As predicted, I did not have a good night’s sleep. I tried to sleep. I tried to get rest knowing that I would need all my strength to get through the next day, but sleep, rest and peace of mind eluded me.
Just recalling the very recent memory of holding my little girl made my heart dance with joy. But then the thoughts of what my baby boy was going through made my heart sad. So my heart was a bit schizophrenic with emotions.
But the really big thing that made me lie away with anxiety was that I would be discharged in the morning. I would be going home without my babies. After almost ten years of trying to get pregnant, four months of bedrest and anticipations, seven weeks of being confined to a hospital bed and hoping that they wouldn’t come early, and five days of watching my children struggle to breathe and live, I was now expected to go home with nothing but a scar from the emergency c-section. Oh, yeah and my giant heavy heart.
So yeah, sleeping was not on my agenda.
I made my way over to the NICU just before the change of shift began. The night nurses were getting ready to go home and the day nurses were coming in to get updates on their tiny patients that they would be caring for during the next 12 hours.
My little girl managed her breathing overnight by continuing to breathe 21% oxygen.
I was so relieved to hear that she did not need to go back on the C-PAP to help her breathe.
My boy was stable, but barely. It had been only 48 hours since they inserted the tube into his tiny little chest to alleviate the pressure that was building in his chest from the hole in his lung. It was still too early for the hole to have healed. His bilirubin numbers were creeping up. He still hadn’t had a bowel movement. But then again, he still hadn’t had any nourishment other than the enhanced IV. He was also losing some weight. Losing weight is normal for most newborns, but it can be devastating for a premature baby who is already underweight.
I told the nurse that I was sad because I would be going home later that day and I had wanted to hold my daughter a little more that morning. The nurse had asked me to give her a moment because she had to take care of something and she scurried off.
The next thing I knew she was struggling with a screened partition.
“Mrs. Quinn, we have a very special surprise for you. Your daughter is strong enough for skin-to-skin contact. Remove your top and you can wrap this blanket around your shoulders.”
I could hardly believe that I would be able to truly hold one of my babies, literally, near my heart. This should have happened 5 days ago, moments after they were born. That experience was robbed from all of us! They don’t know the sound of my heartbeat from outside of the womb, they don’t know my scent, my touch, my kiss. We never had a chance to bond. And that killed me. All of that had been stolen from us.
While this wasn’t the same, there was no way that I was going to squander the opportunity to begin an inconsistent and jagged bonding experience with my child.
After a few minutes of adjustments, she pulled my daughter out of the incubator and placed onto my bare chest.
She felt so warm and so tiny on my bare bosom. She snuggled her little body into a comfortable position. And there she rested for the next 20 minutes.
For the first five minutes I was a basket case! I worried about the monitors and kept a close eye watching her oxygen saturation levels, heartbeat, temperature and respiration. Much to my amazement, her numbers actually improved. When I saw how relaxed she had become by reading the numbers on the monitors, I began to relax to0.
I remember thinking to myself “So this is what a mom is supposed to feel like.” For those 20 minutes, only she and I existed. There were no nurses running back-and-forth, there were no other babies in the NICU and they were no beeping machines and no flashing monitors . It was just her and I simply sitting there spending time with one another.
There are no words that can express this feeling that I felt. Suffice it enough to say that I felt complete and rejuvenated.
This was heaven and I was in love.
But soon, my time was up. It was time for her to get back into her incubator. I felt a pang of sadness as they moved her back into her little box. But I was suddenly overcome with sheer exhaustion.
I felt utterly and completely exhausted. I NEEDED to get back to my room and lie down.
I stopped by my son’s incubator before I left the NICU. I longed to hold him in my arms, I longed to see his tiny face, in it’s entirty without any tubes and wires. I longed to hold him close to me and snuggle with him as I had snuggled with his sister. I whispered that he needed to hurry up and get better because his mommy wanted to hold him.
I groggily shuffled back to my room, it was barely 8AM.
As I tucked myself back into my hospital bed, I could still feel the outline of her little body on my chest. I wanted to hold on to that feeling forever.
As I drifted off the sleep, I had a sneaking suspicion that she robbed me of my energy. I had never felt so unbelievably exhausted. But it was a good exhaustion. And I drifted into a very deep sleep.