They whisked him over to the bassinet scale to get stats. Nurses stood around him while others tended to Mama A.
I sat off to the side of the room, in a chair, watching the commotion, waiting to be handed him for skin-to-skin.
I could instantly tell something was wrong. There was panic in the room. People were moving quickly. The baby looked blue. They kept squeezing this thing trying to get him to breath. More nurses crowded around. Someone called the NICU. They weren’t handing him to me. The room started to spin.
I kept saying, ‘I need my husband. He needs to come in.’ My words, muffled and lost in the commotion of all that was happening.
Tears of joy turned to tears of fear. ‘We can’t lose another baby. We can’t.’
Within seconds the NICU team was in the room. They put Lowen in an incubator and told me to follow them. Greg was coming in the room as we were heading out. I told him something was wrong. I didn’t know what…but something was wrong.
We rushed to the NICU and they told Greg he couldn’t come in. Mama A and I had the only two parental bracelets.
That was the instant Greg became a dad.
There was no telling him he couldn’t see that baby and be with his wife. I told him now was not the time to fight it- I’d go in and come right back out.
I followed the team into the NICU. It was eerily quiet, dark, and calm. Faint beeps and baby cries were heard in the distance. They wheeled the incubator into it’s own little area and nurses immediately got work. The doctor told me they were having trouble stabilizing his oxygen and sometimes it can be due to something as simple as a collapsed lung. I would have to leave and they’d find us as soon as they had more information. I walked out to Greg who was waiting in the hall.
We sat on a bench in a little cove right outside the NICU. We both just sat there silently not sure what to say or think. After a few minutes I suggested we facetime our families. This was a moment I had dreamt about a few times during our wait…we’d facetime them with the camera on the baby and they’d squeal in delight. What do we tell them now?
We facetimed my mom first. She answered excitedly and I started to sob. Greg talked for me and explained that something was wrong with the baby and he was in the NICU. She went into nurse mode and reassured us it was probably something minor and it can be completely normal. We shared his name and weight and hung up to call Greg’s parents. We then called all our siblings.
A few minutes later Dr. Jones (the NICU doctor) came back out. He told us they’d made an exception and Greg could come back with me to see Lowen. PRAISE GOD! He led us over to his incubator and explained they still weren’t sure what was going on. He laid there, lifeless, a ventilator breathing for him. IV’s dripping. Wires and lines going in a million directions. They thought he had a collapsed lung but there were several other things still going on that they couldn’t quite understand. He said it was going to take them some time yet, but for now, they were stabilizing him as best they could.
He also told us that because Lowen was in the NICU, we wouldn’t be able to have our own room. We’d have to stay with Mama A.
We decided to go back and check on Mama A and let her know what was happening. We found her back in the delivery room scared and worried about her baby. We told her what we knew and reassured her it was going to be okay. I think that was the hardest part of the whole situation. Trying to be strong for her but also barely holding myself together.
A NICU nurse would stop by about every 20 minutes to give us an update. Around 7pm we helped Mama A transfer to a recovery room. We understood why we couldn’t have our own room but we also wanted Mama A to have her own space without us ‘intruding’. All of us had planned on separate rooms after delivery- space for her to recover and rest and space for us to bond. We had just spent a very intimate 12 hours together- we all love each other but we were definitely ready for time alone to process emotions.
After getting Mama A settled, a NICU nurse came to get us. The doctor wanted to talk to us. As we entered the NICU, Dr. Jones (our hero…seriously he was a Godsend!) told us they had a small parent room (it was more like a closet) where we could stay in the NICU. It had a single bed, reclining chair, no windows, and a dim table lamp. It was attached to a bathroom with a shower. We were SO thankful. It was a space for Greg and I to be ALONE, process everything that had happened, and rest. We went to Mama A’s room to grab our stuff and told her we would be staying right in the NICU in a room by Lowen. She was so relieved and happy about this too.
It was now about 9pm and we got settled into the ‘closet’. Dr. Jones reassured us they would come fill us in as they knew more information. For now they were waiting for the cardiologist on call to come in and check out his heart just as a precautionary measure. They had ruled out a lot of things and were still hopeful. Knowing what we know now- our little boy was so sick. I truly believe it was God’s grace and mercy that allowed us to stay hopeful without knowing the severity of his condition.
I decided to take a shower (not knowing the next chance I’d have for one), we got into our PJ’s, called our families with an update, and tried to get some rest. I was exhausted (not having slept well the night before) and tried to sleep. My mind was racing a mile a minute and I couldn’t get comfy. I laid awake for a long time. My body must’ve finally given in because I remember seeing 11pm but the next thing I knew, I was being startled awake out of a deep sleep by a nurse.
I glanced at the clock and it was 1am. The nurse told us we needed to follow her. I was barely awake, could hardly walk and had no idea where we were going or what was wrong. We followed her into a brightly lit conference room and next thing I knew Mama A was sitting next to me. She was half asleep too. I remember squinting from the bright lights and wondering if I was really awake or if this was a dream.
Dr. Jones came in, along with a stranger (the cardiologist), and they started to talk. I honestly don’t remember much. I remember hearing things like ‘his heart’, ‘surgery’, ‘Kansas City’, ‘Air lifted’ ’emergency’…and Mama A started sobbing. I remember rubbing her back and reassuring her we were going to take care of him. She kept asking ‘You’re not going to leave him, right?!’. I kept saying over and over and over ‘we aren’t going anywhere, I promise.’
I asked the doctor- ‘So we’ll wait and see if he needs to go there?’
His answer- ‘No. You are leaving immediately.’
The transport crew from Kansas City Children’s Mercy Hospital was already on their way to Wichita and would arrive in about an hour. (Kansas City was 3 hours away). They wanted to airlift him but the wind and storms in the area were too dangerous. They had an ambulance coming instead. We needed to go to our Airbnb and get all of our belongings.
Greg left at 2am to pack up our Airbnb. All my organizing and preparedness was no longer important. He threw stuff in suitcases, left everything in the frig, and loaded up our rental car. While he was doing that, I stayed with Mama A. She was so afraid we were going to change our minds about the adoption and I told her over and over we would NEVER think about such a thing- in fact, that never even crossed our minds. We LOVED this baby as much as she did and we promised to never leave his side.
Greg got back to the NICU by about 2:30am and the Children’s Mercy Emergency Transfer team arrived at about 3am. The NICU staff pulled out two chairs for us so we could watch as they packed up Lowen. It was like we were spectators in a bizarre movie of someone else’s life. But this was real life. Our life. Dr. Jones sat right next to us telling us what would happen when we arrived in Kansas City. He was so compassionate. It took so long to transfer Lowen from one incubator to the other. He had SO many wires, machines, etc… at one point I looked over at Greg and he had tears running down his face.
Greg doesn’t cry.
Again, because of God’s mercy- whenever I was weak, Greg was strong- and when Greg was weak, I was strong.
The transport team had Lowen ready to go after about an hour of ‘packing’ and they were exchanging notes with the nurses. They told us we could kiss Lowen’s hand and then start our drive. At 4 a.m. we left Wichita, on 1 hour of sleep, and drove 3 hours to Kansas City…still not knowing exactly what the future would hold.
It was a rainy, windy drive in the dark…I kept checking to make sure Greg wasn’t too tired. We were running on pure adrenaline at this point. The drive was torturous. It was a mix of ‘hurry up we need to get there’ and a 3 hour drive is 3 hours- there’s nothing ‘quick’ about it. I felt ‘stuck’ in the car, not able to do anything. I started to google words from the notes the cardiologist left us. TGA, arterial switch, VSD, ASD, so many acronyms.
During our drive a social worker from the Children’s Hospital called us. They already had a hotel room ready for us and we could check-in when we got to the city. Lowen was about an hour behind us so we could rest at the hotel and they would call us when he arrived. As we got closer to Kansas City, daylight started to break at the horizon. It was still rainy and the weather seemed fitting.
We entered the Kansas City around 7am, found the hotel we had reservations at, and unloaded our stuff. We brought our suitcases into the room and crashed on the bed. We. Were. Exhausted.
We obviously fell asleep because we were jolted awake by a phone call. It was 9am. I answered groggily.
It was the Children’s Hospital. They needed us there immediately.
We jumped out of bed, with not a care in the world what we looked like, and found our way to the Children’s hospital. We were led to the 4th floor where we were brought into a massive room with 15+ doctors and nurses gathered around Lowen.
It was then I realized the severity of the situation.
‘We need to do surgery immediately and we need your consent. Your son is in very critical condition.’
We explained our situation with the adoption and that we weren’t technically the parents yet. Talk about adding another crazy dimension to this already stressful situation. The social worker called Mama A, got her consent for us to make medical decisions, and we gave them the go-ahead to do whatever was necessary.
We didn’t understand much of it, but they were going to pull a balloon through a part of his heart to open a hole for better blood flow. It was fairly risky considering his condition but it was absolutely necessary to stabilize him. They needed to do this surgery before they could do open heart surgery.
They told us we could say our goodbyes and kiss his hand.
I lost it.
This babe- this tiny, tiny babe we hadn’t even held yet- this tiny babe that wasn’t legally ours yet- this tiny babe we so fiercely loved- now had to be handed over to the care of doctors to be operated on.
They rolled him into surgery and rolled a part of our hearts along with him.