Hi y’all. It’s been awhile. Warning: This is a very lengthy post, but it comes with lots of photos!!
So motherhood is amazing. Beautiful. Fulfilling. Fun. Rewarding. It is the best thing that has happened in my life so far (aside from marrying Trent Cockerham). You cannot fathom how much love you as a human are capable of until you become a parent. It’s the ultimate love. Unconditional love (even during those 3 am feedings and cry-fests). But no one can really prepare you for the roller coaster of emotions you feel as a first time mom and the not so infamous “new normal”.
Jackson “Jack” Trent Cockerham was born on April 30, 2015 weighing 7 pounds and 11 ounces. We of course are biased, but Trent and I think we made a pretty cute baby, probably the cutest. We brought Jack home 3 days after he was born, healthy delivery and healthy baby, and yes, we were already totally sleep deprived. We were excited for him to meet his two fur-brothers that we all know and love and get him home and figure out our new normal as a new family.
A couple of days in, we had to work through a semi-moderately bad bout of jaundice and not so good weight loss for Jack, but nothing we and our little fighter couldn’t handle. I had every intention of breastfeeding and did for as long as I could physically and emotionally, but after frustration, pain, hour and half long feedings with a still-hungry baby and several other hurdles, our AMAZING pediatrician, who we have come to love and appreciate, had us supplement with formula to help Jack gain some weight and take some of the pressure and feelings of guilt off of me. (For any of you out there struggling with breastfeeding and feelings of guilt or pressure, call me. Seriously.)
And then there were the “baby blues”. No one REALLY tells you about the baby blues. They’re real. And they’re normal. One minute you’re on cloud nine. Life is amazing. You can’t stop staring at your perfect little nugget of cuteness. The next minute, you’re like, what did we do? How can I do this? How can I do everything? Why did God think I could handle being a parent? I will be trapped in this house forever. My baby’s going to hate me. I hate breastfeeding but I HAVE to do it. But these feelings went away a week or two in. Darn those hormones.
And then, just as the baby blues start to subside and Jack starts getting enough food and gaining weight, BOOM. He coughs. Ok. A cough every few hours isn’t bad. He probably swallowed a gnat or drank too much milk, right? Baby allergies? No. The coughs get worse. More frequent. He starts to sleep through feedings. Breathing fast and heavy. Snot in his nose. It’s the weekend. We’re new parents. A little worried. So we go to the ER on a Saturday night at 9 pm.
We waited 6 hours, and for all of you ladies who have had babies, sitting in a hard plastic chair with a 9-day old baby in your arms for 6 hours in a germ infested hospital is not the most comfortable for your, let’s say, “broken downstairs area”. Needless to say, we finally saw a doctor, who let’s be honest, saw us as paranoid first time parents with a baby and a cold and sent us home with a viral infection diagnosis and instructions to suction his nose and let the virus pass.
Monday morning. We follow up by seeing our own pediatrician (Jack’s already been 3 times by this point). He’s definitely sick, but 99.5 % of babies who get a cold like this fight it off with no problem. Should be better in 10-14 days. The other .5 % need hospitalization and a little extra support, but the odds are in our favor… right?
Well, Jack is my child. And for those of you know me well know my child WOULD be the .5 %.
Monday night, Jack had refused to take a bottle ever since we left the doctor’s office that morning (naturally). Was sleeping constantly. Breathing 70-90 times a minute (normal is 20-40). His lungs were retracting. You could see him using his entire body to breathe. Wheezing. We followed our gut and went back to the ER, dreading another long and wait filled night.
But this time, we didn’t even make it through check-in before the triage nurse looked at Jack’s chest, took his temp and simply said “follow me”. I had my now naked 11-day old baby in my arms, Trent right behind with diaper bag and carseat in tow and after what felt like a 10 minute walk through a hospital maze, we ended up in a massive equipment filled room with a sign above it that said “Critical Care”. Our hearts sank.
I set tiny Jack down on a massive adult sized gurney in a hospital trauma room and within 10 seconds, there were what seemed to be 15 nurses, doctors, radiologists, respiratory therapists and other specialists on top of him. Hooking him up to monitors. EKGs. Oxygen masks. IVs in both of his arms. Taking blood. Lumbar punctures. X-Rays. Giving orders. Yelling out stats and numbers we didn’t understand. Trent and I just stood there watching and helpless. I lost it.
At first, I kept apologizing to the Children’s staff, embarrassed I was sobbing and snotting everywhere and blaming it on being a first time mom. We had amazing nurses who rubbed my back, gave me tissues, got me ice water, told me he’s in great hands, doctors introducing themselves as “the best doctor in this hospital” (gotta love those doctor egos) as they all continued to work on our baby. Trent holding it together by a thread, bless him. Another doctor stood next to us from that point forward telling us exactly what they were doing step by step. At one point, I heard a nurse say to a doctor “His stats are jumping, they’re getting worse, what do you want to do?”. His blood oxygen level was at 60 something percent (which all I know is that that’s not good). Jack was crying. Hard. He looked so tiny and pitiful. And I couldn’t do a thing.
After what feels like a million hours later, and many binkies filled with sugar water, he was stable. He was breathing comfortably. Blood work and tests were starting to come back normal or negative. They’d ruled out any anatomical issues with his heart or lungs. Waiting for other results, we were then admitted to the NICU for acute respiratory failure.
11 days in the NICU. Jack was diagnosed with severe RSV and developing Pneumonia. Hotels, hospital food, isolation masks, gowns and gloves. It took a village if I wanted to hold my baby. X-Rays. Antibiotics. Ventilators. Breathing treatments. Feeding tubes. The looming threat of Jack needing to be intubated. Jack got worse before getting better. We were told over and over that Jack was feisty and a fighter and boy did they mean it. He loved ripping out his feeding tubes and tearing off his oxygen masks. So often that they had to give him Ativan to calm him down. My precious peanut. Then there were those days where he could barely cry. No one could actually tell us his prognosis (probably for legal reasons). I wanted someone to tell me “He’s going to survive this”, but they couldn’t. We initially heard 3-5 days in the NICU, which turned into 8 days, into 10 days, into a total of 11 days. But we eventually saw him getting better. Thank you, Jesus.
Did I mention I got strep throat somewhere between days 3 & 4?
Then we got moved to a regular pediatric floor. 3 days. Pull out “sofa” (you can barely call it that), sleepless nights. More hospital food. Doctors with different opinions on how your son is doing and what his treatment plan should be and when he could go home. Momma started to lose it.
But then, we got to take our baby boy home. Healthy with a little healing left to do. His own bed. His puppies. Could finally wear his cute little baby clothes. No more holding him with tubes, cords, monitors and masks on. “An answer to prayer” doesn’t even begin to describe our sense of relief and how we as parents felt. We will always be so grateful for the ER team that first night and the amazing NICU staff, especially the nurses. We were now ready to try again at our “new normal”.
On top of just mustering through the crazy emotions of becoming a new mom and dad, we went through a whole other set of emotions over the course of Jack’s stay in the hospital. We hated staying at home because it was far from the hospital and Jack and the dogs weren’t there. There were empty bottles to be cleaned and reminders of Jack everywhere. We hated staying at hotels because it WASN’T home. We’d feel peace and relief only to then get bad test results back. His treatment plan would change constantly. We were exhausted emotionally, and it was hard not to take it out on the precious doctors and nurses taking care of him. He’d get better only to get worse. There’s no cure for RSV, you just treat the symptoms and make him as comfortable as you can while he fights off the virus. You don’t expect to see your child experience pain and suffering before they’re even a month old.
Trent and I mustered through it together though and survived with much needed emotional support and prayers from close family and friends. We made ourselves go out to dinner when we could. Drink a glass of wine when we could. And somehow, we found ways to have a few hard laughs here and there and find the positives, like being forced to catch up on sleep.
Once we finally got back home and settled, we were finally able to take some family photos. SARAH AVITUA did such a beautiful job and these photos are immeasurably precious to us now because of this quick little journey we’ve already gone through as a family with our little man.
^ Photos by Sarah Avitua Photography
I think we all are constantly adjusting to a “new normal”. Life will throw things at you, wonderful, challenging, beautiful and hard things all at the same time. And we will go through all of these things because God has placed us there. Despite the tears, fear, stress and countless of other emotions we felt, so many positive and beautiful things came out of this experience for all of us. A stronger marriage. A stronger faith, our lives depended on it. Jack’s life depended on it. Us realizing we are stronger than we could have ever imagined. How to love harder than we knew we were capable of. We developed a deeper appreciation for our family and friends, those who were able to be there physically and those that were praying fervently from afar. We even grew and learned from some of the experiences we saw other families going through at the hospital.
So, what I’ve learned is a “new normal” will never exist, for long anyways. God continues to use change and trials for many different reasons, sometimes reasons we don’t or won’t yet understand. Life doesn’t always happen by the book or go according to our plan, and everyone knows I’m all about those plans. But I’m a-okay with that as long as I have this crazy beautiful family of mine by my side and Jesus continually taking control of my life to show me that I can’t, and don’t have to fully understand or have it figured out because “He knows the way He taketh, even if for the moment we do not.”
Next post? All of the lyrics to the amazing songs I’ve made up while pacing my house trying to get my precious but fussy baby to sleep 😉