Thursday, July 9, 2009

NICU Nostalgia

Once upon a time, and by that I mean 3 1/2 years ago plus 18 days, my Sweet Baby Boy Christopher had to be shipped off the Riley NICU. I was in Danville, and he was at Riley. It was the longest 36 hours ever when we were separated. Then we got back together in the NICU and it was a crazy time.
When Sam was born this year, I was determined to be "prepared" by choosing the hospital with what was in my opinion the nicest NICU in town, minus that of Riley itself, by whom all others were compared. The Clarian North NICU nurses let me have a tour when I was pregnant, they let me walk down the hall, and peek in a room. Each NICU baby had its own room, and there was a fold out bed and chair for parents. Oddly enough, the room they let me peek into could be used as a twin room, and that one was the only one that had its own bathroom. I chose Clarian North because of that NICU, it used Riley doctors, (who are the best!) I would have been down the way instead of miles and miles away like I was with Chris. Perfect setup. As my friend Alexandra put it, "Cathy would have this baby in the NICU if she could." You bet I would. Eric's theory was if I had the best NICU, then I wouldn't need. And I didn't. I Thank the Lord every day for that.

This week, my friend Kathleen had twins, Kristin and Sarah, and they had to go into the NICU. They had these babies at Clarian North, the same hospital I had chosen because of their fabulous NICU. I was blessed enough to be able to visit the babies on Tuesday and Thursday. They were in that same room that I'd seen so many months ago.

It's taken me on a walk down memory lane. The Riley NICU was so different, the ambience was so high wire. The minute I would walk through (or roll in my wheelchair) through the double doors, my muscles would tense up. There was a smell, and I still smell it everytime I'm back at Riley. No matter how many butterflies and pretty bugs they put on the wall, my stomach still tumbles walking down those halls. There was a long hallway, with 6 or so NICUs off each way, then you'd go into your 'bay' and there's be a decent size room with somewhere between 6-10 baby beds in the room. There were only 3 or 4 babies in Chris's NICU, I think, he was the first one so I never made it deeper into the room. I could see his neighbors though. He was the largest baby in there. There was lots of noise, so many beeps, and lots of lights. I'd ignore all the wires, almost let them intertwine and hang down in a tail as I cuddled him.
It's such a stressful time, and it was something I'd never heard of, or worried about, or even considered until Chris was born. Until you've been in it, you have no idea what a mind sucking, black hole a NICU can be. I'd go in, and the next thing I know, my grumbling stomach would wake the baby, it would be 9 o'clock at night, and I'd had nothing to eat or drink since lunch. Because you bet your bippy when given the choice of a few moments with my baby or a meal, I was choosing my baby every time. Luckily the nurses and our family held us in check and made sure we did things like eat and sleep. But still, time is just sucked away. It's scary, high stress, like Chinese water torture or like those frogs in the boiling water that have no idea the trouble they are in. And yet at the same time, this place is a place of miracles. Little miracles happen everyday and it's wonderful. Wonderful when they breathe on their own, wonderful when something heals up, or when they take a tube out. Wonderful that God has allowed us as humans to make these steps, so these babies and babies in even more dire straits can keep fighting and not only survive but thrive and grow.
I have to look past the tubing, just like I did with Chris. Just walking into that room makes my hands shake a little and eyes get teary. I pray a lot during these times. But the babies are so beautiful it's easy to ignore the tubes.
This NICU visit was so much more calm, the babies were in their own room, they're BP/Oxygen monitoring was not beeping. The lights were set low. It was calming, I couldn't help but relax, and just enjoy the sweetness of the babies. And they are sweet!
What amazes me was how TINY they are. Compared to these girls (Kristin was 6, 6, and Sarah was 6,2), Sam is a giant hoss! And it's not that they are tiny, like preemie tiny, they're just petite. I can't get over their ears. They are the size of the first knuckle of my thumb. I have been used to Sam being the little one, but he's going to have to move over for these dainty princesses. I am supremely tickled that these girls are 3 months younger than Sam, just like their older sister Emily is 3 months younger than Chris. Will Sam be the best of friends with these girls just like Emily and Chris, and the Mommies and Daddies? It's so cool to contemplate.

But my heart hurts for Mike and Kathleen right now.


Kathy said...

"It's such a stressful time, and it was something I'd never heard of, or worried about, or even considered until Chris was born. Until you've been in it, you have no idea what a mind sucking, black hole a NICU can be."

You describe it quite well :/ I wish it was something that nobody ever had to experience, and that we all were blessed with healthy, term babies.

I've been thinking about Mike and Kathleen lately. I hope their babies come home soon! I'm so happy to hear they are doing well and hope it shortens their stay!

It's nice that they have a friend like you who understands what they are going through!