On day 2 I got to see my son with clear eyes and a clear head.
Walking, or should I say wheeling, into the NICU for the first time was like walking into a hospital on overdrive. Each unit had 6 babies in it, each with it’s own monitor and set of tubes. It completely stunned me into silence. Mark had already been down several times so, he showed me around, how to wash my hands, and finally to Christopher’s room.
In each unit or room, there are 3 babies on each side. There are 2 nurses per room and their job is to sit there all day and monitor the babies. Each baby has it’s own monitor above their isolette or crib, whatever the case may be, as well as a computer that sits by that station. Whenever you come in to the unit your nurse gives you all of the stats for the day. How your baby is doing, what has been done to your baby, if the baby has been seen by any specialists, the list goes on and on.
It was overwhelming.
I looked around at the room thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe that two days ago I had a baby and here he is fighting to live.”
Mark wheeled me up to Christopher’s isolette which I later nicknamed “the box.” I looked in and there was my son, all 3 lbs of him, with cords and feeding tubes and an IV hooked up to him. The nurse came over and gave us the update, he had lost some weight over night but, he was stable, they were trying to wean him off the oxygen and get him on the CPAP. Then she explained all the different stats on the monitor. I was still a little doped up so, I just kind of stared at her and then back at Christopher, hoping Mark would explain it again later.
The thing about the NICU that is the most uncomforting is the beeping. The beeping lets you know that a baby is in distress. It can be related to breathing apneas or heart rate monitors or a number of other things and sometimes it’s just that the baby moved and a monitor fell off. So, imagine six babies in a room the size of a classroom and the amount of beeping that goes on there. I credit Christopher’s great sleeping habits to the noise of the NICU.
I didn’t get to hold Christopher until after I had been released from the hospital. I think the standard stay for a C-section is 4 or 5 days, I got to stay 6 because my blood pressure wouldn’t stay down. In a way this was good because I was closer to Christopher but, no one likes sleeping in the hospital. So, on day 6 I was released. It was bittersweet leaving the hospital. On the one hand, I was really glad to be able to go home but, it was 20 minutes away from Christopher and I wasn’t aloud to drive for 8 weeks. The other really crappy thing about being discharged was the discharge class.
Before a mother can leave the hospital with(or without) her baby, she has to go to the discharge class. The nurses show you how to bathe your baby and remind you to never shake your baby and give you information about breastfeeding if you are choosing to do so. Mark and I sat there thinking how ridiculous it was that we had to be there since our child was staying in the hospital for another 6-10 weeks. We mostly wrote notes to each other on the handouts the nurses gave us.
After we were discharged, we headed down to the NICU to see Christopher before we went home. It was crazy thinking that I was going home without my baby. I was going home to a house that was only half ready for a baby to be there but, it didn’t even matter because the baby wasn’t coming for 6-10 more weeks.
The only good part about going home was getting to sleep in my own bed. That was wonderful. No more BP checks in the middle of the night, no more beeping, and no more nurses. My mom would be staying a little bit longer and Mark had time off from school because it was Christmas vacation so, I didn’t have to be by myself either.
I finally got to hold Christopher a week after he was born. It was the best and scariest moment of my life. He was so tiny, still only 3 lbs. But, he was so strong… he would lift his head when he heard me talk to him. We could only hold him during his “touch times.” Because preemies need to rest and sleep and essentially grow, they can’t be handled a lot because it over stimulates them and keeps them from getting the rest they need.
“Touch times” were the times every three hours that the nurses would take the baby’s temperature, change their diaper, and start the feeding through the tube. The only time that we could get Christopher out of his box was during one of these times and then we could only hold him for half an hour. The cool thing about “touch time” when we were there was that we could change Christopher’s diaper and take his temperature instead of the nurse. His little bottom was so small and cute!! It was so hard though, only getting to hold my child for half an hour a day. Mark and I switched off who would get to hold him for the first few days and then Mark would mostly let me hold him. I didn’t complain.
After a few days of this, one of the nurses told us about kangaroo care. Kangaroo care is when you hold your baby in his diaper only against your bare chest to create skin to skin contact. Moms and Dads can do it. It has been the subject of many studies in preemies and has been shown to help preemies grow and thrive better than non-kangarooed preemies. Holding your baby against your chest like that helps regulate his heartbeat and breathing. It’s as close to being back in the womb as you can get. Plus, it’s just so snuggly!
I was all for kangaroo care. For the remainder of Christopher’s NICU and SCN time I kangarooed him every day for three hours. I firmly believe that kangaroo care is one of the reasons he did so well and grew so fast.