When I walked in Grace was under the blue light again for her jaundice. My heart sunk. I was really hoping for her to be released that morning. Each day, I imagined the same thing. I’d walk in the NICU to Grace’s bed to find her free from all her wires and cords. Then one of the sweet nurses would pop out with balloons and a giant card saying, “Congratulations! Your baby is going home!”
That never happened.
Instead, I began to prod and push. “What is keeping Grace from going home? Besides the jaundice.” I asked the nurse. The day before I had a great nurse who showed me the going home checklist. Parents were required to watch a movie about taking care of NICU babies. We watched it immediately, not wanting anything to keep us from going home.
I knew we were waiting on a blood test to come back with the bilirubin count for her jaundice. “Well besides the jaundice, it’s all about eating at this point,” the nurse told me. “Grace is breathing great. She doesn’t need the oxygen. But she has to be able to either take a certain amount with a bottle or be able to nurse.”
Four days earlier, they had let me nurse my baby. She latched on immediately and seemed to be a good eater. But like any new baby, she wanted to fall asleep while doing it. Honestly, she had all the more reason to do so. The poor thing had to stay in her isolette (NICU bed) unless she was eating. We weren’t allowed to sit around holding her – NICU policy.
So when her mama was finally able to hold her skin to skin, don’t you think that sweet baby girl was going to settle in and rest?
“Grace eats just fine. I told the nurse. She just falls asleep sometimes and can’t finish nursing in the allotted 30 minutes y’all have given me to do it.” I thought of all the times I had the same issue with both Colin and Faith when trying to nurse them. No one stopped me from leaving the hospital then.
While I knew they had rules in place to assure the health and well being of my child, it was hard not to be frustrated.
“How about you let me keep Grace on my schedule today?” I pleaded.
She didn’t have the authority to allow that, but told me she would check with the head nurse. After what seemed like forever, the nurse returned denying my request, but did take away the blue light saying Grace’s levels were in normal range. “I want to speak to the head nurse myself,” I told her. I wasn’t giving up that easily.
I knew I wasn’t winning any friends, but I was SO over it by this point. Grace had been in the NICU 10 days. She was breathing fine and had been for a few days. The only thing that kept me from bringing her home was the eating issue.
An hour later, the nurse returned with the head nurse. She was stern with me and wouldn’t agree to let me take her home, but said I could hold Grace as much as I wanted and could feed her on my schedule. They agreed to remove her feeding tube so I could exclusively nurse or use a bottle.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was going to be able to sit in a glider all day and hold my baby. All. Day. Do you understand how big this was? Up until then, I held her in increments of 30 minutes whenever it was feeding time. Not sure if I wanted to jump on the chair and fist pump the air or sit in it and sob happy tears, I just grinned.
All day I rocked my precious girl. I talked to her in soothing tones and kissed her little face. All. I. Wanted.
I nursed her without time limits. I snapped pictures of her little face with no tubes and emailed them to Alan and all my friends.
After lunch, I asked if Grace could do the car seat test. NICU babies must sit in a car seat for a certain amount of time while their heart rate is monitored to make sure they can handle it. Some of the tiny preemies don’t do so well with this. Grace passed with flying colors, sleeping through most of it.
By late afternoon, the head nurse came by to tell me Grace would be released first thing in the morning. “But why not tonight?” I asked.
“We usually release babies in the morning, not the evening,” she explained. I just looked at her, my eyes pleading.
After a call to the doctor, the head nurse formed the words I’d been waiting to hear for 10 days –“You can take your baby home.”
I don’t think she was expecting me to jump up and hug her, but I did. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!” I gushed.
“She is coming home!!!!!!!!!!!” I texted Alan.
He loaded up the kids and headed to the hospital, while I dressed Grace for the first time in real clothes. Sliding her tiny arms and feet into a pink and brown polka dotted outfit, I’m sure I giggled. She was so cute. And we were going home. We were going home!
Soon we walked out of the hospital with our baby girl. Alan snapped her car seat into the base. In my mind, in the dreams I’d had of leaving, he had already done it a million times. Colin looked over the seat at his newest sister with a gaze of amazement, while Faith looked at Colin as if to say, “Is this for real?”
We left one car at the hospital instead of splitting up to drive two home. “I just want to drive my ENTIRE family home. That’s all I want. All five of us.” Alan explained. We could deal with the other car later.
Walking into the house was heavenly. We let the kids take turns holding Grace and vowed we would hold her hour upon hour to make up for lost time. And we did. We still are.
It’s easy to forget how rough those first 10 days of her life were. Now she is full of personality and life. Her lungs work great – she proves it every day.
Looking back on those times now, I realize somewhere along the bumpy road we found it.
We found Grace.
Thank you all for sticking with me this week as I shared Grace’s story. I hope you enjoyed it. I wrote about a lot of these things in the book Your First Year of Motherhood. You can find it under my Published Works page.
I hope you’ll stick around. If you don’t already receive an email subscription to Sheep to the Right, you can sign up in the upper righthand corner of my website. You’ll only get emails when I post something new.
Find someone today and tell them how much they mean to you. 🙂 You all mean a lot to me. Thank you for your encouragement and comments.