Suffice to say I am still reeling from Tristan's pregnancy, birth and NICU stay. I can't believe that I ended up with the 'trifecta' of a complicated pregnancy, birth and sick baby. I thought I would have caught a break somewhere, right?
I've been pretty..proud...I guess would be the word..too proud of being a 'been there, done that' mom. "I have 7 kids, I know most everything." Well this experience with Tristan was a God-slap upside the head. In the NICU it really didn't matter that I had 7 other children, aside from being a conversation starter. It didn't matter that I spoke 'the language' (thank you nursing school) and understood what they were doing to my baby and saying to me. My baby was sick and for the first 28 hours....really sick. Scary sick. I don't think anyone really understands what the feels like until it is you. What a great equalizer the NICU turned out to be. I, the *experienced mom*, was no different then the first timer across the ward. My fear and hers were the same. "Will my baby be alright?"
Silent camaraderie. That would be the best description I could come up with. The NICU is not a happy place. I doubt that is a shocker to anyone. It is a place of tension, anticipation, sadness, loss and hope. It isn't a place of conversation (except when I am in there :D) it is a place of observation. We watch our babies, we watch other parents walk in and out, we watch other babies, we watch the staff with our baby and with the others, we watch the damn monitors. The walking wounded. The moms shuffling in in their pajamas. Just given birth, supposed to be holding a sweet smelling newborn with friends and family hovering and bringing gifts. Rest, recover. MMMMM....nope. Instead she finds herself treading up and down hospital halls. From room to NICU, back to room, back to NICU. Eat? Maybe if she remembers. Rest? Forget about it. Standing (maybe sitting if there is a free chair) next to a NICU warmer isn't restful. Back in her room, in her bed. Anxiety and worry are what awaits in the quiet. Who can sleep not knowing what is happening down in the NICU? Then there is the pumping. Instead of nourishing her warm, wonderful newborn she is putting plastic cups on her breasts and hooking herself up to a machine. It isn't easy waking up to a nurse a baby in the middle of the night, waking up to pump in a dark, lonely room is a lot harder. She'll never catch up either. If she is lucky enough to go home with her baby, then the normal day-day newborn exhaustion kicks and if the baby stays in the NICU? then it is the back and forth to the hospital.
Even without chatting with the other parents you do get to know their babies. Max doesn't like to be changed, Braden tends to spit up, Rhylan pulls out her feeding tube......Even after leaving with my healthy baby I still think about these other little ones and Tristan was nowhere near the really sick little ones. I wonder how they are, how there parents are, have they gone home? In the grand NICU scheme, our experience wasn't any big deal. Tristan was full term and only stayed 6 days. He wasn't a micro-preemie who stayed months or a baby who fought a massive infection and had tons of complications. I know that I am blessed it wasn't a lot more serious and I have a baby who is fine and with no long term effects. But when it is YOUR baby, 'it could've been worse' doesn't really matter as much.
Tristan may have been #8 but I learned more about life and myself with his pregnancy and birth then with any of the others before him.