And Then There Was Jaundice

I worked damn hard to not go to the hospital.  When I was in overwhelming pain and fantasizing about downing the vicodin in my bathroom leftover from surgery because that’s how much I wanted drugs, it wasn’t enough to get me to go to a hospital.  It’s not that I think hospitals are evil, I think health insurance and hospital administration is evil.  Yes, largely my motivation for having a natural birth involved NOT having one single fucking EOB.

Ian was born on Saturday.  Sunday night the midwife came to check on him and we both remarked that he looked a little jaundiced.  Ironically, Monday afternoon I had scheduled a consultation with a pediatrician (Ian was due January 18), and I called that morning to let the office know that A. I had had the baby and B.  I think he’s jaundiced.  Husband had to go to the doctor without me as I was under strict orders not to climb or descend any stairs for 2 weeks due to my lady stitches.

Our friend Rachel went with husband to the doctor, and as she gently carried Ian down the stairs, it hit this new mommy that not only would he be seeing our downstairs for the first time without me, he would be going out into the world for the first time without me.  Enter uncontrollable sobbing.

The pediatrician took one look at Ian and said he would be spending the next two days in the hospital.  His bilirubin levels were dangerously high at 26, the highest on the floor (there were five other “Bili Kids”) and after the young, arrogant resident tried to send him to the NICU (which my pediatrician stopped and was a great advocate for us), they let us stay and gave us an extra UV light so he would be lit from above and below.

What happened? Apparently my blood type (O Positive) is incompatible with Ian’s blood type (A Positive) and my antibodies were attacking his in utero.  This condition, paired with the fact that my milk hadn’t come in yet so his system couldn’t be flushed, made the severe jaundice inevitable.  Enter uncontrollable sobbing.

My two-day old son with an eye mask under blue lights, with two exhausted, panicked parents.  With a $20,000 hospital bill (yes, we have insurance, but not much kicks in until we meet the $5,000 deductible and $7,500 max out-of-pocket).  The good news?  Ian’s medical care should be covered for the rest of the year.  The bad news? I have a totally separate $5,000 deductible for myself.

He did great.  His levels after six hours:  23.  After twelve hours:  18.  After twenty-four hours:  11.  After 36 hours:  9.  He’s still a little “golden” so we take a nice long sponge bath followed by a massage in front of our bathroom window which gets lovely morning light.  We are so grateful that if Ian had to have a health scare, this was the easiest one to have.  No procedures or IVs or medications.  Just lights and lots and lots of breast milk to flush his little system.

Our family was home Wednesday for dinner, a little poorer and a lot relieved.  We ate Chinese food delivered by a friend and then skyped with a spiritual group we’ve been going to for years to introduce them to our brand new baby who had already endured so much.  Enter uncontrollable sobbing.

5 comments on “And Then There Was Jaundice

  1. Mandy, you and Evan are AMAZING parents. Ian is very fortunate to have found you… I am so glad he is home and well. Now for the fun part, enjoy your son. The changes in the first year happen so fast..enjoy.

  2. SAME. EXACT. THING. happened with us! I’m O+ and Finn is A+ and he was jaundiced as well. Thankfully our pediatrician was able to order us a billibed to have at our house, but it was still hard to not be able to hold our new baby for a few days. Unfortunately we had no choice but to supplement with formula and that has really messed with my milk supply… working hard to try and get it back up now. Anyway, glad that your little boy is doing better also. Just a little bump in the road!

  3. I am glad your boys bilirubin levels were well monitored on the ward. Kudos to the extra vigilant nursing staff busy with well babies in addition to you son with scary high bilirubin levels. It would have been tragic if his levels had gone high enough to cause brain damage, that’s probably why the resident wanted him in the NICU that’s why its called intensive care, because its really intense. Hope he is happy and healthy with no residual brain issues.

  4. Thanks, Kate. While I’m sure the resident was well-meaning, our pediatrician who had seen him twice that day and had over 20 years of experience did not feel that he needed to be in the NICU, and for the resident to jump to that conclusion right away and tell new parents they can’t room in with their newborn was a shitty move, in my opinion. He has zero brain damage, is perfect, and was at normal levels less than 24 hours after admission. Brain damage wasn’t even a topic of conversation.

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