Friday, December 10, 2010

The other baby in the room...

So, we knew we were destined for life in the NICU once things with my preeclampsia started spinning out of control. We accepted it and were as prepared as we could have been to have a baby, our baby, spend the first weeks of her life connected to monitors, living 45 miles away from us.

There was one aspect though, of NICU living that we neglected to consider. One of the things that is impossible to prepare for when you have a baby in the NICU is how you will react to the other babies who are also there. Sure, you're not really supposed to take notice of the other babies around you. As one nurse told us, "Just think of them as patients in their own little rooms," even though Beatrice Kate's neighbors were about 3 feet from her isolette.

But of course, we did notice them. We even became friends with several of the other parents. Spending hours and days hunched over our tiny babies has a way of bonding strangers into lifelong friends.  We recognized each others weary looks of concern and rejoiced with one another as each baby's milestones were reached.

There's a darker side to this friendship though. We didn't meet these parents at a playgroup. We were in a hospital. A hospital where, yes, most babies go home healthy (even if it's later than expected), but some babies don't. Some babies are just born sick or get sick during their stay.

When a baby  in our Pod began to take a turn for the worst, I found myself sick with worry for not only my child; but for the other children as well. The baby next to Bea's station began to develop NEC within days of his birth and would cry out in pain often. Another baby across the way, who weighed only around 600 grams (1.3 pounds), was moved into one of the isolation rooms because he seemed to always been on a slippery slope down. At Rex, we met a mother who went into labor expecting to deliver two healthy twins, only to lose one in the end.

I would sit next to Bea, snuggle her closer and say many prayers for those families, their babies and their health.

Naturally, we didn't meet every baby's parents. In fact, two of the babies in Bea's pod were rarely visited by their families. One was born addicted to cocaine. The other, born to a teenager, didn't recognize her daughter after an extended period away.

These mothers made me so angry. I knew that Beatrice Kate, like most of the other babies in our Pod, was born premature through no one's fault. Our circumstances were just bad luck and we spent all our energy trying to make the best out of it. But these other parents...not so much.

It's not my place to judge these mothers for their choices or actions. I can only say that I wouldn't wish a premature baby on anyone and would do everything in my power to prevent it from happening if I had the chance. Prematurity lasts longer than our time in the NICU. It's a condition that can have life-long effects.

But that's neither here nor there. The point I really want to make is that sometimes these "other babies" turn out to really be shining examples of God's grace.

Just last week, I was about to pop into a grocery store and I ran into a mother and her baby. I noticed that the baby was connected to oxygen tubing and she had his stroller covered by several blankets with "Please don't touch me" signs all over. I knew this look, so I asked, "Was your baby premature?".

Yes, she said. He was born at 24 weeks. I was really excited to see a 24 weeker out and about, and told her that mine was a 29 weeker! Eventually, through talking, we learned that her son was a UNC around the same time as Beatrice Kate! Then, when I asked her which Pod she was in and she responded, "Pod C", I nearly fell out! "Who's your baby?," I asked? When she told me, I instantly knew which one he was. He was the 600 gram baby. The one who spent so much time in the "mist-tent" (to keep his skin from tearing because he was born so early, it was too thin to be touched). The one who was moved to the isolation rooms. The one who, on the day we were transferred to Rex, took a turn for the worst and we overheard the doctors saying that he may not make it.

But he, like so many NICU alums, defied the odds. He was alive and he was thriving! I was so excited to see this baby. I was so thankful for his health-just as if we were back in the NICU.

On a related note, we had our first post-NICU check-up at UNC yesterday. We'll blog about the details on Sunday, Bea's 9 month birthday, but wanted to say that we bumped into one of the Clinic coordinators who told us that yesterday was, "a really good day for NICU alumni". She shared that, in addition to our chunky baby, she also saw a thriving 23 weeker come back for a check-up that day!

I told you, the NICU is a place of miracles!

1 comment:

  1. Bea is very lucky to have you for a mom and dad. I often wondered about some of our baby neighbors. I just hoped their parents visited when we were not there. And, how exciting that you ran into another NICU graduate.

    I will look forward to reading Bea's 9 month update. Have a great weekend!

    Amy, C and O