“Something’s not right with him,” I told my mom with a worried expression on my face. As I held my newborn baby in my arms, I knew all was not well. Micah was born around 4 am that morning, and I was in the Mother & Baby Unit recovering and getting to know this bundle of joy that just showed up. However, things weren’t going as expected. Immediately after he was born, they placed him on my chest, and he tried to breastfeed for the first time. His attempt was surprisingly pretty good, and he had an impressive latch. However, as the day progressed, his efforts to feed became poorer and poorer—to the point where he wasn’t taking the breast at all. Early that afternoon, I mentioned my concerns to the nurse, but she brushed them off saying that he would be fine and that I should just give him some time. She likely thought I was simply worrying too much like every first-time parent. But things didn’t improve. By the time 8 o’clock rolled around, things had worsened to the point where Micah was practically lying there, sleeping even longer than a newborn should, and he had barely eaten in hours. Thankfully, when the nurses changed shifts, our night nurse sprung into action as soon as we explained what had been happening.
After doing some tests, including checking his bilirubin, the culprit had been found. His bilirubin at 16 hours of life was over 12 mg/dl, which is extremely high. How did it get so high, so soon? It turns out there was an incompatibility between my blood type and his, and my body had produced antibodies which were causing the destruction of his red blood cells. Elevated bilirubin levels, or hyperbilirubinemia, can cause severe lethargy in newborns, which was what was happening to Micah. If left untreated, it can lead to brain damage. Thankfully, the pediatrician on call that night expedited his care, but that meant transferring him to the NICU for phototherapy, where he ended up staying for the first week of his life. That was not an easy pill for a new mama to swallow, to say the least.
I was discharged from the hospital two days later, but spent every day of that week there, from the early morning hours to late at night. It was such a bittersweet time in my life. Here we were, new parents, excited about the arrival of this special gift, yet we weren’t able to hold him like we wanted to, or even look into his eyes when we wanted because he had to wear an eye mask to protect his eyes from the phototherapy lights. We were exhausted, concerned, and prayerful, yet hopeful. We made the best of each day, spending as much time with him as we could, feeding him and changing him as often as possible, and enjoying the rare occasions when we were allowed to hold him.
That experience taught me so much. I gained a deeper understanding of what unconditional love is, I began to appreciate even more the sacrifices my parents made for me over my lifetime, and most importantly, I caught a very small glimpse into what God’s love for us looks like.
Thankfully, our sweet little Micah improved day by day, and was eating like a champ by the end of the week. Then, we were finally given the “okay” to take him home! I don’t think it was possible to be any happier! Now, that sweet little baby boy we brought home from the NICU over 8 months ago is crawling, standing, babbling, and being the awesome little boy that he is!
Missed the story of our little guy’s arrival? Check it out here!