Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bringing Home Baby: The Walking Dead ...

The start of something special ...
When Beatrice Kate was in the NICU and I would spend a small portion of every two hours in the "Mothers' Lounge" pumping, I passed the time by watching bits of television shows. We don't have cable at home; so I seized the opportunity to watch my favorite trash-TV while making milk! One of these shows was TLC's "Bringing Home Baby", where a television crew would follow around a couple and their new baby in the first 48 hours after coming home from the hospital.

I would pump, watch the show, tear-up and dream of what it was going to be like when she was finally discharged. I (very typically of me) had grandiose visions of what those first few hours, days, weeks would be like for us. We wanted more than anything to have our baby home, snuggled in bed next to us, taking walks outside with us, heck- just being in the same room with us without a nurse being 2 feet away!

I thought merrily of the time that she and I would spend bonding while she breastfed, or how she would sit perfectly still while Casey read stories to her. I looked forward to being welcomed home by our friends and family with a giant pink stork in our yard and a ribbon on our mailbox.

And then reality happened ...

On April 28, 2010, we happily, and quite surprisingly, welcomed Beatrice Kate home. I sat in the backseat with her like all normal new mommies, for the ride home; partially so I could help her if she refluxed during the trip and partly because well, I just still couldn't believe that she was really going home with us.
Your chariot awaits, Madame
There were no ribbons or storks, no fan fare awaiting our arrival. In fact, our first visitors didn't come until three days later-but that was okay. Bea's discharge caught us all off guard- but of course, we were absolutely thrilled to have her home. Casey and I relished the quite time we had just getting to be a family in those first days.

Before I go on with the story, it's important to note that North Carolina weather is incredibly unpredictable. Yes, we brought Bea home in late April- but in typically bizarre fashion, Raleigh was hit with a major cold front that night and the overnight low was in the high 20s.

That being said- one of the main points that was stressed to us before discharge was keeping Beatrice Kate warm; so she could channel all her energy into growing instead of keeping warm. As my father so lovingly said, "Turn up the heat, your house is always freezing." It's true. My husband thinks that keeping our heat on 68 is pushing the limits of household warmth.

Another thing that the discharging neonatologist (Dr. Parsons, who is awesome) advised us on before leaving, were the signs of Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Because Beatrice Kate had such severe reflux (we yet to find out just how severe), it was important for us to recognize these signs early and take action if they occurred.

Note to all medical professionals: This was a very sufficent way to freak out new parents. Every hiccup, sneeze, cough or gasp was taken to be a sign of RDS.

Anyway, we got her home, bundled her up and looked forward to our first night. As nightfall came, we changed her into her first set of home pajamas, swaddled her, covered her in blankets, put a cap on her and placed her in the Co-Sleeper next to me on the bed. Then we turned off the lights and...

She made a noise. The words of my good friend Eva started ringing in my ears, "The first few nights home will be the best and the worst nights of your lives."... I turned on the light to see if she had stopped breathing or was experiencing RDS, which of course, she hadn't, and then re-settled back into bed.

Ten minutes later, she didn't make any noise. So, we turned back on the lights and checked her pulse through the soft-spot on her head. It was still strong and beating. Back to bed we went.

15 minutes later... time to eat again. Bea starts crying to I get up to feed her, pump (NICU Moms tend to have an oversupply of milk from all the pumping!), wash everything and go back to bed.

5 minutes after that... Bea starts refluxing, needs the bulb aspirator to get out the mucus. After that I was too freaked out to put her back in her bed, so we switched to the Bobby lounger (in the picture at the top). This chair allowed us to incline her to a nearly upright position.We had gotten so used to the hospital monitors and alarms telling us when something was wrong that we were petrified that we would somehow not know if she were in distress.There were no doctors or nurses reassuring us that she was doing great. It was just two, incredibly inexperienced and scared new parents trying to figure it out on our own.

This entire wake-up, check for breathing, is she alive? process played over and over that night. The next morning, we looked like this:
Tired, but happy
 That afternoon we took her to her first Pediatrician's appointment:
Where we got our first Priolsec prescription and first post-discharge weight gain. She gained 15 grams overnight and we felt relief that the NICU wouldn't be knocking on our door to take her back.

We were in the honeymoon phase of having a baby at home for about 3 days and then we learned a hard, fast lesson in sleep deprivation: After a day or two, you think, "Hey, this isn't so bad"; then, as if you've been karate-chopped at the knees, you're laid out on the floor wishing for just a little rest...

After those first few days, our friends and family didn't hear much from us. That's because for the next roughly six weeks, Casey and I alternated sleeping on the couch with Bea in our arms, waking every 45 minutes. We turned into zombies. I took the weekday nights, coming into the bedroom after Casey got up to get dressed and spent her first nap time like this:

On the weekend nights, Casey spent a lot of time like this:

Casey would come home from work some days to find both Bea and I in tears and covered in breastmilk. Her reflux was so terrible that she would scream out in pain, refuse to eat and couldn't lay flat on her back to sleep. I shuffled around the house in a fog, with a tiny baby in my arms 24/7. I was like Ralphie on Christmas morning when our Baby Hawk arrived in the mail. I could strap her on my chest and once again regain use of both my arms!!

Daddy modeling the amazing baby carrier
I remember telling a friend of mine that it must have been an evolutionary design that babies are so cute and snuggly, because when they're screaming at 2 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 3 a.m., and so on, mothers would eat them otherwise.

Who's a rascal? Little ol' me?
Luckily, things got a lot better after those first initial weeks. Slowly, Beatrice Kate began to sleep in two-three hour chunks in our arms. Then, through the help of an elevated sleeping surface and adding in Zantac to her medicine regimen, she began to only wake up two or three times a night and I could sleep in the same bed as my husband. Now, she'll sleep an astounding 12 hour stints. Of course, she's still swaddled when she sleeps  and she hardly ever naps during the day but progress is progress!! And, she's still just as stinkin' cute:

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I have watched Bringing Home Baby as well as Make Room For Multiples. It sure didn't prepare me. Those first weeks were so so hard. I am so thankful for a good routine and sleep now.