Pro-Tip: This picture of a happy family, royal or not, cannot be real.
Somebody photoshopped that picture. I’ll bet you a million dollars.
Our Baby is home. Alleluia.
When you have a baby in the NICU who is coming home on oxygen and a monitor and an entire pharmacy of medications, before you leave, you do something called “Rooming In”. I kept calling it sleeping in.
“When are we going to be able to sleep in? When is the sleeping-in happening?”
Wishful thinking, I guess.
Anyway, rooming in is where you do a dry-run in the NICU. Parents do all the meds, feedings, diaper changes, etc. with a professional NICU nurse just outside your room if you happen to have any questions.
We were supposed to start the rooming in process on Monday night. Right as they were wheeling our baby down to our new room, the home health guy showed up with a veritable U-Haul of medical equipment and wanted to train us on it. When I asked him about the portable oxygen tank, he pointed to a tank that seems as tall as the tallest tree in Australia and said that was their smallest tank. I thought, “That one? The one that comes up to my thigh and weighs 200 pounds? Well, okay then.”
So, while he was talking to us about oxygen levels and wattage of plugs, our baby had a minor heart incident, which could have started the “wait 5 days until you go home” clock over again. It didn’t, thankfully. I completed the rest of our oxygen training tearfully.
When we got into our “rooming in” suite (with two couches, two pillows, one blanket, and a bathroom that smelled like a poopy rainforest), it was hotter than Satan’s armpit and we had just dragged all of our medical equipment down the hallway. After I surveyed our new digs, I just laid on the couch and cried.
We were only supposed to room-in one night. BUT the baby’s temperature was too low (which could have been indicative of an infection) and some of his blood work was off. The first night was awful. We were woken up by nurses every hour and a half. They had to stick him a million times to get blood work done.
(Sidenote: My stress levels are inversely related to the age of the nurse that was assigned to us each shift. The younger the nurse, the more stressed I was. Our first night, I was like, “The next 12-year-old to come in here and dig in my son’s HEAD with a needle is gonna get cut.”)
Tuesday morning, we were all dead. We had literally maybe gotten a good 3 solid hours of sleep. I had to go to a required CPR class. I walked to Siberia (literally got lost in an “unauthorized” part of the hospital) to get some coffee. The CPR class was just me and another chatty Cathy. Our instructor had a hard time staying on task and the other lady kept asking things like, “Have you ever done CPR on someone that died?” I kept giving her wicked side-eyes.
When I got back to the room, Alex informed me that the doctor said we had to stay one more night. More crying and thrashing around.
I was, of course, disappointed that we had to spend one more night in “Room that Smells like Godzilla’s Butthole” but it actually ended up being okay. Our day and night nurses were both out of their teens and actually instructed us and made sure we felt comfortable with doing everything that we were going to do at home. We actually got six hours of good, hard sleep on our second night.
On Wednesday, our third day to be at the hospital, I told Alex that all my people pleasing tendencies had reached their end. I wore my fluffy boots. I walked around the NICU braless, in my pajama pants. You were actually able to see my odor. I hadn’t bathed since Sunday. I was wearing the same clothes I had worn on Monday. I did take a shower in the rainforest poop bathroom. We didn’t have any towels, so I dried off with our one blanket and wrapped a baby blanket around my head.
Here are some things that I thought while I was feeling rebellious:
- I wonder if I could sneak these chocolate doughnuts back into the NICU in my bra. No one would see me and, even if they did, I would say, “AT LEAST I’M WEARING A BRA, DING DONG. YOU’RE WELCOME.”
- Would this baby fit into this backpack?
- I’m going to rip this stupid temporary nametag off and throw it far, far away. I live here now so the least they could do is give me a plastic name badge.
- Hey, Dr. Dumb-Dumb. If you say one more thing about my baby’s low temperature, I’m going to make you sit here and hold him. He will burn a hole in your chest. Maybe you guys should invest in thermometers that don’t cost $.59 at the Piggly Wiggly.
When we got the word that discharge was happening, there was much rejoicing. There may have even been some celebratory dancing with leaps and a tambourine.
When we finally got to it, as in, the nurses came in and unhooked three of the five cords that had had tethered him to a 4-foot radius for the past several months, I got nervous. They sent Alex down to grab the car and I was left with a man who was going to help me get baby, monitor, stroller, and oxygen tanks down to the car.
As we were leaving the NICU, the baby was awake and so happy. He basically waved goodbye to the doctors and nurses on our way out. It was like a movie, a sweet, cute Disney movie where everyone is happy.
We hopped on the elevator and as soon as we hit the first floor, it became a Lifetime movie instead.
When the elevator doors opened, the baby immediately threw up and his monitor started blaring (which means his oxygen levels dropped). I just stood there and looked at him.
The guy that was helping me said, “Do you have a bulb syringe?”
I said, “It’s in the car.”
He said, “Do you have a burp rag?”
I said, “Nope.”
So, we used a fleece jacket to wipe up most of the spit-up and then I carried him to the lobby. Every time I tried to put him back in the car seat, he would get mad and spit up. Every. Time. His monitor was beeping and it is LOUD.
I have some sensory issues related to sound, so whenever I’m getting alot of input all at once, I get overwhelmed and anxious. Crying baby, beeping monitor, and, I literally got about 10 text messages and 4 phone calls all in this 10-minute time span. I was about to hurl my phone across the lobby. It probably would have hit a granny volunteer in the face and then they would have brought me back up to see the NICU psychologist.
I called Alex and told him that if he didn’t get to the lobby in about 15 seconds with a bulb syringe and the diaper bag, somebody was going to die today. He had to re-park the car, he went up to the NICU instead of the lobby, and 42 hours later, we had the bulb syringe and the baby was calm enough for us to try the car seat.
While waiting, I was begging The Baby, “Please, for the love, let’s get out of here. Let’s go home. I know it’s cold and really bright. Please, please, calm down and let’s go home.” All I could envision was a 14-year-old nurse running down and being like, “Oh, he’s not ready. We have to keep him for 12 more years.”
The NICU assistant was SO nice. I was crying (again) and frustrated. I asked him if it got easier and he assured me that it did.
We figured out that we could do the car seat strapping in one little piece at a time, so we did his left arm, let him get angry and cry it out and then calm down. Then we did right arm, same thing, then legs.
Finally, he was calm, there was no beeping, and we were ready to get in the car.
And that’s pretty much the end of the dramatics. We picked The Kid up from after-school care because he hadn’t gotten to meet The Baby yet. It was so sweet. He squealed and couldn’t stop talking about how cute The Baby is. The Kid bossed me around all evening and let me know just what The Baby likes.
Damn. My boys are so sweet.
Before the discharge, my mom told us to make sure we got a picture together before we left. For reasons I have outlined explicitly above, getting a family picture was not on my mind. I was envisioning a picture like the one at the beginning at this post, but a more realistic picture of our discharge celebration would have been like this:
Let’s just settle on this one and then move on.
We’re home! We’re home! We’re home!