Friday, December 11, 2009

No Gowns or Tassels

My baby girl was a NICU baby for 5 days. Not the first five days of her life. No, she couldn't get them out of the way and be done with it. She was there for days 5-10. We brought her home, pretended she was going to sleep in the bassinet (we co-slept, even though we said we wouldn't), we settled in as best we could with life with a newborn and a 14 month old. It wasn't the GREATEST days of my life, and I really don't remember showering or eating for those first few days. Okay, I honestly don't remember those first days at home at all.

I took the Zoe (Formerly Little Z) to her 5 day appointment so the doctor could meet her, tell me she was a "fat" baby, and say good job, see you in a few weeks. Except, as you've guess, it didn't go like that. No, what transpired THAT day is the first day of Zoe's life I won't forget.
At the hospital, I kept thinking that Zoe was really dark skinned compared to what Zeph (Formerly Big Z) was. I wasn't overly concerned with it, because my husband is half Portuguese, and while he's not dark complected, he's not clear, like I am. When we went to the lab for her billirubin check, of course she screamed. And since we knew the lab tech personally, she felt bad. Her pediatrician had told me that he thought she looked a little jaundiced, not worry, and have her camped out in the sun for a while. No big deal. And an hour after that, our phone rang. It was the pediatrician. Something wasn't "right" with the blood test, and he wanted to run it again. Just to be sure. He said he thought it was botched test. He was wrong.
Dawn, our lab tech, and three other people proceeded to take 5 more blood samples before we gave up pretending that there wasn't anything wrong. Her billirubin level was 31, and from what I've gathered, an unsafe number is 15. Our pediatrician sat me down, told me that it was okay to freak out a little, but he wanted me to go straight to the civilian hospital where we were already pre-admitted to the NICU. Then, he looked outside, and called me a police escort, because there was an hour wait to get through the gate and off base.
Once at the NICU, she was taken care of by some of the most amazing nurses I've ever met. There has got to be a special place in Heaven for those nurses. One of them forced me to watch the IV be placed in her scalp because "it's the scariest looking thing we're going to do". While I thought it was really mean of her at the time, I'm grateful, because it WAS the scariest thing, and yet, it reassured me that she was in good hands.
For the next 4 days, I spent 18 hours a day at the hospital, because I was nursing. While I was home, I was waking up every 90 minutes to pump, so that she would have milk for the next night. I was a zombie. There is no other word to describe it. Like most NICU parents. There are motions you go through, because even though Zoe's problems weren't life threatening after the first 12 hours, there was always a nagging that maybe something would go wrong. That maybe I wasn't bringing her back home.
On December 10, 2005, I walked into the NICU at 8 am, to find the bed where my daughter had been for 4 days empty. Her billi lights were still there, and yet, the bed was completely empty. In that moment, my heart dropped into my stomach, and I about puked. A rational person would have remembered that if something bad had happened, my phone would have rang. I would have been notified. However, I had 2 children under 2, hadn't had a full night's sleep in almost two weeks, and my baby was in the hospital. There are no rational thoughts at that point.
We were the lucky ones. Zoe was moved because she was going to be discharged later that day. She had graduated. That night we attended Paulo's shop Christmas party.
I'll never forget those days. The NICU is not a place anyone should see the inside of. There shouldn't be a need for such amazing nurses. No mother should need to know how to unhook tubes and monitors from their newborns so they can feed them. Babies should not be so used to needle pokes that they give up crying about them. A miniature CPAP machine may be the most frightening thing I have ever seen.
My daughter's first graduation wasn't preschool. And that is why our family will always support the March of Dimes. Not just for her "suite" mates. But for Maddie, Amelia, Abigail, Joe, James and Jake, Nicolas, and all the other babies who can't do the fighting for themselves.

4 Thoughts on This:

Aunt Becky said...

NOW YOU HAVE ME CRYING.

Thank you. You are such an amazing person and I'm so glad to know you and so glad to hear what a success Zoe is. YAY for NICU grads like our babies!

Brat said...

You made me cry; I remember those dark days.

But hey. Look at what a lively Demonspawn she is now!

Happy Birthday, Little Girl!

Lisa said...

My older son was in the NICU for the first week of his life for jaundice. Prior to that I had no clue that jaundice could be Serious. My second was also jaundiced, but we were allowed to bring him home with a biliblanket instead. We always drop money in the can when it's March of Dimes.

SarahHub said...

Oh, you really did understand what I went through with Ethan! And that scalp IV is the absolute worst...

I'm glad she ended up okay, and that there are great doctors and nurses out there to take care of our children!