Around this time the nurse also started to notice that Andrew's breathing was quite rapid. It would slow down but then it would soon speed up again. This irregular breathing can be normal for newborns, but when Andrew's breathing was rapid they noticed his skin sucking in under his ribs, which is called retractions. This rapid labored breathing was concerning enough that they called in a pediatrician, who asked that I start supplementing with formula, in case Andrew was dehydrated. Over the next day Andrew's blood sugar and shakiness improved but his rapid breathing did not.
On Wednesday morning, 1 day after Andrew was born, the decision was made to admit him to the NICU. The doctor's concern was that his symptoms could indicate the beginning of an infection. After she left the room I was stunned. This was my 4th baby. We should have been going home by now. I hadn't been able to shower since birth so I got in the shower while Adam watched the baby. But then the nurse came in and told Adam to tell me to hurry up because we needed to get down to the NICU right away.
As I quickly got myself dressed I couldn't help but cry. Everything was just so overwhelming. During the long walk down to the NICU I couldn't stop crying. My baby was sick, I was in pain, I missed my kids at home, and I was exhausted.
This was my first experience in a NICU. It was immediately obvious that Andrew was not a very sick baby. I looked around and saw babies whose heads were half the size of his. Babies who were hooked up to feeding tubes, catheters, and all sorts of other life-saving equipment. The nurses told me they have taken care of 1-pound babies.
I sent Adam home that night to help take care of the big kids. My new routine was to go down to the NICU every 3 hours. The nurses and I would check his vitals and then I would nurse him for around 30 minutes. Then if he still seemed hungry I would supplement with formula or breastmilk. He would then go back in his little bed to sleep. I would walk back to my room and pump so that I could supplement with breastmilk on my next NICU visit. After I pumped I would wash all the parts, maybe eat a snack or fill out hospital paperwork, and then I'd have about 45 minutes to rest until it was time to head back to the NICU and snuggle my baby.
My silly boy kept trying to eat the IV on his hand, even though it was covered in tape.
Thursday night I walked down to the cafeteria at 6:30 to find it was already closed. I think this was my lowest point during the week. My body was in so much pain from giving birth and then from all the tensing up during my shivering. I was so cold and tired walking back to my room, and I had no way to get food, other than from the vending machines. I wouldn't say I was feeling sorry for myself, but it was just a lot to handle by myself. That evening in the NICU one of the nurses asked me if I had eaten dinner. When she found out I hadn't, she went and collected a bag of snacks and treats for me. She encouraged me to take care of myself so that I could produce milk and take care of Andrew. She was an amazingly kind nurse.
While all this was going on, Andrew was still just being monitored in the NICU. His breathing was still rapid, and the constant alarms alerting me to a low heartrate or a lack of oxygen were so stressful to listen to. Eventually the nurses said not to look at the numbers on the screen, but rather to look at Andrew. He obviously looked healthy.
Andrew's x-ray results showed "hazy wet" lungs. His blood culture showed no signs of infection, which was excellent news. The doctor decided that he most likely had residual water in his lungs from birth. When a baby is being born, the pressure from each contraction helps to squeeze amniotic fluid out of the baby's lungs. Because Andrew was born so quickly, he wasn't able to get all the fluid out. This is most likely what caused his rapid breathing.
Andrew was discharged on Saturday morning and he finally got to go home and meet his family!