Phoebe showed slow progress with gaining weight. Some days she didn’t gain anything, and others she gained an ounce or two. We set small goals, hoping that by trying to achieve these baby steps we would eventually be able to set bigger and bigger goals. After two weeks of checks Phoebe finally was a few ounces above her birth weight. And then things took a turn for the worse.
One day, she started being more difficult to wake up to eat. No matter what we did to try to get her to take her bottle, she just kept sleeping. The pediatrician gave us all sorts of ideas to try and still nothing worked. The few times she would take the bottle in her mouth, she would suckle a few times and fall right back to sleep. As the day progressed, she would suckle less and less. The pediatrician told us to go straight to the ER to have her monitored and to get fluid into her.
It is the scariest feeling walking into an ER with your newborn child in their car seat. You panic about the other people who are there, what illness has brought them there, and what you can do to keep your child safe. When the nurses at the ER saw our tiny baby they knew immediately that they were dealing with a preemie and rushed us back into a room away from all of the other people and germs. They did not want to take any chances. They gave us a room at the back of the children's wing to keep us secluded.
In all the times I have ever been to the emergency room for myself, a family member and a friend, I have never seen the staff rush so quickly to help someone the way they rushed to help Phoebe. We had amazing nurses and doctors working to help make sure that everything was ok with Phoebe. They knew how tiny and fragile she was and they wanted to make sure that they did everything possible to help her. She had no fever, her heart rate was good, her breathing was just a little slow, and she was becoming dehydrated. The plan was to do some blood tests to check her levels, start an IV and to try to get her to stay awake long enough to drink a good amount. It was brutal watching them start the IV. Her arms were so teeny, which meant her veins were small too. Our team decided they would call in a nurse who had experience with babies in the NICU and starting these lines to ensure it went smoothly and was done on the first try.
After getting the blood test results (luckily there was nothing medically wrong with her), monitoring her for a few hours, and getting her to drink she started to perk up and become more active. Once she was more alert and active she didn’t stop drinking! It was like a switch was flipped and she wanted nothing but her formula.
They described what happened as a “preemie shutdown mode”. Basically that it took too much energy for her to fully wake up and eat, and with how little she was eating she didn't have any energy to wake up so she would just keep sleeping. In a way I was relieved that this was all that it was, but at the same time I was scared out of my mind because it became all too real that this could happen at any time.
When Phoebe had finished two and half bottles (about 6 ounces) we were discharged to go home. I was happy my baby was coming home with us but nervous that this could happen again. I did not sleep that night. I was too scared to take my eyes off of her and I wanted her to keep eating. I was determined to do everything I could to make sure we did not have to go back to the hospital.
By the grace of God, she woke up the following morning and started to eat and thrive like we had never seen before. It was as if that "switch" we saw flip in the ER had triggered this new pattern in her. This is when I knew she was a little champion! It seemed that every crisis she faced, she came out stronger afterwards!
It's also when I knew that no matter what, things can drastically change in an instant.
Photo: Phoebe in the ER with the IV in her arm