Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Max- Part II

The worst of our story of Max is obviously over. This is just for our own personal history. Feel free to read it, feel free to comment on it. We are so happy he's home and all is well now. 


Max had just left with the transport team to the Northridge hospital. Aaron left with them. Kelsey and Daniel left, they both had to get back to work. My dad had to get back to work as well. He had missed a conference call to be there so he could assist with the blessing for Max. Brandon and Jeanessa left before I even got to see them.

Leaving Nickell there at the hospital just after having our baby was so hard. And I knew that it was even harder for her to have both me and our brand new baby Max leave. But immediately after Max was born, she asked me to stay with him. 

I already missed everyone. My heart was hurting in a way I couldn’t understand and I was so grateful to have my mom there. She’s always been there. For each of my babies, it’s been possible for her to make it to the hospital to be there with me. This time mattered more than ever before. And I was glad it was her that stayed. She was the only one there with us that day that could understand even a fraction of what I might possibly be feeling, because she was the only other one there, that was also a mother.

She pulled her phone from her purse, so she could show me the pictures she had taken of Max.  Aaron had left the camera with me as well so I could see all the pictures they had taken of him while I was in recovery. I just kept looking at them over and over again, memorizing every detail of his tiny face. Trying to soak it all in. I kept saying, “I can’t believe this happened.” It was all so surreal. There’s no way I just had my baby, he’s not supposed to be here yet. And Rachel! Her wedding was the following day. She was going to hate me forever! I felt horrible.

The nurses were coming in and out of my room, taking vitals, checking to see how I was doing. I was ok. I was holding it together. Actually, I was feeling numb both emotionally and physically. We were all exhausted. I could tell my mom was struggling to keep her eyes open. It was the first second of rest she was getting, since getting my phone call the night before. She kept asking the nurses, “she needs to rest, right? She should get some sleep now, shouldn’t she?” 

We talked for a minute longer. My mom was telling me about everything that happened after he was born. She told me about the blessing, how Aaron's and my dad's hands nearly swallowed Max's head. My arms hurt to hold that baby boy. How was it possible to be so in love with a baby that I'd only seen and touched for mere seconds.

We closed our eyes here and there trying to get whatever sleep we could in between visitors (which I'm eternally grateful for. Especially that day.) and the nurse and other hospital staff. Brandon and Jeanessa came back to see me, they stay and talked with me for a while. I absolutely love them and their dedication to family. (Thank you Brandon, Jeanessa, and Kelsey for being there for us, especially coming back and visiting with Nickell.) They've been awesome through all of this. My dad came in with my boys. Two of them at least. It made my heart happy again. They gave me hugs and kisses but were more than hesitant to get too close. I hadn't even thought about how they'd be affected. I know, I'm a really good mom. As far as any of us knew, we were just going down to visit Nana and Grandpa while I did a wedding. Kade was doing his best to be a big boy and not get too emotional. Tadd just didn't understand.
During all of this I never really worried too much about Kade and Tadd. From the moment that Lloyd, Kristi, Becca and Brock arrived at the hospital in Victorville I knew that they were in good hands.

Aaron returned. It was bitter sweet. I wanted him to be there with me, but that meant that our baby was alone. Obviously he wasn't alone, there were nurses and doctors, but he was without any family. We spent a little time together. We talked, both of us couldn't wrap our minds around what had just happened. We had just had our baby. Seven weeks premature. How was that possible? We were both just worried about Max, hoping he was ok.

We cried together. Only for a moment. I couldn't let myself cry for too long or I'd lose it, and then it wouldn't have stopped.

I was planning on spending the night with Nickell in the hospital. I had done it with our other two boys and wanted to do it this time. Plus I did not want Nickell to be alone. Not now, not ever. With our other boys she had the joy of a new baby to hold and love.  Now she only had sadness. I knew that out of all of us this was the hardest for her. She had been feeling his every movement, and then to suddenly have him cut from her and taken away almost 2 months earlier than she was ready for, I knew she needed me, and I wanted to be there for her. Even if that meant sleeping in a folding chair.

I convinced Aaron that he needed to go back to my parents to sleep. He wanted to stay with me, and I wanted him too, but he needed rest and he wouldn't have gotten it there. I was in a shared room. (I am surprised with all the HIPPA laws that shared rooms are even allowed anymore. They shouldn't be.) Luckily my roommate was also a NICU mom. Her baby was in the NICU right there in the same hospital, so she spent a lot of time with her baby and I didn't see or hear her a lot. For that, I was grateful. They were a very nice couple though. The boyfriend made sure I was taken care of when Aaron was gone. Every time he left the room he'd ask if I needed anything. The kindness I received from most everyone I came in contact with was more than welcome.  It wasn't the worst situation that could have been with the shared room.  However, with the separating curtains, I felt so claustrophobic! My share of the room was so small. I was told I'd be moved to a private room as soon as one became available. I tried to be patient.

I spent my first night in the shared room.

My nurses were all fantastic. They were attentive. I never felt forgotten. They all had a look though, a pathetic look. A pitiful look, as if saying "you poor thing". It made me want to kill myself. I already felt pathetic and their "looks" just made it worse.

On day 2, my nurse told me she was surprised at how well I was keeping it together, considering. For some reason this took me by surprise. That's when I realized how numb I was to everything, still. Maybe it was denial? There's no way I wasn't still pregnant. I thought a lot about Rachel that day. It was her wedding day. I hoped it was going smoothly. I hoped it was perfect. I'm forever grateful to Cherie Starke for covering for me that day.

After spending some time with Kade and Tadd, so that they didn't feel forgotten, I headed to Henry Mayo to be with Nickell and see how she was doing. I was hoping that she was getting to sleep a lot so that she could recover quickly and get to see Max. She also was at the end of a cold which would prevent her from seeing him. At while she was in the hospital recovering there was a good excuse for her not being by Max's side. But when she was discharged if she wasn't able to hold Max I knew that it would kill her and I didn't want her to feel any worse.
After spending some time with Nickell, I wanted to go down and see Max. I didn't like the thought of him not having any family by his side. However, I was so torn between staying with Nickell and being with Max. I did my best to share the time I had with each of them. 
The NICU visit with Max was the same as the day before. He was still hooked up to all the machines to help him breath and track his vitals. I was able to connect to the internet so that I could skype with Nickell and she could see Max in real time instead of just pictures.

I skyped with my baby boy that day. I wanted to reach through the screen and grab him. Although, had I even been in the same room with him, it would have been hard to hold him, still. He was hooked up to so many wires and machines to help him breath and monitor every vital sign. His poor little body looked so fragile. The nurses tried holding him up so I could see him a little better. His nurses were amazing.
His nurses really were amazing, especially Zulley. They were so helpful while I was there in explaining what all the monitors meant and what I could and couldn't do. One of those things was to not stroke Max's skin because it would bother him and to just hold my hand still when touching him.
While in the NICU I didn't want to hold him, I felt that Nickell should be the first one to do that. But then I was told that holding the baby was good for him and would help him progress and get better. I held him for the first time. I got to hold him for close to an hour before he needed to be put back into the isolette. He was only able to be held for short periods of time at the beginning. They said holding him too much would wear him out and make it harder for him to grow. It was amazing to be holding him. He was so small. I was afraid to move because of all the wires he had hooked up to him.

That morning, I was told I'd be moved into a private room. I waited....and waited. Visitors came and went. My mom stayed with me most of the day. I will forever be grateful for the time she took off of work to spend with me in the hospital. When I had visitors, it was easier to be ok. I didn't have as much time to think about myself. Or throw a pity party for myself.

We watched Pitch Perfect. It was my first time seeing that movie. I don't recommend watching it only days after having your stomach cut open. I was trying so hard not to laugh, it was painfully hilarious, literally.

Aaron was back and forth between Max and me. He'd call me from Northridge and update me. He kept asking me how I was doing. I didn't know how to answer him. Physically I was fine. A little pain, nothing more than normal after a c-section. However the emotional pain was like murder.

The moment I was placed in my own room, my mood changed drastically! It felt so good to have a little more space, and to feel less claustrophobic. I had more visitors that day.

It was hard to have Max in one hospital and Nickell in another and the boys at the Jensens house. I would spend my morning with the boys, and then head to Henry Mayo Hospital to see Nickell and bring her things she needed. Then I'd leave there and drive to the Northridge hospital and spend time with Max. I'd stay there until 6:00pm when visiting hours were over. (it was during their shift change). It just felt wrong to leave any earlier. I felt like I would be a horrible dad if I left sooner. I already felt horrible not being with Nickell very much and not being with Max all day. I really needed some clones. After getting kicked out I'd go back and be with Nickell for the rest of the evening. When Nickell finally got her private room I started sleeping on the pullout bed. It's not comfortable, but I was with Nickell and that is what I wanted.

One of the times while Kristi and I were out getting some things for Nickell we realized that no one had gotten her flowers. Everything had happened so fast, that it had been forgotten. So we got her flowers and a new water bottle. Which a water bottle may not seem very significant but Henry Mayo only have cheap plastic cups where as Nickell was use to IHC hospital water mugs which are really nice. And although it was something small, she missed that. So we wanted to get her something better than what she was using.

Dr. Izu came in on rounds to check my incision, see how I was feeling and once again, remind me not to have more children. He kept explaining things to me about my uterus being too thin and possibly being in a worse situation if we attempted to have another baby. I just nodded and tried not to think about it too hard. I'm not ready, still, to think about that part.

Nickell didn't tell me right away, about the doctor saying for us to not have any more kids. It was a day or two later and it hit me by complete suprise. I never thought someone else would be the one to tell us, no more kids. I always imagined that it would just be a decision Nickell and I would make when we felt ready. And I definitly don't feel ready to be finished with that part of our lives. I still feel like there is another one. But how do you go against the doctors advise like that. If we had another would the baby die? Would Nickell die? Would Nickell be on bed rest? Or would everything be OK? We have always thought about adoption. I don't know. That part still doesn't seem real to me. And I don't know if it's fully sunk in. Even now, thinking about it...to overwhelming.

On this day, I finally watched the video of Max's first moments. It's a video I won't be watching again soon. Not yet. It's all too new and still hard to watch. His limp body as they did compressions and tried getting him to breathe or show any signs of life, is a picture I can't get out of my head. Those were the longest and most terrifying moments of my life. Hearing his tiny squeak of a cry was beautiful, but still so scary. It was so weak and pathetic. Watching the video, I lost it again. I had been doing so well not crying too much....
This video is pretty hard to watch. I have only fully watched it once. Watching it just reminds me of how 
close we were to loosing Max. Seeing them flop his lifeless body around and do compression's on him, words cannot describe. I try not to think about it, and just focus on him, our Miracle Max. I don't know when I'll watch the video again. Maybe when he's 18.

The whole experience was tearing me in all directions. I was so sad all the time but had to keep telling myself to suck it up, my baby was still alive and that the worst was over and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. It could have been worse. So. much. worse. I knew that. I knew and I KNOW that other people have had far more devastating situations. But those dang hormones kept getting the better of me. And those tears kept coming.

The day I was discharged from the hospital was surprisingly easy. I was excited to leave the hospital. I was excited to finally make it to my family's house. Four days after leaving Provo, I made it. There was laughter and there were smiles.
Nickell kind of had her choice of when to leave. The doctor has said you can leave today or stay another day if you need it. She choose one more day. I wonder if it was because she couldn't stand the fact that she still wouldn't be able to see Max because of her cold, and still being in the hospital was a good excuse. I probably would have done the same thing if I was her.
Max's angel nurse was Zully, mine is Tess. She's pictured above.
Tadd really wanted "mama hold you."

When I got to my parents house, they had a spot all set up for me with a warm fire going in the fireplace. My mom made lunch for me and I got all settled and comfortable. This is when it hit me. I was missing something. Something huge. I left the hospital without. my. baby. I still had never even held him. I was sad and there was no way to fix it. I felt empty, literally. My baby was no longer with me. He wasn't gone forever, but I couldn't feel him moving. Again, I knew it wouldn't last forever. I knew I'd eventually have him home but that knowledge only healed my heart a little.

It was good to have Nickell out of the hospital, and the welcome home was very cozy. Fire going in the fireplace, Christmas tree still up, movie projected up on the wall and a comfortable spot for Nickell to lay down. I could tell though, that she wasn't happy. Obviously, how could she be? She didn't have Max, and couldn't go see him either. I wanted to do anything to comfort her. I rubbed her feet, rubbed her back. Anything she wanted. Anything to help ease a pain that was un-easable.

I'd been sick with a cough since before we left. That cough only made the whole situation worse. Not only was there excruciating pain, around my incision, when I coughed.... it also prevented me from being able to visit Max in the NICU. That was the worst. I was out of the hospital, finally. Still, I was unable to go see or hold my baby boy.

Aaron and my mom went. They'd send pictures while they were there. Aaron would call and give me all the updates. When I was alone I'd cry. A lot. I hated feeling like I couldn't do anything. I wanted to be there with him so badly.

December 31st, I got the greatest phone call. Aaron had been talking with the nurses, and after discussing my symptoms, they decided I would be able to visit. I'd have to wear a mask to be sure I wouldn't spread my germs, but I could go hold him. Finally!

The time I was waiting for Aaron and my mom to come pick me up, couldn't have gone slower. I just kept checking the clock. An hour and a half passed and they finally walked in the door.
 The 40 minute drive to the hospital seemed to take for. ev. er.

We got there. Finally. Finally, finally, finally. That's all I could think. I got my visitor's badge, and we headed for the elevator. Aaron already seemed like a pro. It seemed so strange to me that he was so familiar with a place that I had never been to. That he had never been, just days before. I followed him, grateful to have such a strong husband. He was so great through everything. As we made our way up there, he just kept smiling at me with his very biggest smile. I love him.
I was as giddy as a school boy. I was like a little kid super excited to show off this wonderful thing I had made. But I was only this happy because I knew how happy Nickell was. This is what she has been waiting for since the day we found out we were pregnant, and deprived of since the day he was born. It had been a while since I'd seen her that happy. I almost at times had to tell Nickell to slow down. She was still recovering and we needed to take the walk slow. 

He taught me how to scrub in. He showed me where the masks were. And then he led me into the room to see Max.

A nurse was at his isolette, and she welcomed me with a huge smile. I was trying my best not to burst into to tears. This time the tears were mostly to blame on excitement! I wanted to jump out of my own skin! I was shaking, and tears were streaming. When I got closer, and held his hand, it turned to sadness. He looked so helpless and weak. His tiny arms and legs looked so fragile. Of all the photos I had seen.... There was no preparing me for just how tiny he actually was. He looked small in pictures, but when I was up close, the photos didn't do his size justice.
He really was small. When I would rest my hand on his chest it would dissappear and I felt like the weight of my hand alone would crush him. He was so tiny and fragile. Not even strong enough to breathe on his own.

The nurse let me hold him. I was nervous. He was attached to so many wires and machines. My eyes kept going back and forth between him and his monitors. My heart would race every time I'd hear an alarm. I'd get a lump in my throat and worry something was going wrong, that I was hurting him somehow. But I didn't want to let him go. Ever.
Seeing Nickell holding Max was the greatest sight. I had to hold back the tears from pouring out. For Nickell they removed his CPAP. They said they'll see how he does. I was so nervous. This is what has been helping him breathe. I kept and eye on the monitors. Making sure his respiration didn't drop. But it was holding. 

My heart felt full again. I was the happiest mama to exist! I was with my sweet baby boy and all was well.

Until I had to walk away and leave him there. Eventually I'd run out of tears. Right?

When it was time to put Max back the nurse got the OK to leave off the CPAP. Max was doing good without it. This just brought on a whole new set of emotions. This was Max's first step of progress (besides not dying). I was so glad that Nickell and I were both there when that happened. It was the best way to start the new year.

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