Having a baby is exciting. Having a premature baby can be exciting…and a bit overwhelming and frightening especially when you’ve been bedridden for the last three months of the pregnancy.
Thirty hours post-delivery passed in a whirlwind. We called relatives and friends. Friends and relatives called us. My cousin’s wife arrived bearing gifts and balloons. This time around there were congratulatory balloons just for me, and a beautiful pink and blue basket of plants from my aunt. My pastor drove down for a long visit, and between the celebratory socializing, I busied myself by learning how to effectively use an electric breast pump. The industrial-sized, hospital type. (That’s a comedy story all its own!)
And the most important activities were the frequent escorts to the NICU in my wheelchair.
Parker was thrilled, hardly containing his enthusiasm and childhood curiosity when we took him into the NICU to see his brother for the first time. A baby brother had arrived just for him, and Mommy was coming home! Everything was soon going to be back to normal and right-with-the-world as far as his four-year-old imagination could discern.
By the afternoon of his arrival, Cory was doing so well that they removed the oxygen hood, providing us with a clear view of his perfect head and face. Parker wanted to caress and play with his little toes and fingers, repeatedly touching Cory as though unsure of his existence.
Dr. Landry returned several times during the day for visits and to relay orders to the nurses concerning my care. He expressed his shock at how quickly it had all happened, how the stitches simply ruptured and everything happened so swiftly. He was also amazed that the amniotic sac had remained intact, even with all of the pressure being exerted upon it. He just couldn’t seem to get over the event. I told him the pediatric nurse practitioner had asked Chris if I’d been sick, since Cory’s blood test indicated he was beginning to manufacture extra white blood cells, indicating the possibility of an impending infection. His eyes widened. God’s natural forces and design had been functioning perfectly when labor started, and would not be stopped. An ensuing infection, with Cory sealed securely in my uterus, could have been disastrous for both of us. So I wasn’t the hypochondriac everyone thought I was.
I felt vindicated!
Until the moment I left the hospital, I enjoyed bounteous amounts of food— especially provided to nursing mothers— and several more wonderful long, steamy showers—except when the hospital’s hot water supply was turned off for repair. I managed to rise and walk without assistance to see Cory, slowly navigating my worn body and frequently finding it necessary to use the wall for support. My lungs heaved and my limbs wobbled, but I remained determined to complete my journey. I couldn’t stay away long. And every time I ventured to the NICU, Cory seemed to be making process.
First the oxygen hood came off. The following day he was moved to an isolette (incubator) and managed to consume special preemie formula. A nasogastric tube was inserted to provide additional nourishment, and I kept stocking the NICU refrigerator with meager amounts of breast milk to add to the nasogastric feedings.
The quick move to the isolette was cause for celebration, but since Chris and I were unaware of Cory’s ‘travel’ plans, we were more than a bit unnerved when we entered the unit and encountered a different baby positioned in Cory’s spot.
My heart zipped to my throat and pounded in my ears. “Where is he?” we asked anxiously, in unison, after first turning to look at one another questioningly.
“Oh, he’s right here!” came the smiling reply from the nurse positioned near his new home. “He’s been moved to an isolette.”
Startled, we walked hesitantly across the floor to view our son now occupying a special, warm plastic environment, surrounded by blankets to keep him snuggly in position. Blankets also draped the outside to keep the light glare from his face and eyes.
As we rounded his new habitat, we stooped simultaneously to peer through the clear structure. There he was, his miniature frame now encased in the tiniest diapers we had ever seen!
Special receptacles allowed the myriad of wires and tubes to run from his body to their respective monitors and machines. Reaching my hand through one of the portholes, I pressed a finger to his left palm. Immediately, he tried to raise his head and turn to the source of the stimulation and accompanying voice. Parker, who had arrived with Chris for an afternoon visit, wanted to take him out of the incubator to hold, touch and play with those adorably diminutive fingers and toes.
Parker had personally selected Cory’s first stuffed animal to deliver to his new brother on his second visit. Now he proudly stationed the small grey elephant in a corner of the isolette when Chris lifted him to a better vantage point. We were such a proud, gushing family. A proud, gushing threesome who had to go home, since it was late in the afternoon and time for me to be released. It was time to pack up and leave. Without my new son. Without Cory. I wasn’t worried about leaving him behind—he was much better off in his new compartment than in his cradle at our home. I was saddened we would be going home without the new addition.
I was simultaneously distressed and relieved. I knew I wasn’t entirely prepared for him to come home. After three months of focusing on nothing else but getting my baby safely into the world—and adding another life to our family—I seriously doubted if I were up to the challenge of caring for a premature newborn. Abruptly, we all found it necessary to change psychological gears.
We were physically and emotionally drained, unprepared for his arrival, without proper preemie clothing or designated cradle location, or all of those essential items a mother wants arranged and waiting for her newborn to receive upon his arrival home.
Then there was the hovering issue of crib death. Premature infants have a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and I was terrified of that possibility. I also wondered how I was going to carry a baby around, with all of the necessary paraphernalia, when I was having difficulty straightening up and moving myself around.
Frankly, Chris and I were alarmed about having Cory come home; we needed to gird ourselves up emotionally for it. Not only did Chris and I need the time to prepare our house, as well as our minds and bodies; but Parker needed time. Time alone with me, with his mother back to normal, standing erect on her feet and meeting his basic physical and emotional needs.
So after I enjoyed another long, hot shower and managed to tear ourselves away from Cory’s side, a volunteer was summoned to give me my bon voyage wheelchair ride to the front door.
A ride that seemed like a dream. It had all happened so fast, and now I was going home. We had our beautiful new baby, but because he wasn’t accompanying us, the drive home was a melancholy one.
And when I finally walked into our house, I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d been in bed so long, living in it had become a habit. My body and mind were habituated to bed rest. I stood somewhat disoriented in the entryway for several minutes before Chris suggested that I lie down.
Lie down? Again? But his suggestion made me realize how exhausted I was.
It had, indeed, been a very long, exhausting three days.
And I was about to find out just how long, exhausting and painful it had been for my tender four-year-old son.
NEXT WEEK: The unexpected: When your four-year-old has a breakdown…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cellardoorfilms/7620377636/">cellar_door_films</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>