Giant, deep, cleansing breath........Ahhhhhhhh!!!!! Our baby is home with us!
On Monday, the nurse on duty for Elijah told me that since he had been stable without any oxygen supplement for more than 24 hours, that he would probably be going home Tuesday. I was afraid to get my hopes up, but she offered me the opportunity to room in with Elijah on Monday night and I jumped at the chance. I imagined time to snuggle and nurse and just be close to him that night...but it wasn't exactly how it turned out. I was offered the fully reclining chair that is available in the hospital rooms and we were set up in the negative pressure room in the NICU (usually used for babies who end up having to come back to the hospital after being discharged.) The chair/bed was worse than the worst college futon. I started out feeling great and ended up feeling like my back was going to go out. And it's strange to me that that could happen, considering that I only slept about an hour and a half all night. I did get to snuggle a little, but Elijah was still hooked up to 3 different sensors with cords running to the monitor, so it wasn't exactly easy. Also, there was NO nursing... The day he got the hang of the bottle and was making the doctors and nurses happy, was the day he started refusing the breast. Great. Every time I would start to doze off the monitor would start going off saying his oxygen was low...but I learned that these were all false alarms caused by active feet or a funny sleep position. So, all night I would have the huge rushes of adrenaline with every monitor bleep and it was making me an exhausted wreck. I finally told the nurse at 6:30am that I was going to go home for a nap and a shower and would be back that afternoon to pick up Elijah if we got the go ahead. So, I went home to my toddler (I'm sure you can guess what happened to my nap option) and held my breath until I heard the doctor say that he was discharging Elijah.
At 12:30pm I got a call from the social worker at the hospital and she said, "So, I hear Elijah is coming home today!" I said, "Well, that's what I hear but I'm not sure if it's official or not yet." She said, "It's official, because they called me to follow up with you and see if you had any questions!" (Insert happy dance break here.) Charles and I took Christian over to a friends house for a playdate and headed to the hospital around 3pm. There was one last question I had before bringing Eli home, so I put in a call to the Lactation Consultant at the hospital.
I will state for the record that Lactation Consultants are a blessing from above and I'm not sure how anyone can hang in with long term nursing without having one. I told the consultant, Bridget, about Elijah's nipple confusion (sometimes called bottle preference), and that it was my intention to get him back to nursing right away. She suggested transitioning with a nipple shield and said for me to get one and she'd meet me at the hospital to show me how to use it. The nipple shield works like nursing, but with a silicone shield that gives the baby a little bit more to latch onto, with a texture more similar to a bottle. We discovered that he was also frustrated with the slower flow of the breast, and so Bridget pulled another magic trick out of her hat and showed me how to supplement the initial feed with some breast milk in a syringe and some french tubing (a very fine, thin type of tubing.) Within 10 minutes, we had him nursing like a champion again!!!!! AND, by the time I got home, Eli was latching onto the nipple shield and nursing without the help of the tubing and milk-filled syringe! Genius. This alone was making me a happier girl.
As we left the hospital, I was told that it was policy that I be wheeled out in a wheelchair with the baby in his car seat, on my lap. I was more than happy to oblige. When I was discharged from the hospital and Eli had to stay, there was no wheelchair and no baby. I walked out to the car with just myself, my bags and my hospital bracelets. It struck me how different this was than when I got to leave the hospital with Christian as a baby. That was when I started to lose it. But, now I got a "Do-Over". Whew! Thank God for Do-Overs...every once in a while I guess life gives you one- just like when you're a kid and you don't like the outcome of something and you yell, "No fair...Do-Over!!!" I got my Do-Over. :)
Once we were at home and I got settled in with Elijah to nurse and snuggle and Breathe, Charles left to go pick up Christian. I loved just that little bit of time for me and Eli- it was a nice moment. Charles and Christian got home and Christian came looking for me. I emerged holding Elijah and Christian's eyes got wide, "What's that, Mommy?" I yearn to know what he thought his baby brother would be like (a full grown toddler maybe??) I said, "This is your baby brother, Elijah." Christian wanted to get really close and said, "He's sleeping." I told him that Elijah had gotten him a present and asked if he would like to open it. He said yes and tore through the tissue paper in the gift bag to get to his present. It is one of those non-breakable, digital, toddler cameras. He was thrilled and said, "Thank you Elijah!" He proceeded to take picture after blurry, close-up picture of his own face and the walls (He was holding it backwards.) Charles joked that it was like an Austin Powers move, because he would hold out the camera every which way and... FLASH! (Insert Austin Powers' voice: "See? I'm so groovy I don't even have to look at what I'm shooting!") I couldn't stop smiling and I think the dark circles and drawn look to my face that had accumulated over the past week started disappearing right that very moment.
I am Home. And all of my boys (minus our furry boy Buddy, who will always be here in our hearts) are here with me. Our house seems so quiet and peaceful when compared to the constant bustle, bleep-bleeping monitors and harsh overhead florescent lights of the NICU. Our first night and day together have been blissful. I even got a chunk of sleep last night- a stretch of 4 hours, then a 3 hour stretch and an extra hour at the end. Nursing is taking a long time because Elijah keeps falling asleep- about an hour- but, I really don't mind it when I don't have to be anywhere. ...And it's really nice to not have to be anywhere... Hopefully, he'll wake up more in the next couple for weeks and that nursing time will shrink. We will see. This experience has forced me into living for just Right Now.
Right Now, I am loving being home with all of my babies- one big, one medium and one Peanut.
...And it is BLISS...