“Expect him to be here for 6 weeks,” they told me when he was first born. It was 6 weeks till his original due date, exactly 4 weeks till his scheduled c-section date. Knowing my Little Bear as I do, I expected maybe 4 weeks in the NICU instead of the full 6 weeks.
However, I walked in one day a week and a half after his birth and his nurses told me that they wanted to switch him to something called ad lib feeding. This meant that instead of having him on a strict feeding schedule, they would let him wake up on his own. He would have a minimum of how much milk he had to take, but he could eat as much as he wanted. I told one of my favorite nurses that when she stopped by to say hi. Her response suddenly brought the reality of getting to bring him a lot closer. She was happy yet upset that they were switching him to ad lib feedings. She said that this meant that we probably wouldn’t be there when she came back to work next week! In other words, if he could gain weight and wake himself up to eat at reasonable intervals, then that was a HUGE step towards going home. I already know that otherwise, they were pretty happy with his progress, especially considering he was only a week and a half old.
Two days later, they told me that he was starting to lose weight. This merely meant that they could up the amount of caloric supplement they were putting in his bottles and see if that would make a difference. As that potential discharge day drew closer, I scrambled around at home when I was there, trying to make sure we had everything ready. Little Bear had started developing and had developed an awful diaper rash. Because of the nerve damage, he (I guess, thankfully…for my nerves’ sake) couldn’t feel the rash very much. But, it was getting to the point of broken and badly chapped skin. I wanted to make sure we had a game plan for things to use at home to help protect his butt. The next day (now, February 9th) I was told he had gained back not only everything he had lost but had doubled that! My little chubby bear was suddenly putting on weight and sucking down bottles like there was no tomorrow.
I began checking items off the discharge list. I learned how to cath Little Bear, I took over diaper changes when I was at the NICU, I took over feeding and general care whenever I was with him in person. The next day, Phil’s birthday, we were told that Little Bear had passed his car seat test with flying colors. My Little Bear was flying towards discharge and he wasn’t even two weeks old yet. And they had warned me to expect him to be in the NICU for 6 weeks.
I’m going to dive into the whole emotional side of things in another post, but for now, it was hard preparing for him to come home. Now that I knew he would be coming home, I wanted him home so badly. The exhaustion of driving 30 minutes each way every day to see him was starting to push me down. I wasn’t going to be able to handle making that drive for much longer. Even though I wanted him home, fear of being sent home without a shunt, him being on oxygen still, and just general teeny tiny baby fears started popping up to hover just behind me. The nurses have to tell you what to look forward if your baby starts not being able to breathe. They have to tell you what to look for when your baby’s head suddenly can’t handle the amount of fluid building up. Here’s my champion of a baby, getting ready to head home, but still with so many things I’ll have to watch for, so many things that could go wrong.
Oh, and then add in normal baby things. I’m grateful Little Bear is my second child. AND he is a lot like his older brother was as a baby. Which helps a lot with not freaking out about things that would have concerned me as a first time mom. But still. I felt at times like I was bringing home a ticking time bomb.
Little Bear was discharged with Neurology’s blessing on February 13th, 2017. He was 13 days old, weighing in at 5lbs 5oz and while he was still on oxygen, I knew that he would be okay if he was off oxygen for a little while. Thanks to a test his nurse and I had done the day before, I now knew exactly when he really needed the oxygen and that he did well all other times. That drive home was a little rough. My teeny tiny infant looked like a miniature baby doll in his huge car seat. I sat in the back seat and worried the entire time at every jostle of his head. I wondered if we had everything ready at home and then laughed because I knew whether we did or not, we would know for sure by that evening. We pulled in to home, Little Monkey being at a friend’s house, and walked in the door, the first time Little Bear was home and not in my belly. I sensed an immediate relaxing from Little Bear as I pulled him out of his car seat. He seemed at ease in a way he hadn’t been at the NICU. It would definitely take a few days before things would settle into a sort of new normal routine. But he was home, and in a few short hours, my little family of four was home, in the same place and all together.