In Oaklee’s first month, we learned that our NICU journey would be hard the whole way through. We learned that no matter how well our baby was doing, this part of the journey was still next to unnavigable. We were making progress, yes, but we were exhausting ourselves with both the places we needed to be and the perception of the places we needed to be. We were exhausting ourselves with our responsibilities, our relationships and our minds.
People call breastmilk liquid gold, and I was blessed with an overabundance of it, but there are significant problems with a body that produces 8-14 ounces of breastmilk every 3-4 hours. There are especially significant problems when the baby who’s supposed to be taking that breastmilk is only taking less than 1 ounce at a time.
In the baby shower process, I learned this:
There are a lot of things you need. There are a lot of things you don’t need. When you’re in our situation – one that’s abnormal, stressful and unideal – you need the thoughtful, special gifts just as much as the practical ones. Love is never superfluous, and when a thoughtful, special gift embodies love, that’s a pretty important thing.
Three weeks postpartum and our lives are kind of a blur. When I try to recount these days, even referencing my journal, it’s majorly statistics – statistics that most normal parents don’t monitor quite so closely – that I remember. Oaklee weighed this much. Oaklee eats this much. Oaklee’s been on the CPAP this many days…
We’d begun to find our groove in the track no one wants to take, navigating yet another long term hospital stay. We were getting through each day simply to get through each day. Our constants were work, hospital, home and pumping.
Were we disappointed in a step back? Of course, but we also just wanted our baby to rest. A baby’s overall development depends so much on his/her sleep. In order for Oaklee to sleep well, she needed to not have to work so hard to breathe. Accepting this step back was like giving our daughter a break, telling her to just relax – she has time to get better.
It was somewhere around this date, in the hype of the medical jargon and the chaos of me going back to work, that I realized I needed to tell Oaklee I loved her. While, in so many ways, the doctors and nurses owned Oaklee, being able to provide better care for her than I could, I provided one very important thing they could never provide. Love.
7.3.17 “We’re so proud of how she’s doing so far and very optimistic about all of this. She has a great team taking care of her, which is a major blessing.” We felt optimistic about the progress Oaklee had made, having been switched to a vent on the first. We felt like parents, having finally …
On the 30th, the day after Oaklee was born, I spent most of my day trapped in my room on the OB Special Care Floor. In the morning, I asked my nurse to remove my IV. I was so excited to finally be rid of my shackle, but the nurse was shocked I had not yet been notified of my pending transfusion.
My hemoglobin was a 6. 12-15 is normal for women (10-14 during pregnancy), but between the pregnancy and the cesarean, I’d lost so much blood. They ordered two units of blood and asked me when I wanted to sit through the transfusion. Not realizing quite how long it was going to take, I suggested we start right away to get it over with. I wanted to be done focusing on my own medical needs so I could focus on my daughter one building away.
Dr. L made it very clear that our baby might not make it. There was nothing more they could do. Her lungs, the ones that had been constricted in her body that’d been shrink-wrapped in my waterless womb, were being put to the ultimate test 12.5 weeks short of the amount of time they needed to properly develop. They just weren’t ready.
Dr. L left us alone. We sat with the news like an elephant on our chests. It was 6:00 am. We hadn’t yet told our families we were going into delivery, let alone, that our baby had been born. We hadn’t even shared her name with a single person. And now we wondered if we were losing her.