We welcomed our sweet baby boy, Guy Richard Burnett on Saturday, February 29th. You heard me right. We had a Leap Year Baby. Despite what people might say, Leap Year babies are incredibly special. I mean Superman's birthday falls on Leap Year! How cool is that?! Baby Guy might have super powers someday. Leap Year babies are very rare, and that in itself is special. The average baby has a 1 in 365 chance of being born on any given day. The odds of having a Leap Day baby is 1 in 1,461. There's even an Honor Society for Leap Year Babies where all things Leap Day are celebrated. Plus, according to the numbers, Guy will beat the aging process, AND, he can choose when he wants to celebrate his birthay every year (February 28th, or March 1st) along with a larger than life celebration every four years.
Funny story here. My original due date was March 6th, but due to my AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) being a whopping 40 years old, they wouldn't let me go past that date. I was actually okay with that notion since my previous birth went to 41 weeks, so I was fine going a little early. What I wasn't looking forward to was the induction that came with it. We also scheduled baby's arrival for the 28th because my husband had a work conflict, and we wanted to spend as much time together as a family before things really ramped up for him. We can't wait to tell our adult son someday that his birth was scheduled around a little ol' video game known as "Call of Duty." Oh boy.
His big day view took longer than expected. I knew this time, I wanted the epidural pretty quickly because with inductions, the contractions are intense and hurt like a mother (bad word). I have a minor case of scoliosis too, so the spinal block didn't work with my first two babies. They first administered a ripening agent for my cervix. I dilated an entire 1cm (enter sarcasm here). We waited a bit longer, and contractions started, so onto pitocin. I knew what childbirth felt like sans pain relief, and I didn't have the desire to experience that again. Time to get numb. There I sat nice and tingly.......and waited.......and waited. My cervix dilated a few cm roughly every 3 hours. As my husband dozed on the couch, and I watched Jimmy Falon (I'm never usually up this late), I was definitely feeling things progress. Move ahead a few more hours, and I told my nurse to run and get the doctor. I could feel him drop and ready to go! Sure enough, the doctor checked and I was 10 cm dilated. Next thing I know, she said, "there's the head, now push!" One push, and there he was. Our sweet, sweet boy was finally here 13 hours later at 4:03 am. The tears rolled down my face, and they put him on my chest. This is one of the best feelings in the world. I once worried if I would have enough love to go around, but in that very instant, I fell in love all over again. There is no greater love then the love you have for your children. Guy weighed in at 8lbs. 13oz. (we make BIG babies:)
Now, onto baby Guy's part of the story. We were rolled into our recovery room, and because he was born early in the morning, we had a big day ahead of us. The day was filled with family members visiting, sleepy conversations between me and my husband about what had just transpired and lovely snuggles with our brand new addition. The best part of the day was when our girls met their baby brother. I can't really put into words what we witnessed in that moment, but it felt so good to have our family complete. There's one thing I couldn't get out of my mind though. Guy looked very orange, and dark complected. No, he's not the mail man's baby, as my husband joked. We spent time in the NICU with one of our girls for high bilirubin levels, so we knew to be extra vigilant this time around. I started telling everyone we crossed paths with that his color looked "off." Some family members agreed, but both doctor and nurses said he looked "healthy." Mom gut told me different. Finally a nurse who split her time between the NICU and the labor/delivery unit, held him up to the light and said, "we have to get his bili levels checked, NOW!" My blood started to boil, and my heart sank to the depths of my core. I knew right away what was going to happen. His test came back and read extremely high bilirubin levels. We were admitted to the NICU right away.
We gathered our things, and rolled our brand new baby in his bassinet up to the 7th floor, the NICU unit. Even though we had been there before, nothing can really prepare you for what you encounter here. My breath instantly was taken away, and again the tears flowed. The lack of sleep and not being able to comprehend that this was happening all over again in almost the same exact way it did with Alice, had finally hit me. Guy's room was all the way at the end of the hall, so we went by other baby's rooms. Some were in incubators, on ventilators, oxygen......and the list goes on. The nurses all had the same look on their faces. They've done this before. They've dealt with numerous parents who are confronted with their worst fear. A sick child, a newborn no less. When we got to his room, the nurses already had their orders. There's a whole new level of swiftness and perfection in the NICU unit. After all, their job is to take care of the critically ill, and send them home as soon as possible. The level of care is impeccable.
We hear the charge nurse say, "alright ladies, we have ourselves a glow worm baby. Let's set up the lights." Let me explain. When a baby has high bilirubin levels, one of the ways they treat it is with phototherapy. This lowers the bilirubin levels in the baby's blood through a process called photo-oxidation. Photo-oxidation adds oxygen to the bilirubin so it dissolves easily in water. Your baby is stripped down to their diaper, put on a temperature controlled bed and they turn on the bank of lights that beat down on your newborn baby. Due to the length of exposure and risk of permanent damage to the eyes, they must wear protective goggles. I debated whether or not to share these pictures, but in the end I felt it was the only way to truly depict what baby Guy dealt with. Remember, he was only one day old at this point.
Because his levels were so high, he couldn't come out from under the lights for quite awhile. This meant we couldn't hold him, we couldn't touch his soft baby skin, and worst of all, I couldn't nurse him. As anyone who has ever breastfed, you know that bond begins immediately.
This. Crushed. Me. Never have I felt so helpless before. All we wanted to do was hold him. The other way to flush the bilirubin from his tiny body is through stool. With both of our girls, my milk didn't come in until a few days after they were born. I knew what I had to do. I couldn't nurse him, so I pumped......and I pumped.....and I pumped some more. This was the fastest my milk ever came in. I think I might have slept a total of two hours the entire time we were there. I didn't even leave his room until finally one of the nurses told me I needed to go and get some sleep. You know when you reach that scary point of no sleep? Well, I was there. I just wasn't making any sense; therefore, did no one any good. They arranged a room for me downstairs. I fell asleep as soon as I hit my pillow, but soon after was awakened by a phone call. It was the doctor on the phone. She said Guy's oxygen levels kept dipping and weren't recovering very well. They needed my permission to administer oxygen to him. I didn't even put my glasses on, and ran back to his room. We all watched his monitor in apprehension. It dipped down to threatening numbers, and stayed there. Then, just as quickly as they dipped, they bounced back up and hovered in the upper 80's and lower 90's. The doc was comfortable keeping a close eye on him as opposed to giving him a bump in oxygen. Since that moment, I didn't leave his side.
Guy's bilirubin levels were still the main point of concern, but now they were also keeping a close eye on his oxygen levels too. They continued to check his bili levels every 8 hours. It truly is such a waiting game, and we quickly learned not to get our hopes up. Just because his levels might go down, didn't mean they would stay down. Sometimes it would go up a point or two, other times it would go down, only to go right back up the next time they checked it. By this point, his little heels had been poked upwards of 10 times. They were dry, cracked and blood stained, but I couldn't put any sort of healing ointment on, or massage them due to possible contamination.
On the fifth day, we were visited by the hospital chaplin. Oh how incredibly powerful were her words. My husband and I sat, and prayed with her. Tears streamed down our faces and we released all of our fears for that moment and took solace in giving into God. Ryan and I embraced each other as the sun peeked into Guy's room. They poked his sweet little heel one final time. We anxiously awaited the results, and alas, it was the number we needed to be sent home.
I can't comment on how many times we heard people say, "oh, our child had jaundice when they were born," like it was no big deal. Yes, several babies have this condition when born, BUT they're typically sent home right away with a bili blanket. Guy, and his sister's levels were so high that they reached the point of possible brain damage. What exactly causes jaundice, or really high bilirubin levels? I included some of the common causes listed below. In our case, it was an incompatibility between my blood type and baby Guy's blood.
An infection in your baby's blood (sepsis)
Other viral or bacterial infections
A liver malfunction
Biliary atresia, a condition in which the baby’s bile ducts are blocked or scarred
An enzyme deficiency
An abnormality of your baby's red blood cells that causes them to break down rapidly
Guy's story goes to show that you can be completely prepared, and have all of the historical data to give the doctors/nurses, and even then things might not go your way. We knew to expect the unexpected, but never did we imagine an almost identical experience that we had with our daughter, Alice. Although our situation wasn't ideal, we left the hospital that day feeling incredibly grateful. We were leaving with our baby. Some families aren't so lucky. Life is a gift. Wake up each day, and realize that.
In the wake of the coronavirus, thank you to all of the first responders, doctors, nurses and anyone risking their lives to help those infected. I can't imagine what you're facing day in and day out. Keeping you all in my thoughts, my heart and in my prayers.
"Nothing is more beautiful than a genuine smile that has overcome the tears. No one is stronger than someone who has overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges"