See Part I of our story here.
It was nothing like I’d imagined, those first moments. I’d pictured her being laid on my chest, all gooey and pinky-purple, crying from consternation at being shoved out of her first bedroom, and hopefully nursing immediately. Seeing her face, marveling at her with Hubs by my side.
Instead, she was in an isolette several floors away, and I was in recovery. . .waiting. Waiting for my legs to get some feeling back (crazy weird, by the way). Waiting to hear what the cardiologist could see, now that I wasn’t getting in the way of her imaging tests. Waiting until I could just see her again.
I don’t really remember where Hubs was at this point. I think he went with her? I don’t know. It’s all a blur already, just 6 months ago.
The the doctor came in, and confirmed her earlier diagnosis. She mentioned a couple of genetic disorders that could be the cause. Two of the possibilities are fatal. For some reason, those didn’t scare me. Maybe I couldn’t absorb one more piece of terrifying news by then? I don’t know. I do remember thinking that I wasn’t going to tell Hubs about that until later, if/when it came up again. That was a mistake, and not one I’ll repeat. He is capable – more than me, for sure – of handling these difficult things.
Finally, I was cleared to go upstairs. Only three were allowed at once, so Hubs, my mom and I went in. Oh, she was tiny. I reached over from the gurney as far as I could, to touch her. So warm! Such a soft, mewling cry. There’s no sound in the world like a preemie cry. It’s just like a little lamb bleating (my brother later nicknamed her a velociraptor because of it – haha!). I wanted to pick her up so badly. But I’d just had major surgery, and so the nurses said I had to leave. Hubs & Mom stayed, and my Dad joined them. I’m glad they were there for those first moments/hours.
Then I was in my room. I asked to start trying to breastfeed right away, so the nurse brought in a breastpump (best one ever, by the way – get a Medela if you can! I’m convinced it played a role in keeping my milk up with an infant who can’t/won’t nurse). Wow, did that hurt! And there was nothing coming out. I’d get a few drops of colostrum and celebrate! Hubs came back. We knew she would be transferred to another hopsital as soon as possible – one with a better cardiac department. That happened at 2:30 am. They brought her to my room on the way out, so I could see her one more time. I got to touch her again, through the isolette arm holes. Hubs and Dad followed the ambulance, and Mom and I tried to sleep. Apparently it took hours for her to get set up in the NICU at the new place, so Hubs and Dad didn’t sleep at all. That NICU is set up in bays, so you could only have 2 people back with her at a time. . .and only one chair. I don’t know what all went on, but Hubs has told me it was awful.
Hubs spent the next few days going back and forth between Sweet Pea & me. He brought pictures and videos, which made it a little easier to be stuck away from her. He got to hold her for the first time during a bedding change. He looked so happy in the picture Dad got of that moment! Also, a bit awkward – haha.
I was finally released on the same day that Sweet Pea was moved down to the cardiac ICU. Hubs and I moved in to her room, and spent the next six weeks by her side as much as possible. He had to go back to work just days later, and so I was the one sending him pictures. It was so hard for him to walk out the door every morning.
I wish I could convey just how exhausting it was. Daily labs & xrays at 4 AM, surgical rounds at 7 AM, medical rounds at 9 AM, pumping every three hours, watching her roll down the hall to her first open heart surgery, seeing her chemically paralyzed and on a ventilator, watching as drainage tubes are pulled out and as sutures are removed, the constant flow of doctors (residents, fellows, attendings and surgeons), nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists, physician assistants, technicians, social workers and child life developers. . . not to mention the incredible flood of visitors we received from our family, friends and church. And the learning. Oh my word, it was like the crash course in medical school I never planned to take. I had more than one meltdown, for sure.
But all that is what happened after her birth story. It’s her life story, and ours. We’ve walked with her through two heart surgeries, and are likely facing a third – for her skull this time. Becoming a parent changes your life in ways you never anticipated.
Becoming her parent changed our lives in ways we never could have anticipated. And I’m so thankful to be her mother.