So much of Jude's 10 days in the NICU is a complete blur to me now. While in the thick of it, it was all that consumed my mind and now I guess I've just blocked it out!
Lets go back to when Jude was first taken to the NICU. After delivery I was able to see Jude for just a few seconds while I was still on the operating table. He was tiny and adorable and nothing seemed weird to me. Looking back at pictures that Cameron took I now see how purple he was! I'm so glad I wasn't able to see him like that or I would have been even more of a mess then I already was.
He was taken up in his isolette and was put into the B pod #28. I swear we had some of the best nicu nurses in the whole hospital. By the time I was able to see him he was already hooked up to all sorts of monitors -- O2 monitor on his foot, CPAP for his oxygen, chest monitors to check his heart rate, iv for fluids, and a feeding tube. So much for such a small boy! And to top it off, the top of his isolette was down to help keep his temperature up so it felt weird and almost like a casket. Sorry that's totally morbid, but it was so hard to see. So when I first saw him I was still in a bed because my spinal was still wearing off. I was able to put my hands through the side holes to touch him. My natural instinct was to gently rub my finger on his head, belly, back or arm which I was chastised about a couple of times. I was told to just put one hand cupping his head and the other on his feet and just sit like that. NICU babies prefer to have constant pressure rather then the stroking which can irritate them. This was so hard for me because he was making a whiney sound which happens when they are struggling to breath. I just wanted him to know I was close and that I loved him so much. It felt so impersonal to just sit with hands on either end. How would he know it was me? Could he hear me talking to him through the thick plastic of the isolette? Could he tell the difference between my hands and the nurses? How can I just let this nurse who looks like she's younger then me with no kids take care of my baby? (No offence to Danielle, she was amazing!) But really -- that was my job. I was his Mom. I should know what it best for my baby. She was telling me everything that I could and could not do with my own (third) baby! Then comes the worst part - how do you decide when is a good time to just leave your struggling baby so you can just go sit in a cold empty hospital room? I felt like a failure.
I visited Jude a couple times that first day. Having him in the NICU got me up and moving after surgery really quick. The first couple times I would have the CNA take me in the wheelchair, but that just became really inconvenient. I wanted to go when I wanted to go. Not when they had time. So I would push the wheelchair myself and have Cameron push me back if I was too tired. Back and forth we went down the empty hospital halls from my post partum room to B28. They would allow 4 people to be at his bedside at a time so usually Cameron would go and take guests to see him. Our parents were able to go without us, but that was it. Everyone else had to be with either Cameron or me to be in the NICU. The nurses were all very used to us and knew to always give updates!
The next day I was finally able to hold Jude doing Kangaroo care. I put him against my chest under my hospital gown. His heart rate got more regular and his breathing slowed. He knew his Mama. Finally, I was holding this boy who I had been carrying for so long and he felt so perfect in my arms. I didn't even care about having to work around all the cords and hoses - he was mine and he was perfect. Putting him back in his bed was SO hard! I just wanted to steal him, but I knew that he needed to stay there and get stronger.
That night when I went to visit him the night nurse (who I hated) had lowered the isolette top because his temperature was a little bit low. I was so angry at her and I just stood next to his bed with my hands in the holes bawling my eyes out. That was probably the lowest point for me with the whole experience. The nurse wouldn't tell us what was going on, she seemed distracted, and didn't care about my baby. Brenna, the day nurse let me hold him, so why wouldn't this evil witch? Harsh I know, but seriously she was awful. We didn't stay long that visit because it was killing me having the top down and not being able to kiss him.
After 4 days he was taken off CPAP thanks to Lynn and Shannon, our amazing nurses that decided to try and lower his oxygen to see how he would do! No more nasal cannula or annoying oxygen machine going constantly! This was a HUGE step! Now he just needed to start eating enough and he would be able to go home or at least that's what we thought. He was quite jaundice so he ended up being in a light blanket and having the light shine on him which meant we didn't get to hold him much.
Shannon let me nurse him and he latched quickly. I was so nervous because it had been days and he hadn't been able to try. And with him being early, we weren't sure how his sucking reflex would be. He did great, but tired very easily. They thought the best thing would just be to continue doing the feeding tube so we could see just how much he was getting and hopefully he would be able to come home sooner. He was only being fed breast milk through the feeding tube, which I was very specific about. I was producing plenty so there was no need to feed him anything else. Heck, I could feed the whole nicu with how much milk I was sending to them!
Now I was being discharged. After 5 days I wasn't going to just be down the hall and able to walk to see him whenever he had a care time. I was a blubbering mess. How could I leave him in this big scary hospital?! How can I just go home and sleep through the night and doing normal things with the older boys and just act like I didn't have a brand new baby? And how on earth could people ask me if I was so glad to be home?! Who would be glad to be home and leave their baby in the hospital!
Trying to figure out a schedule of going back and forth between Cameron and I was tricky. He was amazing and would go before work, on his lunch break with me, and then after the boys were in bed. Jude did better taking a bottle from him and wouldn't fall asleep as quickly if Cameron was there. Plus, I was super emotional and going to the hospital to leave again was super difficult for me.
Jude was then moved to a less intense part of the NICU now that he wasn't on the oxygen and didn't need help regulating his body temp. He had his own room that had a couch and tv so we could hang out in there. This was much easier to take the boys to visit. One of his nurses on this side decided that on day 8 she would take out the feeding tube. He just had to be able to drink 50ml in less then thirty minutes at each feeding. And he couldn't lose any weight; and they weigh in grams so even 1 gram down could mess everything up! If he could keep this up for 48 hours then he could go home! Finally a light at the end of this long dark tunnel.
Day 9 he was given his circumcision and Hep B shot. This was it -- the only do these things when they are planning to discharge the baby soon! He was going home tomorrow as long as he didn't lose any weight! We also were told to bring his car seat in so they could do the car seat test. He had to sit in the seat for at least 30 min attached to the monitors and couldn't have any de-sats. He passed the test with flying colors. Patty our nurse weighed him and he had gone down 2 grams. I was freaking out!! She reweighed him a couple times to see if it would be different, but it wasn't. Were they going to make him stay again?! The doctor came in and asked us if we felt like he was ready to go home. Of course we said yes and he agreed that he was going to be able to go home the next day around noon! HALLELUJAH! He would finally going to graduate from the NICU!
The next day was May 21, 2015. Still 22 days before my due date and 10 days after he was born and he was coming home! I kept my phone close by and on loud until I got the call from the nurse that she was ready with all his discharge papers! She finally called just as we were going to lunch. I figured it would be better for everyone to eat so that way no one was grouchy at the hospital. We ran to Jason's Deli with the boys and my parents and I was so excited I could hardly eat!
We got to the hospital and the boys were so excited! We kept telling them they needed to walk down the hallway, but they just wanted to run to see their brother! We got to his room and the nurse started emptying out his crib, giving us left over milk, and let me get him all dressed in his coming home outfit! It was still giant on him! He was only 6lbs 3oz! Patty took pictures for us and then it was time to put him in the car seat WITHOUT all the monitors! Cameron went to pull the car to the front and the nurse and I got the boys down to the lobby! It was such a surreal experience putting 3 boys into our super cool minivan. We took a selfie in front of the hospital to send to our families and you can see how happy we all are! We finally made it -- Jude was finally coming home!