Hopefully, just a few days? Seriously?
I wasn’t sure what to focus on – the “hopefully” or the “few days.” This was SO not part of the plan. I was supposed to be sitting in my hospital bed with the world’s cutest baby while friends and family floated in and out with hugs and well wishes.
Who stole my reality? This was not the reality I preordered.
Later that afternoon, the doctor from the NICU stopped by my room for a visit. It just so happened that my BFF Allison (the respiratory therapist who worked in the NICU at another hospital) was in the room to hear everything he had to say. This was great later when I could question her at length because she understood everything he said.
He explained that Grace’s lungs were wet. He thought perhaps she didn’t get a good enough squeeze on the way out to push out the fluid. As the one who was doing the squeezing of the nine and a half pound baby, I knew better. No matter if she had wet lungs due to lack of squeeze or from being born four weeks early, the outcome was the same. The lungs couldn’t be expanded to full capacity since they were damp. In an effort to open them to full capacity and get enough air, Grace had to work hard at breathing, so her respiratory rate was too high.
Dr. Suskin explained how a special machine called the cpap would force air into the lungs and help them to dry. The idea was that once the lungs were dry, Grace would be able to breath easily on her own.
Hearing the doctor say Grace needed to be on cpap and seeing it were two different things. The contraption on my poor baby’s head looked like some kind of torture device. They had also given her a tube down her throat for feeding. The forced air from the cpap had her slightly foam at the mouth. It broke this mother’s heart.
Alan and I would sit for hours and watch Grace breath. I sent up desperate prayers – God please help my baby. Honestly, I couldn’t pray much more. I’m sure the Holy Spirit stepped in at this time.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26 NIV
When your child is sick, or let’s face it, when we go through anything unpleasant, the one thing you are dying to know is – how long? How long will this root canal take? How long will I have to wait in this line in 95-degree weather? How long will the chemo treatments last? How long?
I just wanted to know how long it would be until Grace was better. But no one could answer my questions. When I’d ask, they’d look at Grace and say, “It’s all up to her.” Or they would stare off above my head and shrug their shoulders. “You just never know about these things.” Not knowing was misery.
September 11, 2009 was a day of roller coaster emotions. When we arrived, Grace was not only hooked to the cpap, but had on the equivalent of baby blinders and looked like she was sunning under a blue light. She was jaundiced. It felt like things were getting worse.
We sat and watched, as we had done the day before, the nurse check lines and monitors, turning Grace ever so often. Then she looked at us and said, “Do you want to change her?”
“You mean I can touch her?” I asked in complete disbelief.
“Yes,” the nurse smiled at me, glad she could bring some comfort. I stepped towards my baby, blinking back the tears.
To think of all the times Alan and I had come up with elaborate plans of fooling the other into having to change the stinky diaper when Colin and Faith were little. It was a gift I had taken for granted. Not this time.
I pulled back the tabs of Grace’s Pamper, lifting her tiny legs, and relished the feel of her skin on my fingers. I swallowed the urge to scoop her out of the bed and put my face in her tiny neck, kissing her. But when I was done, the same nurse said, “Would you like to hold her now?”
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I wanted to drink in the moment. Alan and I took turns holding her, and later Colin and Faith even got to visit and confirm with their tiny scrubbed fingers that she, indeed, was real.
The elation of holding Grace and changing her diaper for the first time quickly dissipated when I realized I had to leave. September 11 was also the day I was discharged from the hospital, leaving my daughter behind. I can only describe it as having a piece of your heart cut out of your body and left behind. I wrote about it in more detail HERE.
For days, Alan and I went through the motions. Sleep (or at least try), shower, dress, eat, go to the hospital. Repeat.
My breaking point came one day when a different nurse encouraged me to stay home. “Don’t you have two other children at home? Don’t forget they need you, too.” Had she really just said that?
Come back tomorrow. I just may finish this story one of these days. 😉
Click HERE to read Part 4 of Grace’s story.