At some point on Sunday, when we were still in a holding pattern, I opened my mouth and said with a complete lack of irony that we were “waiting for Zoe”.
It took four days to “get” Zoe, and during that time I spent many hours in the NICU feeding, holding, and getting comfortable with her. I held her as much as the IVs and the blue light therapy windows let me. Toward the end I made a point of showing up for every feeding with at least some pumped colostrum or breast milk, because I knew in my bones it would help. At first it was only 3ml, then it was 10ml, and toward the end I had a full ounce. Getting her away from formula was one of the tangible, helpful things that I knew only I could do, and so I did it.
Waiting would have been harder if I’d been less exhausted; as it was, my own fatigue kept me in and out of consciousness for the first part of the hospital stay. From Saturday night to Monday afternoon, I didn’t eat — wasn’t allowed to — and I didn’t walk until Monday evening. Sleep came fitfully. I didn’t want sleep. I wanted my daughter.
The L&D nurses were incredibly kind. I’m sure it’s fair to say they’ve seen all this before and will see it all again and I wasn’t anything new to them. The NICU nurses blew me away with how confident they were with even the tiniest tiny baby, but of course they have to be. Even though people who see Zoe now say, “Oh, she’s so little!” — compared to some of the babies in the NICU, she looks like a linebacker. She was the biggest baby in the NICU at that time, and she was six pounds, three ounces when we took her home.
I made it clear to the NICU nurses that I’d never held a newborn before (I really haven’t, aside from very brief moments with my friend’s children), that I felt awkward and uncertain, and they quickly swooped in to help. It’s fair to say that most of the confidence I have now with handling Zoe comes from the hours I spent there, with several extremely capable women holding my hand and showing me how it’s done.
For all that, I also found the NICU frustrating. At times it seemed like there was no good reason for Zoe to be there, and toward the end an error in her chart (“apnea” — it was intended for another infant’s chart) almost kept her there another night, compounding the sense that this was a formality, not a necessity. The initial reason — her glucose levels — resolved in less than 10 hours. The extended reason — a blood culture that took 48 hours — turned out to be nothing.
So in the end, my daughter was in the NICU for no truly good reason other than a doctor decided she should be there. I know this is just how hospitals work, especially in the case of little, little babies. Take no chances. I wouldn’t want them to risk my daughter’s health just because I’m obstinate and a bit impatient.
It’s still incredibly frustrating. When I see the fading blood pricks on my daughter’s heels, or the remnants of tape around her ankles, I’m reminded that we spent our first 24 hours apart….
…and then I make up for it by holding her as much as possible. It’s all I can do.
We’ve stopped waiting. We are home and safe. The hospital did its job.
Now it’s time for me to do mine.