be monitored and get some oxygen. If all was well after that then he would come to my room. They were rushing, telling us there's really no time to wait as I asked 500 questions. I was scared. Daniel was scared. The kids didn't understand what was happening but they were worried about their baby brother. They actually wouldn't take their eyes off of him. If someone stood in front of them they would yell for Bennett. Its like they knew he needed them and they needed him just as much. I'll never forget their instant love for him. Daniel and the kids went to the nursery with Bennett, but they did the treatment and he still needed help so they were transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
I'd gotten our stuff into our hospital room, which was a strange feeling not having my baby with me. The nurse wheeled me down to the NICU and that was probably the hardest moment of my life. I'd entered the room and saw him in a clear incubator with holes for our hands, a large heat lamp structure that goes over top of it, a nasal cannula on and so many monitors and cords attached to his fragile body. I remember immediately breaking into tears, Daniel holding me tight and telling me "it's not your fault" and the kids hugging my legs. He knew I'd been blaming myself and he knew I needed to hear that. Even writing about it brings me back in the hardest way. The nurses and doctors explained everything that was going on, what all the monitors and beeping meant. Bennett needed a breathing tube and medicine for his lungs. They had to do test after test to check for infections, etc etc.
For the first 48 hours we couldn't hold Bennett. It was horrible. He had a breathing tube in, an iv, feeding tube, and monitors on. We could touch him. Hold the top of his head and kiss him but that was all. It was quite honestly torture. For anyone unfamiliar with the NICU routine, for us it entailed scrubbing our hands for 2 minutes with soap and water every time we wanted to touch him. To come into the unit we had to identify ourselves as his parents to be 'buzzed' in through two doorways. It was standing by his bedside hoping he'd need a diaper change just so we could do something to help him for a moment. 
It was just Daniel and I with him when the team took his breathing tube out. He did so well without it that he didn't need a CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which is essentially an oxygen mask. What a huge relief that was! I was able to hold him for a while. It'd felt like we'd finally gotten some normalcy in all this chaos that is NICU care. Through the night we'd been giving him some breast milk through his feeding tube, were able to bottle feed a few times and then late the next morning I was able to nurse him. It was a very short feed but a huge accomplishment for Bennett at the time. Later on that night his test results came back and he didn't have any infections! He was breathing on his own, didn't need the IV or feeding tube, he could nurse for all of his feedings and seemed to be thriving so the doctors felt confident he was healthy enough for us to bring home. It was such an incredibly joyful feeling to hear that. There were so many times I would wonder if or when he would come home and here we were, elated! The kids were eager to see him again and get him in the car with them. It took all day long but finally at 5pm on Mother's Day we were driving home with all three of our children and it was a dream. Bringing him home from the NICU in such a short amount of time felt like a miracle.
The next morning Bennett had his first doctor appointment. They found that his jaundice levels were high. Thankfully we were not admitted to the hospital again. Instead the doctor had a machine called the 'billy blanket' for us to pick up and treat him at home. Although were at the doctors office every day that week being checked over and over again anyway. After that week Bennett no longer needed the billy blanket! Since then he has been healthy as ever. He sleeps well, eats like a champ and loves to smile. Greyson often holds Bennett's hand for car rides. The kids will pass toys back and forth and offer them to him even though he doesn't respond yet. I'm sure he appreciates being included.

As you can assume, brother and sister are adjusting well. Grey loves to help care for Bennett. He is first to jump at his cry and runs to comfort him. If I ever need a diaper, wipes or outfit you can bet Grey will be there waiting to get it for me. London covers him in kisses and constantly asks to hold him. She has always been the sweetest girl but now she's a mini momma. She tells us "shhhh, baby shlepping" if we are anywhere near him while he snoozes. They are still wild, loud toddlers but they're extra gentle with their "baby bennett".We also call him Benny, Benito and Benny boy.

Looks wise - He is Greyson's twin with a dash more of Daniel. We joke that he got the 'Ortega nose', Its perfect on him, haha. Oh and his hair has lightened a lot, his lashes are darker and much longer. And he has blue eyes! They're crystal blue but a bit darker than mine and we're all hoping they don't change to brown! They seem to be getting lighter!!

We knew he would be loved. If you've ever met our family you know there's an abundance of it. But he's also taught us all a tremendous amount, made us appreciate each other more, shown us how precious life truly is. He definitely also aged me a good ten years with the stress but I've already forgiven him for that, haha. We couldn't more thankful for him.
We are so thankful for the incredible NICU team and Massachusetts General Hospital too. The nurses we had were so attentive, kind and informative. As they would gather with the doctors every morning for a briefing on Bennett's "status" they included me, explained everything again and set goals for him that day. If you find yourself in the NICU with your child my best advice is set a goal every day. That was so comforting for me. Something as simple as 'open his eyes today' was a special feeling to watch him accomplish. I'd have to say we feel pretty lucky to have been in the NICU for 3-4 days. We know it could've been much longer. It certainly felt like a lifetime though. The NICU is cold, uncomfortable and stressful but its also home for some of us for a while. Before going through this ourselves I always felt for NICU families but now I understand. Now I know its not just hard, it is heart wrenching and scary. It hurts your heart to be there yet you're so glad to be because it means your child is getting the best care. That they have a fighting chance. The monitors that beep, flash and loose signals alerting the nurses to swarm in make your stomach turn yet your constantly checking them for stats and they're comforting too. You aren't sure if you totally hate being there or if you should buy a lazy boy for the corner because you never want to leave your baby's side. Extra confusing, right? Well that's the reality of it. I wanted to share our story because having hope is so important in this journey. So maybe it'll help you or someone you know.
Below are some photos from just before leaving the NICU to now. Enjoy. XOXO

And some photos Daniel took. SWOON.




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Maira Gall