Adoption / Life with Jesus

From the Bowels of the NICU

The baby (henceforth known as The Baby, differentiated from The Kid) had to have an eye exam this week. In case you don’t know how eye exams are done on infants, let me enlighten you.

The Child Life Specialist came in to warn me that it might be…traumatic. They like the parents to try and comfort the baby while it’s happening, but it’s too much for some people. During the exam, there was an assistant who was leaning over The Baby to hold his head still, whilst I intertwined my arms with his to keep the pacifier in the mouth of The Baby.

Next, the doctor gets out these things…I’m not quite sure how to describe them. Maybe tweezer/tong looking things. Without any warning, she sticks that thing in The Baby’s eyeball to keep his eyelids open and then whips out this tiny blue spatula and bats his eyeball around while she looks in his eye through these crazy goggles with the world’s brightest light.

He was Not Happy.

It was traumatic for everyone, except maybe the pedi-opthamologist/baby-torturer. She was cold as ice.

***

I had a good cry in the car on the way home from the hospital today. Overall, we’re doing pretty good, as good as we can be. (Truly). The staff at the hospital have all been very nice, but they’re also all business.

  • How much did he drink?
  • How much does his diaper weigh?
  • I need to take his temperature.
  • We need to use the sucky thing (not a medical term) on his nose.
  • I need to traumatize him by prying his eyelids apart with a torture apparatus and using this tiny spatula to spoon his eyes around.

There’s not alot of human connection, which is usually fine, because I’ve realized that I’m always on the verge of tears. I can talk diapers and diagnoses and medication and oxygen levels all day, no problem, but any kind of warmth, a compassionate look or a pat on the hand, makes me fall all to pieces and the NICU is not a great place to fall to pieces.

When a respiratory tech looked at me with concern in her eyes today, I started weeping openly and there were no less than about 8 people (other NICU parents, nurses, pharmacy tech people) standing around watching me lose it. Now that I think about it, I should have charged admission. Step behind the curtain to see the woman who cries if you ask how she’s doing.

I learned that I had little-to-no-control when I began parenting the first time around, but medical-out-of-control? It’s a whole new ballgame. This is a whole new level of learning that I can’t control anything.  Not one thing. This baby’s body is going to do what it wants to and there is literally nothing I can do about it at this point. Dang. I even stood up too fast today and ripped the leads off his monitor. I can’t even control my own stupid body.

So annoying (not the baby, but the lack of control).

***

We have hit a rhythm. I don’t know that it will be sustainable or not, but it’s what we have for now. I’m at the hospital all day, until it’s time to pick up The Kid from school. Then, it’s business as usual, homework, chores, dinner, bedtime. Alex runs home from work, we slap each other on the butt, and then he goes up to the hospital. 

It is…exhausting.

I feel like I’m living two different lives. One, in a NICU, with the beeping and the fluorescent lights and the complete and utter lack of control.

The other, normal. Well, normal-ish. The Kid and I are basically the same person in two different-colored bodies (one freckled, one that would never sunburn), so the routine and “same-ness” is good for both of us. We are creatures of habit and there is something comforting in keeping our rhythms.

After he goes to bed, after I’ve been at the hospital all day, then homework and dinner and chores and bedtime, I stand at the sink and do the dishes, mostly exhausted, huffing about how we have so many dishes all.the.time.

I could snap my fingers and have 42 people lined up at my front door to do our dishes and do our laundry and vacuum our floors. I know that. I do.

But, I think I almost need to do those dishes, do that laundry, because that is something that I KNOW. Doing dishes when I’m tired is something that happened before this baby came into our lives and doing them now is a rhythm that’s familiar.

I think I need it. At least, for now.

***

Last week, the psychologist at the NICU introduced herself and explained that she basically is there to make sure the babies are attaching and bonding with their parents while they’re in bizzaro-world.

I mentioned that I was really concerned about the bonding bit because we haven’t been there since the beginning, he’s been in the NICU with lots of caretakers for a LONG time, and I can’t possibly be up at the hospital every second of every day.

There are so many competing priorities. It’s overwhelming for new parents.

His head is flat on the right side. He needs to sleep on his left side. We have to rotate his sleeping positions for lung development. He needs tummy time. He needs to sleep. Feed him on his side. Feed him sitting up straight. He needs to bond with you. Have eye contact whenever you can. Make sure he’s stimulated. 

I told the psychologist that I was worried about my ability to bond with The Baby, precisely because the NICU is not the kind of environment that really encourages this. These are critical times in his development and he is more familiar with being touched by rubber gloves than being held by a mother. Yikes.

She told me that psychologists often talk about the concept of “good enough” parenting. As soon as she said it…tears, big fat ones running down my face.

The word “enough” really resonates with me. Not like, “ENOUGH! I’VE HAD IT WITH YOU.”  But the “You’re good right now, like this very second. You don’t have do anything better or different. You’re enough.”  That message echoes somewhere deep inside me and rattles around in there for days after someone reminding me that I am good enough.

In this season, I’m struggling to feel like I’m doing enough for either of my boys. My deepest fear is that I don’t do something I could have to help them, that something in my control didn’t get done and it’s all my fault.

Good enough.

Good enough.

Good enough.

I’m good enough. For now. I am doing what I can. I am mothering to the best of my ability, while shackled to the constraints of space and time and limited energy.

It’s no coincidence that I feel God’s word and encouragement to me over the past year has been this one word: enough. That psychologist reminded me, God reminded me through her.

I am good enough.

I think I’m going to cement my place as weirdest NICU mom and tattoo that on my forehead.

 

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