I had to hear it from our two friends, my physician’s answering service, and Dad before we decided to go on to the hospital. After a quick trip by the house for a bag, we checked in at Baylor. Sure enough, the hospital confirmed that I had gone into labor, and the baby was going to have to be born within 24 hours. Five weeks early or not – it was go time.
I got a dose of Pitocin and an epidural after a few hours to speed things along. Because of my high blood pressure, I was put on magnesium sulfate, which can best be described as Insta-Flu. I’ve never actually swam through Drano while smoking pot, but that’s what being on “mag” is like. The worst part was knowing that my baby was also on “mag” at this point too.
Several family visitors, many texts from friends, countless blood pressure checks, and a restless 11 hours later, it was time to push. After two contractions and a couple of pushes, Marryn Elizabeth McMurrey was born into the world weighing in at 6 lbs. 4.5 oz and measuring 20.5 in long. Not too shabby for five weeks early! I was heavily medicated, but I do recall seeing her sweet pink face, hearing her shrill and glorious crying at the foot of the bed, and Ben telling me she was beautiful.
We could barely celebrate her arrival before she was whisked off to NICU. Bless her sweet heart, we faced some challenges from the very start. As I mentioned above, she had magnesium sulfate in her system, which slowed her breathing. This resulted in her getting a bubble CPAP down her nose to keep her lungs open. She also received an IV in her hand and a feeding tube down her nose. Truthfully, this sounds and definitely looked worse than it was. Nothing is more jarring than seeing your newborn with tubes coming out of them, but she was very well taken care of. I couldn’t be more thankful we were in a hospital with a top tier NICU upstairs. They were an angelic machine.
We got to visit her and hold her right away. We stayed in the hospital for 72 hours, and were discharged Monday, October 4. Driving home without our baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I’d rather have been in labor for 100 hours than leave Marryn in the NICU. I must’ve cried for 8 hours straight, and I’m crying now as I remember it. This is where God and I began talking more than we have in years.
Thus began our nine day experience in the NICU. Marryn made huge strides in her first few days. She had the IV and Bubble CPAP removed after 48 hours and was moved to an open crib without an incubator. She was the big fish in the NICU surrounded by 3 and 4 lb. babies who faced much more dire circumstances than her. It was easy to be grateful as we walked into the NICU. We knew we would eventually take our baby home. Some parents we saw would never be so lucky. Be that as it may, it was difficult to stay constantly positive.
Marryn’s last and biggest challenge was learning to eat. “Excuse me?” you say. “A child of yours didn’t know how to eat? What a cruel and ironic twist!” In order for babies to be discharged from the NICU they must be able to consistently eat at the breast or bottle for 15 minutes at a time. Late pre term babies (35 week-ers like Marryn) have difficulty with this task as they should be learning to suck and eat in utero without any stress. They generally lack the coordination, jaw muscles, and stamina to suck as much as they need to in order to put on weight.
So Ben and I put on our coaches hats and would cajole Marryn into eating as much as she could every three hours. Our days were spent at her bedside, waking her up, changing her diaper, and feeding her, and feeding her again, and feeding her some more. It was easy to get discouraged. I quit wearing makeup because I’d just cry it off. I quit putting in my contacts because they’d just get red and dried out from tears. I got a bladder infection from sitting upright for 12 hours a day. I realized I needed to pull it together when one of the nurses gave me a brochure about post partum depression. (I was there A LOT relative to some other parents.) The NICU can be a very trying place, but Ben, Marryn, and I had a lot of support, advice, and prayers helping us along.
After nine days, it was as if a light bulb had been switched on. Marryn had figured out how to eat, and she loved it! She would finally keep her eyes open while she ate and would look around to see where she could get more grub. We were discharged on Monday, October 11 and practically ran out the doors. We couldn’t wait to be home with our baby girl and have her all to ourselves. Our first family challenge was over. The rest of our life was beginning.
Since that day, our time has been spent getting to know each other. Marryn is a champion eater, sleeper, and pooper, and we just try and keep up. We didn’t know our life was incomplete without her, but it was. Being a parent is the best thing I’ve ever done. I am tired most of the time, but I also can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. I couldn’t love anything more than my little daughter, Marryn Elizabeth.
More to come…
Lauren McMurrey with an E-Y
P.S. - Some surprises throughout the labor & delivery experience:
1. OB Gyn’s don’t do much for run of the mill deliveries. I never saw the doctor until the last ten minutes of labor. Serious props to the nurses who kept literally everything running. The physician came in to tell me to push and to “catch” Marryn, but that was about it. I think I could’ve been an OB Gyn, and that's not saying much.
2. Throughout the NICU experience, I felt like someone was watching us from above and giving us signs that everything would be alright. Whenever I’d start to feel down, something cosmic would happen to brighten my day…
Example one - My favorite nurse was named Fancy. Since we kept Marryn’s name a secret until her birth, I referred to her as “Fancy Jezebel” when people would ask her name. Fancy, the nurse, was a big help to us in getting a good NICU pod assignment and repeatedly asked to be assigned to Marryn. She had also experienced the NICU as a new parent and had good advice for me.
Example two - Norm was another nurse I liked a lot. If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know this is how we referred to Marryn before we knew her gender. The male nurse is uncommon as is, but even more so in labor, delivery, and NICU. Norm was a giant man with warm hands who brought a very calming influence near the end of Marryn’s stay in the unit.
Example three - I mentioned above how many tubes Marryn had running out of her at the beginning of her stay. All the tubes fed into a monitor that would keep tabs on her heartbeat, breathing, and body temperature. One day I noticed the monitor had a familiar name displayed on the screen - Brady. My brother’s name is Brady, and as it turns out, that is an abbreviation for an irregular heartbeat. So while we never wanted to see “Brady” flashing on her monitor, I felt comforted by seeing Marryn’s uncle’s name above her crib.