Looking back at it now, it’s shocking the small details you remember about some days and how vague other things are. Although I don’t think this is unique to preemie parents…baby brain anyone??
After leaving our tiny boy at the hospital I really don’t remember the ride home, or even the ride back to the hospital later that day (maybe we walked?), but I do definitely remember my lunch and what happened upon our return visit to St. Jo’s.
At the time we lived across the street from a Superstore and while I unpacked my bag and had a few moments to myself to adjust to our new reality, Andrew went across the street and picked up the fixings for, what still remains, the most delicious sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. We ate quickly while sitting in our two chairs (don’t even get me started on the fact that we STILL didn’t have a couch…see previous blogs) and then made our way back to the hospital to make sure our little man was still hanging in there.
I don’t want to repeat myself too often, but as a reminder the NICU has a two visitor per bedside rule, so when we went to visit, Andrew and I were the only two allowed to see Vaughan at a time, unless we traded out. This is to stop mass congestion in a small space with a high probability of emergencies; however, it still hurts when you’re both not there to see other people’s tearful and joyful reactions to your child. I have no idea what my in-laws faces were like when they saw our precious boy for the first time because I wasn’t allowed to be there…again just one more way us preemie parents are cheated!
Anyway, when Andrew and I were dropped off that afternoon we made our way back up to the Mother and Baby unit and sanitized within an inch of our lives before entering the NICU. There were two doors into the unit and sanitizer by both. You also stopped to wash your hands after hanging up your coat and signed in with the nurse behind a glass panel before being allowed into the inner sanctum. Some habits die hard and I still sanitize like a mad-woman even though V is now 16 months old (14 corrected!). Preemies are incredibly fragile and something as simple as a cold can devastate their systems. Children without immunizations and anyone who is feeling the slightest bit unwell are not welcome around the infants and are asked to wait and visit when they feel better.
Vaughan was still in the back room, resting in his covered isolette with his nurse watching close by. We did our usual grilling about his progress and the nurse patiently answered all of our questions. He was still doing well on room level oxygen and was becoming more consistent with his breathing. He did still ‘coast’ at times (skip breaths) but never enough to cause all of his bells and whistles to go off. Andrew and I spent a lot of our first visits staring at that monitor before we learned to relax and enjoy our time with Vaughan. As a preemie parent you are constantly staring at all of the heart/breathing/oxygen monitors and frantically willing them to stay in the ‘normal’ range. What you don’t realize is that your wiggly bundle can cause the monitors to go off by slightly smashing a wire during a tantrum or even just random glitches. If you panicked every time you heard it go off you’d be grey haired in two weeks. The nurses are total pros however and can tell if it’s serious or a blip just by glancing at the baby, which is what we, as parents, should have been doing in the first place!
Andrew and I had opened the sides of his isolette and were laying our hands on our small, squirmy bundle when the nurse asked us the ‘big’ question: Do you want to hold him? Um…YES!!!!!
We hadn’t been prepared for this right away since, having talked to a friend who had had a preemie and hadn’t been able to hold her for a while, we’d been expecting to wait for a few days or even weeks before being able to hold him. He looked so breakable!!
Before holding Vaughan I hadn’t held a baby in years, I had no idea what to do! The nurse swaddled him up and put a tiny little hat on his head (preemies are very susceptible to temperature and must be kept super snug and warm) before putting him in my shaking arms, wires, ventilator and all. Tears were streaming down both Andrew’s and my faces and it was all I could do to not burst into those horrible, messy sobs usually inspired by some terrible, sappy movie. All I can remember thinking is ‘Oh my god he’s so small…but he’s so perfect!’ as I cuddled my newborn. I think my vocabulary significantly reduced to ‘I love you!’ and ‘Mommy’s here’ for the entire 5 minutes I got to hold him, before passing him off to his anxiously awaiting Daddy. Andrew has never looked more handsome to me than that day, in jeans and a t-shirt, on 5 hours of sleep in about 48 hours, tears falling down his face as he held his tiny son. It was definitely a changing moment in all of our lives.
Unfortunately it was over all too quickly and Vaughan had to be put back in his ‘shell’. Preemies can get cold and tired while being held and the best thing for them is to rest and snuggle. We didn’t get to kiss him, or explore his tiny little body since he was pretty much bundled head to toe, but we did hold his little hand before heading home for the night, promising to see him early the next morning for more cuddles.
Andrew and I made the sad journey home again, one we would do at least daily for the next 6 weeks. We spent the night talk about how perfect our little man was, our fears for his immediate future and started to finally make plans to get our buts in gear, making sure everything was perfect for when we would finally be bringing him home.