Sunday, April 3, 2011

Revisiting the NICU

We went back to the NICU today.

I have yet to write a post about the NICU. It is sitting in my drafts collection, along with many other posts that get started but not finished. (Update: NICU post is here.) Suffice it to say, Rosemary's stay in the NICU was twenty long days of breast milk pumping, 26 mile drives to the hospital, one or two hours of gazing at my baby in the isolette, ham sandwich lunches in the courtyard, and then an hour to drive back home through rush hour traffic. Day in and day out, even on weekends: enter the parking garage and hope you find a spot, park, grab the breast pump and the cooler full of breast milk out of the car, enter the hospital's lobby, walk straight to the elevator and push the up button, wait, enter the elevator and push the button for the 5th floor, wait, exit the elevator, walk down the hall, turn right, slam the button to open the massive NICU doors, drop your stuff, kick the pedal on the floor to turn on the scaldingly hot water in the sink, pump antibacterial soap onto your hands and lather up to your elbows, rinse in the hot water, grab two paper towels from the dispenser (one is never enough), toss the paper towels in the trash, sign in at the front desk (Name: Kyla, Here to See: Rosemary, Time in: --:--, Time Out: --:--), pick up your stuff you left on the floor by the sink, walk straight to your daughter's bed, drop your stuff again, sit in the chair the nurse pulled up for you and gaze lovingly at your daughter until she wakes up.

Doors to the NICU.

20 days of the same thing, until we could finally bring her home. And I know there are families out there who go through much worse. Families who live further than 26 miles away from the hospital, families whose babies have much bigger health concerns than just not knowing how to eat, babies who stay in the NICU for much longer than 20 days. Those families have all of my sympathy, because our ordeal certainly took its toll on me.

Four days before she was released, but I didn't know it at the time. You can see the stress in my eyes and my fake smile.

So we went back today. It had been on my mind for awhile that I wanted to give something back to the NICU, and Rosemary's birthday was the perfect occasion. Ideally, the gift would have been a sack full of little hats that I would had crocheted for the tiny baby heads, but my crochet projects move agonizingly slow these days, and I have yet to successfully make a baby hat. So what I did instead was go out and buy two preemie boy outfits and two preemie girl outfits. The NICU had dressed Rosemary in their clothing while she was there, and we ended up taking one of their outfits home with us (I'm not going to give it back either). That being the case, I thought giving them more clothes was fitting.

Our experience going to the hospital was entirely different this time. We pulled into the parking garage and the attendant stopped us right at the entrance asking for our name and our business at the hospital. She said parking was free today, which was a very welcome change! We found a spot, pulled OUR BABY and gifts out of the car, entered the hospital's lobby, walked straight to the elevator and pushed the up button, waited, entered the elevator and pushed the button for the 5th floor, waited, exited the elevator, walked down the hall, turned right... and the doors were already wide open for us. Another family had just entered the NICU and it seemed like the doors were delaying their automatic close. They knew we were standing there, wanting to pass. Senpai and I stood in the hallway and had a little discussion about who should enter first, or should we all go even though Rosemary wasn't allowed due to her age. The doors were still open, waiting for us, so we took the chance and all went in together.

There was no hand washing. No signing in. The front desk attendant and a group of nurses who happened to be standing there were thrilled to see us. It took a bit of prodding for them to remember. She doesn't look like she was a preemie! What did you say your name was? How big was she when she came in? She was 4 lbs 13 oz when she was born. She's 22 lbs now! Is she walking yet? Not walking, no, but she can stand. It won't be too much longer! No... it won't.



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