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Exaudi Orationem Meam


Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

I saw the monitors and instinctively checked them as I approached my daughter, getting a sunbath underneath the warmer. Her stats were picture perfect, I noticed, breathing a little more easily, and I made my way slowly to her bedside where she was sleeping peacefully.

I slogged my own soggy bottom from the wheelchair onto the nifty rocker that was shoved into that tiny room; barely a room, more like a closet. She was sandwiched in between to babies who I could hear misbehaving on either side. “Misbehaving” is, of course, a nice way of saying that these babies weren’t doing well and their monitors were alerting their nurses as such. Most of the NICU, I noted as I was wheeled past, always the nurse, was full of Feeders and Growers.

This is a fanciful way, always evoking a pleasant garden of freshly hatched babies, of saying that these were babies who were finishing their gestation outside of the womb. The babies surrounding Amelia were probably in a little worse shape, although with the sensitivity of the monitors, hearing them frequently beep means relatively little, until you see the staff go running.

Of the other babies whom I could see cooking away merrily in their incubators–like I said before, I find preemies adorable–Amelia was the biggest, fattest, and likely the only term baby there. According to her room placement, though, she was thought to be one of the most ill.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

My ass was firmly planted now onto the chair, and I held Amelia’s lone sock as a talisman, hoping it would ward off the Bad News. I was preparing to nurse my daughter again, just waiting for our nurse to come and help me sort through the tangle of wires my daughter was attached to.

Our–Amelia’s–nurse walked in and introduced herself to The Daver and I. While he had recovered more easily and was no longer tearful, I was still weeping. A mixture of sleep deprivation, intense stress, and the drop in post-partum hormones made for a Messy Aunt Becky.

(Boring aside time! I realize that I keep going over and over how I was crying, and so that you do not believe that I am the whiny baby that I appear to be, I’ll have you know that I rarely cry. A couple times a year I might quickly tear up after a particularly brutal House, MD but generally, I’m not tearful. Or flappable. Or a flapper, either. Whatever)

I handed off the box of kleenex that had been pressed onto my lap as we left Mother/Baby and my daughter was brought back to me, hooked up to so many wires that she looked like an electrical outlet. The nurse stood there, kindly, talking to us, but not revealing much of anything at all. I imagine it’s because they didn’t know for sure, but not knowing anything wasn’t exactly comforting, by any stretch.

I begged the nurse to have the neonatologist on staff come and speak with us, since the pediatric neurosurgeon was busily operating on someone’s head somewhere other than the NICU. It’s probably good I didn’t know where he was, lest I have stalked him down. Knowing something–but not specifically what–is wrong with your child is a pure hell I can’t wish on anyone.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

The neonatologist–the same one from the previous day (has it REALLY not even been 24 hours since she was born?)–came over to us, and told us that there was a “bright spot” on Amelia’s CT Scan. I had no fucking clue what that meant and he didn’t follow it up with much, although I did see his lips move, I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. I guess that’s panic for you.

After the doctor left, the nurse came back in to ask if we’d wanted to see the chaplain; to have Amelia meet the chaplain. Now, I’m not super-religious, I feel I must add, but I’ve always, ALWAYS found immense comfort in men and women of the church. And since we’d gotten absolutely no comfort from anywhere but ourselves (and my friends in the computer, whom I adore), I was pleased to meet the chaplain.

She was amazing. Just. Incredible. Of the entire coming month, it was her words, her warmth and compassion that I kept coming back to. She blessed my daughter. My daughter was blessed.

And she was so, so blessed.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer, please God, hear my prayer.

We sat there in the NICU for quite a spell, after everyone left, it was just the three of us. Time in the ICU is timeless. You look at a clock and it could be 4 AM or 4 PM, there are no extraneous clues to tell you what part of the day you’re living through. Besides hell.

But soon enough, I had to go upstairs so that I could change my undergarments and ready myself to see my boys. My sister-in-law was bringing my boys to come see me, and I had to put on my Poker Face. Which, given the raw, chapped and bleeding state of my cheeks, was going to be damn near impossible.

Back up in my room, I saw that I’d gotten some flowers and a basket from two of my lovely internet (slash) real life friends, and it made me cry. Then again, I think the package of saltines that had been ruthlessly thrown on the floor the night before might have made me cry. I wasn’t in a Good Place.

My sons came in a bit after I’d gotten sort of cleaned up–and by cleaned up, I mean, changed my icepack and brushed my teeth–and I don’t remember much about seeing them. I held Alex very, very close as Ben showed me some pictures he’d colored of Amelia. Ben knew his sister was sick, but Alex had no idea what a “sister” was, let alone what being “sick” meant. I held them and pretended to be as normal as I could until I got the call from the NICU. I needed to go down and nurse my daughter.

Talk about being torn into 2 pieces. I bid farewell to my youngest son–my eldest just wanted to get home and I couldn’t find fault with that–who screamed and cried and yowled “Mooommmmyyy” as he was led away to the elevators that would dump them into the outside world. As for me, I found my way back to the super-stealthy-ninja elevators to take me to that innocuous door, the one that should have had some flashing lights and a nifty “This Is Not An Exit” sign above it, and I cried.

I missed my other children so terribly and I was so, so worried about my new child; I felt so torn. Like I was walking the line between two worlds, and not doing a very good job living in either.

I said the same prayer over and over, begging God to let her live, even if she was retarded and her IQ was 43 and she was ugly and had to live at home for the rest of her life, just let my baby girl live. I didn’t care what was wrong with her, so long as she made it out alive. I begged God to take me, instead, I’d had 28 wonderful years on the planet already, and she was less than 24 hours old. Certainly, I’d give my life to save her in a moment.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer. Please God, hear my prayer.

After scrubbing the top 50 layers of skin from my arm and signing a reasonable facsimile of my name, I dashed over as quickly as I could to see my girl. There she was, still perfect stats, thrashing about, looking for something to eat. In the time I’d been gone, however brief it was, shift change had occurred, and we’d gotten a new nurse.

When she came in to assess my daughter and saw me weeping softly into her blanket as we rocked back and forth, back and forth violently in that rocker, for the first time in a day, someone asked me what was wrong. I explained that I didn’t know if my daughter would live or die; that no one had told us what could be wrong with her, what that bump COULD be, why she had to be in the NICU, nothing.

She looked pretty aghast that we’d been told nothing, and for the first time, someone tried to reassure us. She apologized that the neonatologist wouldn’t be in until the following morning–some crazy ass brain surgery was goin’ down–and I remember leaving the NICU several hours later slightly less burdened.

Hear my prayer, hear my prayer, hear my prayer. Please God, hear my prayer.

That night, we ordered a pizza and tried to relax in my somber room, trying to let go of some of The Fear. I didn’t feel much like celebrating anything, so no balloons, no stuffed animals, no signs that I had just given birth. I could have been on any floor, in any room in the hospital. There was no joy there.

The nurse brought me my Ambien, and the NICU had called to tell me that they would bring my daughter up to nurse every 2 hours (the NICU runs like clockwork. It’s no wonder that new parents struggle to care for their NICU graduate when they get home. Seriously, it’s a well-oiled machine). I turned on the sound machine to blast white noise over The Daver’s snores, and waited, trying to fall asleep. Unsurprisingly to no one, least of all me, I couldn’t get anywhere close to sleep that night. This made the tally of nights without real sleep at 3.

I was about to lose it.

Somewhere around 4 AM, after someone had ruthlessly barged into my room to empty the wastebasket or something, waking me from the lightest of light sleep, I began to panic. I’d sent Dave down to the NICU to sit with our daughter in the vain hope that having him at her side would set my mind free, so I was alone. The panic that had been a constant dull buzzing had morphed into something much more sinister and I knew what was about to happen.

Frantically, I paged the nurses station because I knew I needed help. I explained as carefully as I could that I was about to have a panic attack and that I needed my nurse NOW. My nurse came in, I don’t remember what she did, but she didn’t want to call my doctors because they would be rounding in a couple of hours and I could ask for something for my anxiety then.

Which, hi, that helps.

(this was, I need to tell you, a totally different nurse than my dayside one)

She told me to “relax” and then left. I tried to “relax” which was as useful as punching myself in the face with a hammer, and soon enough I put a call back into the nurses station, begging, pleading for them to call my doctor. I was panicking so badly that I quickly inventoried all that I had in my room that might help with this. The best I could come up with was a bottle of Scope.

I didn’t end up drinking it, but I did call the NICU and beg Dave to come back up (he was unaware that something was wrong with me, more than whatever is NORMALLY wrong with me) and some other nurse took pity on me and called my doctor, who prescribed me an Ativan. A swarm of people all happened to come into my room at the same time: a partner in my OB practice who looked terrified by me but discharged me, a nurse with that beautiful pill, a tech to get my vitals, and my sweet husband, who was trying to reassure me.

It sounds, in retelling this, that they were all there to help, but it wasn’t really like that. Dave and the nurse were trying to calm me down, but the tech, the doctor and whomever was washing the floor just were doing their jobs. With spectacularly bad timing.

Ativan on board now, I was trying to gulp some calming breaths and stave off the panic which was doing none of us any good. They’d turned off the lights, and covered my still-swollen body with fresh sheets, cleaned off the bedside table and turned on the white noise machine. It had to be about 7:30 AM.

Finally, I began to relax and beat the panic away, if only slightly. Dave held my hand and told me over and over and over again that my daughter was just fine, she was perfect, she was wonderful, she’d done great overnight, she was beautiful, she was going to be just fine. It was soothing to hear, but what would have been MORE soothing? Having her bassinet next to my bed where it belonged instead of three floors below.

As I always tell Ben, “You can’t always get what you want,” and I got what I needed. I was finally coming down, although I was still weeping, panicked, and out of my mind with fear.

Then (dun, dun, DUN), the absolute worst person to show up did. (no, not Nat).

Lactation services.

(Pithy aside time: I never got Ben to nurse, ever, but I went to lactavist after lactivist, learning pretty much all I ever could care to know about breastfeeding. THEN, I worked OB long enough to teach many, MANY women to nurse their babies. Hell, I’m sure I could give YOU some tips, if you wanted. After that, I had Alex, who nursed constantly. I am no stranger to the boobies, the holds, the implements of torture, the creams, the bras, the lotions, the pumps, the storage bags, the supplements. While most of parenting is a guess-n-check thing, I’ve pretty much gotten nursing down)

So Lactation Services showed up, because they say they’ll come by every day you’re in the hospital with a new baby, and they do. It’s awesome for people who need help because breastfeeding is nowhere NEAR as easy as it looks on those weird Lamaze videos.

(also: why are people in the Lamaze videos always naked?)

But I didn’t need help. And when she showed up and saw me shaking in bed, being held by my husband while the nurse clucked around me like a mother hen, lights off, white noise blaring, she should have excused herself. But no.


She introduced herself perkily and asked me how breastfeeding was going, and I answered that it was fine. Which really, was kinder than the situation warranted. I’m kind of an emotional cripple, honestly, but had I walked in on this hornet’s nest of a room, I’d have promptly left.

I expected this to be enough for her, but no, she followed that up with, “Do you have any concerns about breastfeeding?” Wrong question, dipshit. Time, place, all that.

“You know what?” I snarled, “I’m MUCH MORE concerned that my baby is going to die than if I have proper latch, okay?”

Again, she could have gracefully bid be farewell. But no. She kept on keeping on.

“Well, what about your concerns with BREASTFEEDING?” She asked, just not getting it.

I responded with, “Look, if she’s dead, I’m not going to give a FUCK about colostrum, okay? Please!” I began to sob heavily again.

It was then that Dave told her to get the fuck out of our room, and in my mind’s eye I see him leading her to the door forcefully, but I’m not sure if that’s how it went.

Finally, with a DO NOT DISTURB sign on my door, I slept for a few hours.

I awoke when The Daver bounded in and announced, “the neurosurgeon ordered an MRI! And he’s really nice! And not concerned! He thinks it’s an encephalocele! It’s a piece of brain or something that’s herniated out! We can go home after the MRI! And follow up with the results next week! Oh, I wish you’d met him. He was so, so nice.”

And just like that, we went from critical to discharged in less than 36 hours.


46 Comments to

“Exaudi Orationem Meam”

  1. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:56 pm Potty Mouth Mommy Says:

    …. even if she was handicapped…

    thank you for turning me into a blubbering mess…

    *must needs find kleenex to wipe away snot and tears*

  2. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:36 pm Jennifer Says:

    You are amazingly strong and so is your daughter. I’m so sorry you and your family had to go through this, but damn it, you made me cry. The whole “even if she was retarded” etc. paragraph killed me.

  3. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:36 pm fidget Says:

    i see your boooobee! And you showed so much restraint by not punching the lactation consultant in her perky mouth

  4. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:45 pm Roshni Says:

    beautiful picture!

  5. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:49 pm jenni Says:

    Dammit. I couldnt breathe through half that post… I am so glad she is ok now.

  6. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:51 pm ainebegonia Says:

    I wanted to punch the lactation coach who visited me with my first. Her idea of help was to sit in a chair and watch me nurse my child while telling me I was doing it wrong. I made sure with the next 3 that I requested no visits from any lactation coaches/aides

  7. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:53 pm Ms. Moon Says:

    Hospitals. Ah yes, this is why I know I was blessed beyond belief to avoid them entirely for the birth of three of my kids. But- different situation and part of the reason I know I’m so lucky.
    And you’re lucky too but my Lord, what hell you went through.
    And look at that picture- heaven. You went through hell but there were moments of heaven. And you had heaven right there in your arms.

  8. On July 13th, 2009 at 1:57 pm Creepy Mommy Says:

    What a tough, horrible time. I remember reading all about it, but it really seemed as if you were holding it together. You were so incredibly strong! I’m so glad that everything turned out well with Ameila, what a beautiful little baby(I think she looks like you!). You are amazing!

  9. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:02 pm choosy Says:

    ditto on the holding of breath.
    And, I know how it ends…

  10. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:05 pm lady lemon Says:

    It may be my insane ticking bio-clock, but this made me tear up too. And that picture of you and your baby is so beautiful and peaceful. I am so happy that everything ended up ok and you have your sweet baby girl home with you as she should be.

    PS: Nice booby!

  11. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:17 pm Ms. Terri » it is Never Too Late To Pursue a Career As a Nurse Says:

    […] Mommy Wants Vodka » Blog Archive » Exaudi Orationem Meam […]

  12. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:24 pm Amanda Says:

    You are incredibly brave. I have no idea how you did it.

  13. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:28 pm Em Says:

    I love stories with a happy ending 🙂

    And seriously, the word “relax” should be pulled from everyday language. It’s usually coming from the mouth that is being rather condescending and not understanding.

  14. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:32 pm choosy Says:

    okay and I just clicked through to donotreply and had a good laugh.

  15. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:37 pm Lindsey Says:

    Wow. What a ride. Look at her now, what a gorgeous girl!

    Um, when I have my next baby, can you come help me breastfeed? I did not have any luck this time and wanted to poke the lactation lady in the eye. Thanks Aunt Becky. (you can bring The Daver and your babies too, it will be a party!)

  16. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:58 pm electriclady Says:

    What a beautiful photo. Love you. And I want to punch most of the hospital personnel you dealt with, especially the LC.

  17. On July 13th, 2009 at 2:59 pm Mrs Soup Says:

    Gosh, beautiful.

    At the hospital, I asked for a Lactation Consultant to come by because my daughter would only latch on the left side and not the right. We were in the hospital for 36 hours and no one came. I finally got a call the second day we were home and then they didn’t return my other call.

    Thankfully, we figured out how to get her to nurse on the other side and that she nursed just fine after then and had no other issues, but seriously…it’s a good thing it wasn’t important.

    <3 Love you.

  18. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:01 pm Inna Says:

    Wow, I really had no idea it was that awful! I’m sorry so many hospital people are jerks.
    I’m glad she’s such a beautiful perfect baby!!!

  19. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:29 pm Kristine Says:

    I just cannot imagine what you went through in those 36 hours, reading it terrified me, living it must have been pure hell.

  20. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:30 pm Mwa Says:

    Amazing story.
    It always surprises me how hospitals can be filled with such morons, with the odd wonderful person sprinkled in.

  21. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:35 pm Apple Sauce Says:

    Oh THANK GOD everything turned out okay. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. It sounds like you were dealing with the least compassionate hospital staff EVER.

  22. On July 13th, 2009 at 3:38 pm Ginger Magnolia Says:

    I could hug The Daver for telling the lactation consultant to fuck off.

  23. On July 13th, 2009 at 4:34 pm Fancy Says:

    Damn, girl, your boobie is bigger than your baby in that picture!

    Seriously, though, I’m so sorry you all had to go through that, I cannot even imagine what that must have been like!

  24. On July 13th, 2009 at 5:24 pm GingerB Says:

    More, more, more. I think your boobie looks fine and not too big. Unless you want it big . . . or small . . . or whatever . . . Tell more story!!

    Hospitals are filled with morons. I will have a post up later to that effect detailing my pediatric emergency room fail of the weekend. Grr.

    Tell more story!

  25. On July 13th, 2009 at 5:46 pm Jenn Says:

    I’m not much of a crier either but lately whenever I come here I end up with tears in my eyes.
    Again, I’m so so soooo glad that I know the ending already. This story being told in parts would be TORTURE if not.
    Love you. xoxo

  26. On July 13th, 2009 at 7:00 pm Jenn Says:

    Keep talkin’ girl, keep talkin’.

    Lactation consultants are an odd breed. I have considered being one. I know one really good one and, like, eighteen ones that have no effing clue.

  27. On July 13th, 2009 at 7:12 pm Tara Says:

    Once again simply amazing….

  28. On July 13th, 2009 at 7:13 pm mountainmomma18 Says:

    Seriously I am crying here. I have had more than one experience in which by not explaining anything i have been led to fear the worst in a situation which while not perfect were not dire. WHen my daughter was six weeks old they sent us to get x-rays of her skull because they were afraid her plated were fusing together. It was the worst two hours of my life, then it was over. This is a really amazing story.

  29. On July 13th, 2009 at 7:13 pm a Says:

    Imagine being happy for a herniated brain! What a state you two must have been in. I hope that’s the last trauma you have to experience in your lives.

    There’s something seriously wrong with the nurses in the Chicago area. My friend refused to have her second child in the hospital, due to the nurses, and was extremely pissed when she had to go with her third (heart rate issues for her and the baby). I had annoying nursery nurses, but the rest of them were constantly offering me painkillers and food. That’s my kind of nurse.

  30. On July 13th, 2009 at 8:40 pm Kristina Says:

    No offense to any lactation consultants, seriously, no offense, but I have never met one I liked. Too pushy. And for her to not see that something really fucking serious was going on..what a moron.

    The waiting and not knowing is definitely the worst. At least when you know, even if it isn’t the best news, you can start to deal, and start a plan. So glad everything turned out just fine.

  31. On July 13th, 2009 at 8:53 pm Nissa Says:

    What a story. My heart ached for you as your story drew me back and brought up feelings about my own children and thinking they were going to die. That is no place a parent should ever have to go. I am so sorry.

  32. On July 13th, 2009 at 8:54 pm Sunny Says:

    I could hardly breath reading this post. Going through what you did — after the exhaustion of birth and the enormous post-partum hormonal shift — has to be the greatest test of a woman, ever.

    You did amazing, Becky. Totally passed.

  33. On July 13th, 2009 at 9:52 pm kalakly Says:

    I love that pic, tons. And man, am I glad, again, I already know the ending to this story. Critical to discharge=awesomex10

  34. On July 13th, 2009 at 10:24 pm AlmostMrsJoyner Says:

    Aunt Becky..I had no idea it was like this..I remember reading about it..but you seemed so held together..Reading this made my breath catch in many places..Your love for sweet Amelia, the boy, & the Daver (their love for you) is so apparent….Im tearing up just reading it..Very awesome, your strength is inspiring!! I wanna grow up & have your courage some day!!

  35. On July 13th, 2009 at 10:52 pm fawn amber Says:

    Girlfriend…after the day I have had, I thought I would check out your site for my usual dose of laughter. Not so much. BUT I am absolutely floored. I feel like I was there with you. You are an amazingly talented writer AND, just, wow…I had four perfect, uncomplicated pregnancies resulting in four perfect babies and never before have I been so aware of how truly blessed I am. Amelia is beautiful and I am thrilled that she is fine now, but clearly those first days still haunt you. Thank you for sharing so much detail with your readers, I needed this smack upside the head 🙂 God bless you…

  36. On July 14th, 2009 at 7:25 am Badass Geek Says:

    I am SO glad I was not that nurse.

  37. On July 14th, 2009 at 9:01 am Bluebird Says:

    This was so, so hard to read. . .I don’t even know where to start. I hate that you ever had to go through something like this. But I thank you for sharing your story – I wasn’t around for the first edition, and it’s always nice to learn a little more about you (even though I hate the story’s contents, of course).

  38. On July 14th, 2009 at 11:27 am Coco Says:

    Oh, Becks.

    I cried through this entire series. Again.

    I would have smacked the Lac Consultant upside the head for you and bitched out the nurse royally.

    I’m so glad Amelia is now talking to measuring spoons and bouncing like a champ, just as it should be, but I remember the sense of your panic and fear and feeling so helpless to help my friend.

    Sending some more love to you and yours.

  39. On July 14th, 2009 at 11:30 am EPMaxwell Says:

    well, then. how intense, but so glad it ended the way it did.
    I am so grateful to be a follower of your blog and read your story. You rock.

  40. On July 14th, 2009 at 11:44 am Kristin Says:

    What an incredibly powerful piece of writing. Knowing that it actually happened to you is just mind boggling. Wow

  41. On July 15th, 2009 at 6:43 am SCY Says:

    What a stunning photo of the two of you. Totally belies the angst that was happening in your life at the time.


  42. On July 15th, 2009 at 7:18 am Kendra Says:

    What a story. And how brave of you to tell it.

    I can’t believe the people I’ve met while giving birth. Some of them have been the most caring, compassionate, sensitive people. And some have clearly checked out. I still remember, when we were being discharged after my oldest was born, I couldn’t get him to nurse to save my life. We hadn’t seen a lactation consultant or had any help at all, and I was at my wit’s end. He was screaming in his bassinet, I was sobbing in the chair, and my husband was just trying to find some way to help when the midwife walked in for our discharge. She took one look around the room, popped a pacifier in my baby’s mouth (he immediately stopped screaming), then walked over, gave me a big hug, and said, “You’re a good mom.” I still love that woman.

    It makes such a huge difference when someone takes the time to check in with you for real. I’m so grateful, every second that I’m reading this, that I know Amelia is now safe and sound and healthy and beautiful.

  43. On July 15th, 2009 at 2:59 pm sharon Says:

    whoa! what a roller coaster! i can’t even imagine girl!

  44. On October 29th, 2009 at 5:49 pm Aunt Becky Has Some Esplainin’ To Do at Mommy Wants Vodka Says:

    […] full story here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and […]

  45. On November 17th, 2009 at 10:24 pm Today We Fight at Mommy Wants Vodka Says:

    […] full story here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and […]

  46. On November 18th, 2009 at 11:52 pm Siera Says:

    You endured so much. I can only imagine how torn you were between your daughter and your kids at home. And the sleep deprivation due to worrying you make my sleep deprivation sound like a night at the Marriott.

    I know have part of my answer to question 4 on my interview. Crap

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