“Looking back, I don’t know if there was ever a time in my life I was more terrified than in that very moment.”
It was 3am. I heard our sick 2 week old newborn waking and asked my husband to change her diaper and hand her to me for a feed.
He came running back in the room:
“She’s not breathing.
We need to go to the hospital.
We need to go now.”
My husband – a man who is the definition of rational, almost to a fault. Sometimes I feel like I’m speaking to a robot, or a computer; something that’s able to take all the emotion out of a decision and strictly look at the facts. Looking back, I don’t know if there was ever a time in my life I was more terrified than in that very moment.
My 1.5 year old son was fast asleep two rooms down.
I forget what I threw in my bag as I scrambled to get out the door. My breast pumps are all I remember. I was leaking profusely – a silver lining amongst all the chaos was my good milk supply. It didn’t fall from the heavens that way you know. Nursing my firstborn was hard – an uphill battle. This time, I knew better. I focused on getting my second child, my daughter, to latch within minutes after she was born and I brought her to my breasts to feed every 2 hours around the clock. I was expecting that to let up once we passed her birth weight, but then she got sick so we stuck hard to those 2 hour feeds. I was exhausted, an utter zombie. I don’t know the best word for it. I had tunnel vision. I needed her to get well. She was helpless.
My hands were shaking as I dialed my dad’s cell number to drive over to be there for our son.
A number I’ve had memorized since I was a child, all of a sudden I had to think about it. Thankfully my parents live down the street. We jumped in the truck, threw the hazard lights on and rushed to the nearest hospital, breaking laws the entire drive. My husband was cradling our 2 week old daughter who was going in and out of coughing fits. Her face was red and her lips were plum. The memorable newborn hospital gift, the blue bulb suction syringe, felt like our lifeline. My husband was doing his best to clear her airways.
She was having trouble breathing – lots of congestion and a cough that continuously gagged her.
“Why did it feel like there was always a war between my personal sanity, physical wellbeing and mom guilt?”
Before all of this, we got our son in a daycare school program as my pregnant days were numbered, anticipating the arrival of our daughter. Inevitably he was always catching something. It’s the trade off you pay for feeling balanced and capable. Child care – the catalyst. Why did it feel like there was always a war between my personal sanity, physical wellbeing and mom guilt. If I had sanity, I had to also feel guilt. If I lost my balance – which would mean I wasn’t able to keep the house tidy, work on my business, manage to take a shower, maybe even squeeze in a work out and be in a good mood – I was angry, resentful, and not the best version of myself. Not the best mom or wife either.
If I had my son in a reliable and caring program, I could accomplish these things and make the best part of my day picking him up and our time together. More important than anything, he was better for it. He thrived in the environment – routine, lots of activities, learning (He loves to learn!), other kids around to model how to interact, and he slept better. I could see his confidence grow by the day. I’ll never forget the day I picked him up and he proudly said “buh-bye” to all his classmates and then proceeded to do a secret handshake he had with his teacher. It was such a happy moment. He was learning, memorizing, and building independence.
And then he got sick. And he shared that sickness with his newborn sister.
And now we’re in the hospital. So was getting that balance selfish? Could I have prevented this whole thing? It was haunting. My thoughts were toxic.
What is RSV?
RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.
After lots of saline, hospital grade suctioning and running some tests, we found out our baby girl had RSV, the virus my son Holden had the week prior. We didn’t know that was what our son had. We thought it was a typical cold.
RSV is maybe not so bad if you’re a strong 1.5 year old, but for a 2 week old newborn, it was horrifying.
Time was precious so we ended up going to a closer hospital than the one I delivered at and am most familiar with. They diagnosed her, suctioned her, checked her oxygen levels and got her feeling better. By 7am we had the option of staying at the hospital or since it was daytime, observing our daughter’s behavior throughout the day and bringing her back if need be. We agreed to head back to the comfort of our home and see how she progressed through the day, and also get back to our toddler. Our daughter’s face was still puffy and congested with dark circles under her eyes, but we learned a few tips to manage the issues and to help relieve her discomfort. We felt more confident than we did earlier.
Why we went back to the hospital
I took her to our pediatrician for a follow up and sure enough she had an episode right there in the office. Plum lips, struggling to catch her breath. I’ll never forget the moment of it happening as I sat in one of the patient rooms awaiting the doctor to return. I flew the door open and looked left and right in a panic, holding my little baby who was congested and fighting for breaths. “Mom, do you need help?!” called a nurse down the hallway. That moment shattered me. “Yes!” I cried back.” “Can somebody please help me?!” Our doctor came running back to observe her. I could see the look on his face and what it meant. He said listen, you are in for another tough night. We can call an ambulance right away or you can go get yourself a bag from home and head back to the hospital where you’ll be confident knowing she’s under 24/7 care. Hearing from him that it wouldn’t make a difference and her oxygen levels were still in good range, I opted to swing home, grab a bag and back we went.
There is something so scary about nightfall, especially when you’re postpartum. While the majority of the world is fast asleep, you are awake and struggling.
Since this time I had a little more of a plan in place, I ended up going to the hospital I was more familiar with that’s an affiliate of the one I went to the day before. They’re so connected I actually had the same doctor. We settled in for the long night ahead.
When it rains it pours
My father-in-law was admitted into the hospital the day before all of this began. A different hospital, about an hour away. He had a bad fall and was in an altered mental state. What do they say – when it rains it pours. We felt that. We felt that hard. I’ve never seen my husband look so afraid. Bloodshot eyes, pale face – a look of worry and defeat. Between us, he’s always the strong one. If there’s a fire he goes running in, covered in gasoline. It was one of those moments in our lives where we felt like our world’s were unraveling before us and we had no control.
I spent two more nights in the hospital with our daughter during the worst of it and my husband stayed home and cared for our toddler, juggled work and drove back and forth daily to be with his dad.
How to care for an infant with RSV at home
Once our daughter was strong enough (and I was confident enough), we were ready to head home. Confidence was big – feeling capable enough to handle her episodes, alone, was critical before leaving the hospital. This little cup device was a big help. You basically wack it on their ribs to help break up the mucus in their lungs.
A few other helpful items were gifted to us by a friend – the oogiebear snot booger picker, the braun electric nasal aspirator and the snotsucker by fridababy. The blue bulb nasal aspirator you receive when your baby is born was also a big help as well as any brand of spray saline.
On the last day there, I got a call from my father-in-law. I remember seeing his name come up on my phone thinking I was in a dream. Praying I’d hear his voice on the other line rather than another family member calling me from his phone. It was him. He had recovered. I couldn’t believe it. Going from thinking someone you love and admire will never recognize you again or be able to have a coherent conversation with him knowing exactly who I was and that we had his granddaughter just 2 weeks prior was one of the biggest sighs of relief I had ever felt.
I reflect often on how thankful we are to have our health.
Our baby girl has been such a beautiful addition to our family. Our son Holden shows so much love to her – his “bebe” “dister” and gives her lots and lots of kisses and hugs. Part of the reason she got sick to begin with.
This situation we ended up in made me feel like we should have kept them entirely apart. And then I think about that in practice and realize how ridiculous it sounds.
I remember it being SO hard! Never mind the obvious challenge of keeping your children away from you when you’re holding their sibling. You think your one child has a mild illness they’re recovering from and they’re showing love to the newborn, the last thing your heart wants to do is stop that from happening. One of my fears was that they wouldn’t bond so to see our son love our daughter so much was a dream come true. My hormones were all over the place and all I wanted was my (whole) family to be together.
The biggest lesson I learned from this experience was to trust my gut.
Trust in our parental instincts. We as parents knew better than anyone what felt unsettling or off with our child. Being in the hospital those 3 days surrounded by great doctors, nurses and supportive care gave us such confidence that we otherwise didn’t have at home. They also didn’t recommend we leave the hospital until Scout was able to function well for 24 hours without hospital grade suction. The doctors and nurses being behind us gave us such strength. Ultimately what else is there to say? You do your best. That’s all we can do.