The Walls Were Yellow

The walls were yellow. So were the floors, however the floors had baby blue stars and moons. I could tell you the exact amount of stars and moons if you asked me because I made the walk to the NICU multiple times a day. Those are the things you start to notice. The walls, floors, ceiling tiles, the annoying drips of the sinks, the beeps, buzzes, alarms. It all becomes way to familiar when you’re a NICU parent.

The first time I got to actually hold my baby was nearly 10 hours after I had given birth. I begged and cried to be taken down there. There he was, in POD 4, bed 396. He had an IV which just made me cry even harder. There were multiple wires and I wasn’t allowed to nurse him or feed him because we didn’t know the extent of his condition. We started to learn what our routine would be as NICU parents. Vital checks every three hours that included temperature, diaper change, blood pressure and heart rate. We learned about the Ronald McDonald family room, where we could take a mental health break, eat and recharge our batteries and then walk the yellow halls again. 

You never want your baby to be a NICU baby, and trust me I know we could have had it much worse. Our surrounding neighbor babies barely weighed 2 pounds, and our boy was nearly 9. But he had a pesky heart problem and with that we became the 1 in 100. We had a CHD baby. A seemingly “invisible” illness ailed him. His official diagnosis after an angiogram and CT at birth (which they initially messed up and my poor kid went nearly 48 hours from birth without eating) was a vascular ring around his esophagus and a Kommerils Diverticulim. The plan was to eat, sleep, repeat for 10 days and then we would do surgery. So that’s what we did. We spent our lives in that NICU, only taking little breaks for stretches of sleep and to force ourselves to eat. 

Our wonderful families visited, major shoutout to my father in law and my father who spent extended time in Vegas with us. 

We had bumps in that 10 days. His oxygen would dip too low and he didn’t always handle his feeds well. It was expected because he had something restricting his esophagus. At one point they added another IV as a “just in case”. It was a roller coaster. You walk the halls to get to the NICU everyday and you hope and pray there wasn’t much change overnight. Typically in my middle of the night pumping sessions, I would sneak out of the room at the Ronald McDonald house and call just to check in. The day before surgery everything got way to real. I questioned whether or not we had made the right decision to have surgery and had massive panic attacks. I couldn’t breathe and I was scared to hold my baby in fear of becoming more attached. That may sound horrible, but it’s so real. I baked this tiny human for 38 weeks and 4 days… I didn’t want anything to happen. 

When day 10 arrived, we woke up bright and early. We walked those yellow halls with the blue moons and stars. What we walked into was an absolute nightmare. We had been told they would have to have two IV’s, an arterial line and a central line. Unfortunately our little mister doesn’t give up veins very easy. We have now discovered that is because his left subclavian artery is blocked.. so his left arm can’t be poked. We walked into POD 4 to hear piercing screams that I knew were coming from my kiddo. He had the best lungs on the block. They were attempting to start an IV on his head and I fell apart. My heart sank and then sank even further when I found out this was already the 5th attempt at getting IV number two in. I went to pump (gotta stick to that three hour schedule) and came back and they were still trying. My husband is the hero that could manage to standby and watch/comfort. I went in the corner and cried. I contacted my dear friend who reminded me this would all be over soon. Eventually (after 15+ attempts) they gave up and decided to wait until he was sedated (why they didn’t do that in the beginning, who knows). 

Then you wait. You jump every time the phone rings wondering if it’s your babies turn to go to the OR. Every time someone new walked up, your heart dropped. Eventually the techs came to take us down and we said goodbye to the NICU we had become so familiar with.  After surgery we were headed to the PICU. We went down to the OR recovery/waiting area and spoke with all the doctors. Our surgeon, multiple nurses, anesthesiologist and a whole host of other people who ensured us that everything would be okay. My hands shook as a signed documents stating risk factors that included death for our 10 day old baby. How do you put that kind of trust in someone? Your faith is truly tested at those moments in life. 

They took our sweet Vincent back and escorted us to the waiting area. We found a little secluded spot and I fell apart. Into a million pieces. I sobbed until I nearly vomited. I couldn’t breathe and just begged god to please be with my baby. My husband held me tight and prayed with me. I again questioned if it was the right decision (which was comical considering there wasn’t much else I could do at that point). Then my Dad showed up with pretzels. Pretzels you guys. That is what I found comforting. I don’t know why, maybe it was the distraction. I looked through the hundreds of photos we’d taken over the last ten days. I never let go of my husband. We played with silly snapchat filters and I just observed my surroundings. Multiple other families feeling the same fears I was, holding onto their own personal faith that everything would be fine. 

As the time ticked by, I became scared again. The other families had received great news and left to see their loved ones in recovery, and we were over the expected time for surgery. Eventually our nurse came out and let us know they were closing up and our doctor would be out to speak with us soon. Once he came out he took us into a small room and explained every detail of his surgery. What he saw, what he fixed, what he didn’t. I’ve never felt more grateful to someone in my life. I wanted to hug him and never stop hugging him. All the fears I’d had from the day I found out my baby had a CHD had been quietly tucked away for a few minutes of peace. 

Did you know approximately 40,000 babies are born each year in the United States with a CHD? It is the most common birth defect. Parents with a CHD baby, you’re not alone. I’ve walked those same halls you have. I’ve been in the darkest place imaginable while fighting for your baby to have the best care possible. If you ever feel alone and scared, please reach out. I’m the mother of a CHD warrior and always will be. They’re never “cured”, but we keep fighting the good fight. Happy Heart Day! ❤️


This is Gonna Get Bumpy

This will be the story of my labor and delivery. 

I went into labor on April 9th. It was a Saturday. My mom and Carter (my oldest) had driven down on Thursday, and my husband arrived late Friday night. I was set to be induced on April 13th. I had argued with the doctor about the date, because I don’t like odd numbers. He told me it was the 13th or wait another week. I took option A, knowing I wouldn’t even make it to my induction date. So there we were, April 9th. Carter was brutal. He was needy, cranky and didn’t want anything that we offered him. We ended up taking him to an indoor kids play place in Vegas because it was raining outside. I looked around and kept thinking about my future with two kids. I was beyond overwhelmed with just one at 38 weeks pregnant.

We went back home that afternoon and I just felt off. My husband knew. He kept asking me if I was okay, but I wanted to keep quiet. We had a relaxed evening as the Oliver, Morgan, Vidovcich clan settled in to watch the new Star Wars. I felt like all eyes were on me. Even with the slightest twitch, my family was wondering if I was okay. I’d been having inconsistent contractions but as soon as a laid down, they got more consistent. Every time I had one, I would squeeze my husbands leg. Everyone had gone to bed or fallen asleep on the couch, so I asked my husband if we could lay down in the bedroom and see if I felt any better. We woke up our Uncle Hugh and in his haze he asked if it was baby time, I confirmed that I was pretty sure it was on the horizon…. so he decided he needed a cocktail!  

After about 7 minutes of laying down we decided it was definitely time to head to the hospital. We got our bags together and headed out. It was raining and “our song” was playing in the truck. Summer – Calvin Harris for those of you wondering. I also noticed the time was 11:11. The time has a lot meaning to my husband and I, so it was a little God wink that everything was going to be okay. The ride to the hospital was about 25 minutes. Cody tried to make sure I was calm, and we made a couple of calls. My mom and Carter stayed at the house. 

We got to Sunrise Children’s Hospital and walked around like idiots for awhile. I hadn’t even had time to do my hospital tour and I almost peed my pants while wandering around. Once checked in the triaged me. I was at a 4, so they decided to monitor me for two hours. Contractions were consistent, and my sweet nurse decided to help me along a little so they could admit me. 

It was 3am and all I wanted to do was sleep. My room was cold and sterile. No windows, a boring beige color on the wall with a TV mounted on the wall directly in front of me. The floors were typical hospital floor, a grainy look with blue stripes. There was a sink with an annoying drip and shortly after I arrived in my room, the NICU delivered Vince’s isolate. The hospital staff at Sunrise was phenomenal. They knew the situation with my baby, and were incredibly sensitive to how scared I was feeling. I opted for the epidural because I knew that the last thing I wanted to feel was any physical pain. The emotional pain I was feeling was enough. My husband and I snap chatted, watched golf, made jokes. He calmed me, rubbed my head, and kept reminding me to stay positive. We napped on and off, constantly being interrupted by beeping monitors, nurse checks and the incurable giggle fits that I got every time I tried to move my lower half. Vince ended up being stuck in my birth canal, and it stalled my labor for quite some time. 

After they broke my water, I finally started to progress. Once they told me they were going to call in my OB, pure panic overcame me. I started shaking, it was like the room was suddenly a frozen tundra. I cried and cried while more poor husband just repeatedly told me everything would be okay. He put Tropical House on Pandora to have a distraction. I had vivid flashbacks of how painful it was to deliver Carter. I begged them to just put me under a do a c-section. The entire room got fuzzy and all I could do was pray to God that my sweet boy would be okay. I had a sudden feeling of guilt that because I had detached from this pregnancy of anything happened to him, it was my fault. 

With all my strength I pulled it together to bring our sweet boy into the world. April 10th, 2016. 3:28:PM 8lb9oz, 21 1/2 inches long, Vincent James Vidovcich was brought into this world. After 22 hours of labor, 5 pushes and some definite curse words, I heard a beautiful loud angry cry. The one sound I was so desperate to hear because we didn’t know if we would ever hear it. The NICU team immediately took him to do some tests in my room.  They were about to whisk him away and my husband begged that they let me hold him for at least 20 seconds, they granted me that because he appeared to be stable. I cried so hard. He was so chubby, and although most parents hate hearing their kid cry, it was a beautiful sound for me to hear. After that my husband left with Vince to the NICU and it was just me and my nurse. It was silent. I sobbed. It wasn’t the delivery I had dreamed of or planned. I was supposed to be back in Reno with my midwifes. Inside the four walls of a hospital where I know a lot of the staff because my mom has worked there so long. In a room that was warm and had a birthing tub and dimmed lights. I was alone and scared.

That moment right after birth is supposed to be so joyful. Your endorphins are the highest they will ever be and it’s so euphoric that unless you’ve had a baby, you can’t put into words. I was the opposite. I was shattered. I have zero shame admitting this, because I want to keep it real. I was hurting. My mind, my body, my soul. I had oily hair and dried blood seemingly everywhere. Even when my mom and son showed up, I felt so empty and helpless. At that point I couldn’t fathom the life I had ahead of me. 

The Mother of a Heart Warrior

I was pregnant with my second. The girl who once said “I never want kids, I never want to be married” was now pregnant with her second child. I had high hopes of having a girl. I waned the bows, tutus, dolls and dress up. As luck would have it, I was having a second boy. My oldest son in almost 5. He is from a previous relationship and totally not planned but is the greatest blessing I had ever received. The second, he was planned. I looked at Cody (my husband), plainly stated “I want another baby”, and as luck would have it, I got pregnant fairly quickly.

I will never forget how excited I was. I knew before I had even taken the test that I was pregnant. I remember telling him so vividly. I whispered it to him while he was talking to our roommate of the time. I think Cody shut the door in his face. We were both elated. I had the normal pregnancy. I was sick all the time, I silently cursed Cody for agreeing to getting me pregnant, and all I could do was sleep.

Around 20 weeks we had the big anatomy/gender ultrasound. The doctor confirmed we were having a boy (which launched the great name debate of 2015/2016). We left feeling confident even though she had scheduled another appointment to get a better look at his heart and spine. I (not so) patiently waited the four weeks. When we went back after four weeks, she stated things were fine and I was free to go. My midwife called me roughly a week later and informed me that the blood flow of his heart looked “backwards” and that we needed to be referred to a high risk doctor for an in-depth ultra sound. You guys, I lost it. I fell apart the second my husband walked in the door. I sobbed and sobbed. We went to the MFM doctor at 25 weeks. He assured us everything looked phenomenal, although Vince was on the bigger side and asked us to come back in 6 weeks for a growth scan. 

We went back at 31 weeks and met with a different doctor. While he was doing the scan I noticed how quiet he was. Eventually he finally asked “Why were you guys asked to come back in again? For a growth scan?” We confirmed. At that point all I remember was hearing a bunch of medical terms I didn’t want to hear. Vascular ring, double aortic arch, potential for major problems once he was here. We were immediately scheduled for an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist and big decisions were made. I would need to be in Vegas at 36 weeks onward. I was to deliver down there with a high risk doctor, if he was “okay” at birth he was to stay in the NICU for 10 days while he learned to eat and grow.

Everything went according to plan. I flew to Vegas right after Easter and my wonderful family (shout out Morgans!!) took me in. They kept me sane. Hugs, food, laughter, tears, long talks. They were my rock when my husband couldn’t be there. He came down on the weekends. Once I met my high risk OB in Vegas, we set an induction date.

I’ll admit. The second we found out about Vincent’s heart, I shut down. Suddenly this baby that I loved and couldn’t wait to meet wasn’t real anymore. I didn’t want to decorate the nursery, paint, have a baby shower, anything. I was devastated. Let me say this, if you’re a mother who is currently pregnant, there is no shame in feeling this way. It’s terrifying not knowing if the baby you want so bad is ever going to become a reality. Your days become dark. Everyone around you wants to be your cheerleader and you want to tell everyone to kindly go away. (I was going to use stronger language, but I am sure my mother will appreciate me keeping a clean mouth.

Once I knew my induction date and my husband drove down to Vegas to be with me the last few days, I did EVERYTHING to get him to come. I was so anxious. I was ready to get the show on the road. Life as I knew it was about to change.