Where did I leave off yesterday? Hmmm… Oh yes, the NICU.
I had no idea what to expect when they wheeled me up to that door. The nurse paged the desk, and the double doors groaned open. The noise was… well… noisy. All the times I’ve ever been to the hospital to see a newborn baby & it’s mama, the room is quiet. The maternity floor is generally quiet. Everyone speaks in hushed tones, the TV’s are kept low, and nurses whisper.
In the NICU, the atmosphere is generally quiet, but there are differences that can’t be denied. There are sets of beeps and chirps coming from every baby that let the nurses know in their secret code that a baby is doing fine. The lights are dimmed, but the bassinets light up with the billiblankets. The digital readouts on the various life-giving machines blink in red and green, and give off a disco feel. Just as soon as you feel (almost) comfortable in the room, an alarm goes off and disturbs the peace for all. The entire room smelled like sanitizer and latex. The hand wash you had to use likely could have been used as bleach. (In fact, because I had to scrub up so many times, I had a major flare up of eczema that has yet to die down. It felt like my skin was melting off after the first 5 days.)
The first time I saw him, I cried. How could you not? The picture from yesterday was taken at that time. The tubes coming out of his nose were attached to a CPAP machine, which helped to keep his lungs from collapsing when he let a breath out. Every one of Parker’s ribs, and his sternum, were visible when he would breathe out. The machine prevented them from completely deflating.
He also had a vent tube inserted into his mouth, down to his stomach after this picture was taken. The CPAP would also force air into his stomach, which made it hard for him to keep anything down. It also kept him feeling full, so he didn’t wake to eat. The vent helped that.
He had on oxygenation sensors. Those are the little green things on his chest. His (tiny) big toe had a heart rate monitor. His leg sported a blood pressure cuff because his arm was too skinny for it. There was thermometer that laid next to him, and his temp was checked every 30-60 minutes. (I now can read a thermometer in Celsius from that…)
And his IV. Oh, Lord. That IV. It started out in his left hand. After two days, they attempted to move the IV to the right hand to alleviate some bruising. They couldn’t get it go in after multiple tries. They put it in his arm for a couple days, and then in his leg. Eventually, I can’t remember exactly why, they placed the IV on his HEAD. The nurse thought she was funny when she kept calling it his “party hat” but I just couldn’t laugh. My baby had a needle in the middle of his forehead!
With his first birthday approaching quickly, I was thinking back to his firsts. It made me sad to realize how many firsts he had while he was in the NICU.
His first meal. First diaper change. First bath. First pictures. First nursing session. First poop. First puke. First clothing change. First eyes opening. First cry. First shot. First illness.
I had a really hard time feeling like his mother at that point. He was three days old before I was able to hold him. THREE DAYS. I hadn’t been able to nurse him, or feed him. I had only changed two diapers. I couldn’t pick my baby up, and it was killing me.
I was able to stay in the hospital until April 28th, his third day. I remember wavering between being READY to leave. And dragging my heels. I was riding high on an emotional roller-coaster, and it was not pretty. We loaded up papers, pillows, clothes, shampoo, and whatever else we had brought up. Well, Ryan did. He wheeled it out on a cart to the parking garage. We walked down to the NICU. I kissed his forehead. And we left.
I made it down the 3-floor elevator ride. Through the lobby. And to the benches by the doors. Waited to see the Mustang. I managed to get up, walk out, and get in the car before I fell apart. For the next 2 hours I cried harder than I have ever cried. It is so unnatural to leave your newborn behind. Ever fiber of my being was pulling me back towards my little man. I couldn’t move. I cried until I had a stomach ache and my eyes were bloodshot. Ryan held me for awhile, cried with me, and talked while I cried.
Part four… the last… Tomorrow.