Sunday, November 28, 2004

Remembering the NICU

In honor of the birth of Julie's baby, my best NICU memory ever:

It was Sunday night. The babies had been born just after 11pm on Thursday, so even though the law guaranteed me 96 hours, I was being discharged the next morning. Thursday to Monday equals four days: Asshole Math. I had just survived three room changes in three days, my milk wasn't coming in for shit, and I ached all over. I also couldn't sleep for the scary belly rumblings as everything began searching for its original positions; apparently my reproductive organs just couldn't give up their habit of pursuing pipe dreams. So at 11:30pm, I pulled on this heavy fleece burgandy zip-up robe my mom had given me and shuffled down to the NICU, trailing visions of my grandmothers as I passed (it was that sort of robe). The halls were dark, the nurses' stations were glowing, and I finally saw the minifridges where all the snacks had been coming from. My universe was expanding.

After the nurses gave me permission to come in, and I'd washed my hands, I found myself in a peaceful nursery for the first time ever. Unlike the night of the babies' births, the room lights were dimmed and the noise level was muted. There were nurses talking in hushed voices while they sat on stools in clusters at the other end of the room, and halos of light over the babies at their stations. I finally learned that the stools had height-adjustment, so I could find a comfortable position right up next to the babies in their cribs (alas, on different sides of the room). Wilder was already in an incubator, Elba was asleep, but Gemma was fussing a little on her tummy -- tummy sleeping being just fine when you're hooked to a ventilator and enough monitors to handle incoming air traffic -- so I settled myself next to Gemma. For the next half-hour, I sat there in the near-dark, the woosh of the vent and the soft beep of the monitors keeping me company, while I cupped Gemma's body with my hand. With my fingers on one side of her back and my wrist on the other, I covered her torso from neckline to diaper. And under my hand, she drifted off to sleep.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Egad, that absolutely gave me chills. I know that shuffle down the hall, and that expansion of one's universe -- the first time I actually saw the nurses' station was the day I left the hospital.

It's a whole other world, the NICU.