The day of my discharge had arrived. Saturday morning began with me heading over to the NICU again at 4:30am. I needed to see Little Bear and know he was still doing good. I discovered this scene when I walked into his room.
Because he had a little bit of jaundice they had him under lights. Now that he no longer had to be on his tummy, he slept so much more comfortably and was so happy to sleep on his side. His contentment made me feel a little bit more at ease knowing he was happy and well taken care of.
I headed back to my room an hour later, I was ready to be discharged. I needed to be in my own bed at night, but as I had stood there watching my baby peacefully sleeping, I started to feel an inkling of what it was going to be like later that day to leave him behind as I went home. I had had difficulty the night before trying to get a letdown with my pump. I tried three times over three hours, and was finally able to get a letdown and got a ton of milk. But I was stressing out, worrying that I wouldn’t able to make pumping work and I wouldn’t be able to give Little Bear my milk. I can now say that since getting home and getting my Freemie cups set up, I haven’t had a single issue since about getting a letdown and have been producing more than enough milk. According to the milk lab at the NICU, I currently have just over 100 ounces of milk stored in the freezer. And that doesn’t include what I’ve brought in the past two days!
Phil showed up with Little Monkey around lunch time. I slowly and carefully pulled my wagon (Children’s has red Radio Flyer wagons all over the place to use for transporting things to and from rooms in the hospital) down to the main lobby to meet them. I started feel a panic creeping towards me. I was leaving my baby upstairs. I was tired, achy, and my heart was splitting. Not breaking, just splitting. I was leaving half of myself in that little room. We drove away from the hospital and somehow I managed to keep from breaking down entirely.
Getting home was an interesting adventure. It was then I realized what I had caught glimpses of back at the hospital. I had been waiting for some part of me to have a breakdown especially with how honestly traumatic it was to go into labor and four hours later hear my son be born from the other side of a curtain. I knew it would catch up with me at some point. And when I got home after being discharged, it did. I had been coping through a need to have everything in order, carefully put in its place. And getting home, things weren’t. Things weren’t a big mess, but I didn’t have my normal comfortable space. I had left rather hurriedly that night, and came home to evidence still from our dash out the door. I shut myself in the bathroom and turned the shower as hot as I could stand, climbed in, and just sobbed and let the water wash away the feelings I needed to release. I had left my tiny baby at the hospital, I had had no more than three hours to prepare for his arrival barely 5 days before, I had had no more than three hours to prepare for my belly to be cut into to safely remove my child. I suppose in hindsight, the lack of time we were given has mostly played to our advantage. We didn’t have time to stress or worry over the scheduled c-section. We were just shaken up and thrown across the board, left to play with whatever chance gave us.
I was eager to go back to the hospital the next morning. My baby shower was the following afternoon, but I knew the morning was going to be the only time I would have to go to the hospital on Sunday. I felt an instant release of tension as soon as I walked into Little Bear’s room once I got to the hospital. My recovery prevented me from running down the halls to his room, otherwise I just tried to hurriedly shuffle. It did my mama’s heart good to see him. Phil and Little Monkey came to pick me up from the hospital to drop me off at the baby shower. As I was leaving, I asked the gal at the front desk in the NICU about having Little Monkey cleared so he could go meet his brother. She said she would call the charge nurse right then and he could get cleared right then and there. I was a little shocked at how quickly and easily it was done! Little Monkey was cleared in less than five minutes, and we were on our way back to Little Bear’s room so the brothers could meet. Because of the flu/cold season restrictions, kids under the age of 13 aren’t even allowed on the same floor as the NICU. But Little Monkey was cleared and he got to meet his brother. It wasn’t how I expected the first meeting to be, but I’m glad Little Monkey got to at least see his brother and Little Bear didn’t have as many wires or tubes attached to him. It will be interesting when Little Bear gets to come home for sure.
As I had stopped taking narcotics on Saturday morning, I drove myself to the hospital on Monday this past week. I did a test drive to the Target 5 minutes up the road on Sunday night to pick up my insurance breast pump. I felt achy in my hips when I got home, but no pain or pulling around my incision. I had asked my surgeon before I got discharged what her perimeters were for when I could drive again. Her only things were I had to be off narcotics and didn’t feel any discomfort while driving. So I did it. I drove to the hospital by myself, felt good when I got there (wiped out when I got home later that day) and I felt like I was getting a chance to mentally recover with the almost hour I was spending in the car driving back and forth. Tuesday the nurses told me that they wanted to start switching Little Bear to something called Ad Lib feedings. Basically, this meant that he was gaining enough weight and showing enough interest in eating that they wanted to see if he could wake himself up to eat instead of having his feedings scheduled.
Little Bear has been taking to nursing so much better than I expected him to. Granted, it’s such a comfort thing for him that he ends up falling asleep a lot faster than if he was chowing down on a bottle. But still, I laid him on my lap yesterday to nurse and he immediately started crying and rooting around with him mouth and latched right away. I realized that he knew what was coming and wanted it. When I walked in to his room on Wednesday, I was met with a happy nurse waiting to tell me that he was doing extremely well with ad lib feedings! He wasn’t having any issues waking himself up to eat every three-ish hours. The only thing they were concerned about now was that he was losing a little bit of weight. So we upped the amount of supplement he was getting in his bottles and I hoped that on Thursday I would hear good news about him having gained weight. As I showed up Thursday, I ran through my usual list of questions with the nurse, and found out my little boy had gained back not only what he had lost but double! All he had needed was that doubled dose of supplement added to his milk! Way to go, Little Bear, and he has been steadily gaining since.
I had planned to spend a good part of Thursday afternoon/evening at the NICU but within an hour of being there, I felt suddenly overwhelmed and just needed to leave. Little Bear was in good hands, I didn’t need to worry about him. However, the two babies across the hall from him were in bad shape. I overheard the doctors and nurses reassuring the parents of the one baby over and over that they had done the right thing bringing the baby in and it wasn’t their fault. It’s easy to forget that the NICU is not a “safe” place to be. The NICU is where sick babies go, the babies who need that extra bit of help, the babies who may not make it, or who may, but time is the only deciding factor. I knew Little Bear was in the best hands possible, so I left after only two hours of being there. I told his nurse I just needed to be able to breathe and get some rest. So I drove to Walmart, used my gift card to get some things for myself and some baby items in preparation of Little Bear coming home.
I was told Wednesday that Little Bear would most likely be discharged this coming weekend. Then his head measurement changed a little too much for the neurosurgeon’s comfort and they moved that to Monday. We’ll find out some time on Monday whether or not that is really the day Little Bear will be coming home. They’re prepping everything like that’s when he will be discharged. We have been given his first oxygen tank to take him home on, I have gotten call after call from home medical supply companies about catheters, oxygen, and other such things Jamie will need when we get home. Phil and I have been steadily cleaning, rearranging, and getting everything we need for being able to bring Jamie home. It has honestly been really helpful having two weeks of time to rest and recover without the inevitable difficulties of adjusting to a newborn at the same time. I feel like when he finally comes home, we will all be ready for him and not feeling like we’re struggling to just find a spot of solid ground to stand on.
I apologize if this post seems a little lacking of details. I’m now at the point where the little details are starting to fade, but I still can remember most of the broader details! A lot of other little things happened day to day with Little Bear. Mostly things like having taken all of his bottles with relish and consistently waking himself when he needs to eat. Or other things like he’s now on the lowest level of oxygen and potentially won’t be on the oxygen very long once he comes home. I want to write a post at some point here about what it’s been like being a Preemie/NICU mom. It’s been a lot more emotional than I expected and I get a lot more things now when I’ve ready posts and sayings about being a NICU mom.