i've never really discussed my 10 days in the NICU.
(and i am going to do so at the risk of waking my baby, b/c my laptop is in his nursery, since i spend about 8 non-stop hours a day in this one 9x9 foot room, i figure it'd be nice to have my iTunes, email, internet, etc....)
it's 1230AM...and i'm simply deciding to kill time and hold off on sleep until after my 1am feeding. i figure it's MORE hellish to go to sleep (or fake like i am actually get deep sleep) than to just stay up and do something productive for another half hour.
so here i sit, realizing it's been a while since my last post!
and as i rock here, in the glider, with my computer, in the dark -- it reminds me that i've never shared my joys and sorrows of the NICU.
i know it's atrocious to even think of your child being sent to the neonatal intensive care. trust me - youre right. it's completely atrocious. you get to walk PAST the "well baby" nursery, only to be reminded your child isn't "well" enough to join the other heifer babies who weigh all of 7 and 8 pounds. no no...you, my dear, get to also walk past the "transitional nursery" with all of it's "eh, we're a few days early" babies. yes, YOU my child, get to take up residence in the place where heart monitor alarms fire every 5 minutes, and plastic boxes cover your bed, and tubes tangle around your body.
not a dream come true.
but incredibly perfect for a mom like me....sorta.
though it TOTALLY stinks that i was unable to hang out with isaac those first moments of his life....i was able to spend ten FULL days with every sorta doctor, nurse, practitioner, you can possibly imagine. i'm not going to lie, it was a sick sort of heaven for me.
please understand that even under NORMAL circumstances -- most doctors grow weary of me pretty quickly. i ask a bazillion questions and grow concerned about EVERY possible "what if"....and then i google the HECK out of "worst case scenarios" and call my doctors on sundays sobbing. i'm no dream patient. so you can imagine how AH-mazing it is for my baby's isolette to be placed 10 whole feet from the neonatal DOCTORS desk.
these doctors at virginia hospital center were a dream.
an absolute dream.
well, except one. who shall remain nameless until we submit our letter of complaint.
but no matter WHAT time of the day, they were on standby, for me to ask the smallest and largest of favors, requests, inquiries......etc.
it's scary having a really small preemie.
it's scary having a baby in general.
but when you're afraid to touch your child...change his diaper...feed him...because he looks so feeble, it's astounding to be able to "study" under the best of the best. we grew confident as tudors, under the careful teaching of these doctors and nurses. we were allowed to learn how to handle isaac, and we were allowed to be stupid and ask all the ridiculous questions we wanted and never ONCE did anybody look at us like we were crazy.
every morning when we'd come in, we'd get to take a study of the overnight "log" that they kept on our son. when he was fed, what noises he made, when he was changed, when he cried, when his heart alarms went off, when his blood was drawn...you name it. it's all on paper. we knew who fed him, how much he was given, and how long he slept, and when he pooped. every second of every day is documented....
i may not have mentioned this, but isaac has a heart condition called bradycardia. it's essentially a preemie issue that he'll grow out of eventually, but it's kinda scary for the time being. for some odd reason, his heart crashes for a few seconds and comes back to beating normally. in the NICU, he was hooked up to these nodes that would read his heart rate and breathing and if for some reason, his heart went haywire, the alarms would sound and nurses would come in to make sure he was ok....
did i mention i'm a basketcase about this?
did i need to?
so on day 4 of the NICU, the doctor on rotation comes over to me and makes it clear that something is unusually serious about isaac's bradycardia and "we're calling our cardiologist in to run some tests on his heart to make sure nothing else is underlying...."
i cried in my fruit cup in the cafeteria that morning, with chad.
i SOBBED in my fruit cup in the cafeteria that morning....waiting for the cardiologist to come tell us if our baby had a major heart malfunction.
he finally arrived and hooked up isaac to all sorts of crappola and ran EKG's, echocardiograms, and decided to also keep him on a holter monitor for 24 hours to read each electric impulse in his heart...
come to find out, he's got a minor heart murmur which they expect him to grow out of by the 6mth marker....but other than that.....he was golden!
seems that his heart issue is isolated and that eventually he'll have less and less heart arrhythmia.
but that meant, "isaac will need to go home on a heart monitor and you will need to learn CPR before being allowed to take him home...."
soooo....it was a whirlwind of phone calls to insurance companies, pediatric companies and finally, we had a meeting with the heart monitor folks, who had to come in and train us on how to use the monitor. come to find out, it'll send off a REALLY LOUD alarm (think: fire alarm) when, A) his heart beats below 80 beats a minute for over 5 seconds, OR, B) he stops breathing for more than 20 seconds.
it went off 30 times the first night he was home.
come to find out they were false alarms b/c his electrodes weren't placed right.
but i nearly had a heart attack.
then before they'd let us go, we had to learn how to resuscitate a baby who was turning blue. do you have ANY idea what it's like to watch a video on how to beat your child into breathing again....while looking over at a itty bitty crib with a 5lb baby in it.....knowing he's about to be SOLELY YOUR responsibility at the end of the day?
i sobbed through CPR training.
so much so, that they kept isaac in the hospital for one more night b/c they weren't sure i was emotionally stable enough to handle him.
maybe they were right.
i felt SO scared....SO unprepared (hello, 6 weeks early anybody?!).....SO SO overwhelmed with paperwork on follow up visits with apnea clinics, cardiologists, pediatricians, lactation consultants, developmental specialists....on and on and on.....
though all of this was incredibly difficult and exhausting....i have to say i feel a little bit bad for moms who deliver their babies and are booted from the hospital 2 days later.
no chatty conversations about poop, breast milk, sleeping schedules, diaper sizes, developemental milestones, etc ...with doctors. well. maybe you do get to do that, how would i know....
but in God's providence, i was given 10 full days to give watchful attention to how i should care and handle this new baby. i was given 10 full days to think of ANY insane question or comment i needed to bring before the neonatal doctors....i was given 10 full days with chad, to process this new shocking adventure, to get a full night's sleep, to heal from my c-section, to spend time furnishing the baby room, to meet with friends and family and to meet other wonderful "NICU" moms. how cool was it to sit and chat with the other NICU families....congregate in the halls....around the water coolers (they did exist)....visit each other's rooms....track each other's progress....celebrate each new discharge......it was like we were all family, sharing this scary ordeal together....
i had NO idea what i was doing.
does ANY new mom have a clue what she's doing?
it was just cool to be in a "clueless club" under the surveillance of people who have been doing this for ions....
thank you Lord for the silver linings, the peaceful afternoons in the NICU, the private nights alone with isaac, for the excuse to not answer my cell phone, and for the free meals they'd deliver to each NICU suite, for the hospital grade breast pumps we were encouraged to use -- not yet fully able to appreciate how VALUABLE that time would be....
thank you Lord for the loving hands that gave isaac his first bath, helped him take his first breath, watched his heart beat every minute, changed his diapers, fed him when i couldn't be there, ensured he was as comfortable as he could be....
with tears in my eyes, i recall being told that one of the nurses would go into isaac's room late at night when i couldn't be there -- and just talk to him and keep him company.
how do you really ever thank somebody for that? the hardest thing in the world to do, is to leave your newborn in a lonely room, as you drive off to attempt to sleep in your own house.
i sat on the edge of my bed and sobbed the first night i was dicharged without him.
you feel such grief over a body that has failed you and him...
over the physical discomfort you know your baby is experiencing...alone...all night...without you.
and to know that nurses took it upon themselves to keep him company.
there is absolutely nothing i can think of to do for them, to match my gratitude and appreciation for their support of me AND isaac.
it was so much more than a job to some of these women...and there is simply no way of expressing my thankfulness.
for all of it.
we feel nothing but overflowing love for the NICU...and every MINUTE they listened to us, comforted us, entertained us and just cared for us.
so much of the negative surrounding the premature birth was redeemed by the open arms and ears of our NICU doctors/nurses.
there are such mental scars that unfortunately develop after a experience like this.
a fear of "what if" with my next pregnancy.
lingering pain from the surgery....
frustration of things going wrong....
learning you can fear for somebody's life in a way you never knew of, up to that point....
but the experience was SO rounded off by perfect closure.
the last few months have felt rather isolating, and scary...dealing with the complicated pregnancy and such....
but because of the Virginia Hospital Center's NICU staff -- we have so many FOND memories of this ordeal....
chad and i will forever be indebted to you and your care for isaac!!!!