Puckering Up

Recently my mom and I met with the neonatologists who will be taking care of Gabriel from the moment he is born (literally…they will be in the delivery room for any “emergencies” and to take him to pump his stomach and start an IV to feed him intravenously…they didn’t say if or when I could hold him) to when he is discharged from the hospital. It wasn’t pleasant. In my family, we have a term to describe holding in tears to get through a moment without an emotional breakdown: puckering up. That’s also a good description of how it went.

I asked for a ballpark range of how long babies like Gabriel stay in the hospital. I was told there is no ballpark range to be given. All of Gabriel’s complications and the ever growing possibility of pre-term labor mean that no estimate can be given, but that I should “prepare for weeks”. Ultimately, the decision to leave the hospital is dependant upon Gabriel and his ability to feed and gain weight.

I can’t adequately describe the emotions (something like fear, sadness, angst) that come from seeing newborns in the NICU. Tubes, ventilators, “pods” to keep them from the outside world, incubators, parents having to scrub in and out like surgeons…and all alone. I’m having a very difficult time trying to cope with the thoughts of Gabriel being alone. He should be with me. I was told that it’s “not encouraged” for parents to stay overnight…because “you need your rest”. I’m sorry, but how am I supposed to go home and sleep in my bed next to an empty crib??? And while I’m still in postpartum in the hospital, they’ll HAVE to give me something to sleep. I don’t know how else I’ll “get some rest”.

I know it is “important” to be well rested and begin recovering so that I’m at my best for when he is able to come home…but seriously?? Imagine taking care of an unknown, unseen, innocent, and dependent baby for nine months in probably the safest environment they’ll ever be in. This little guy has made your body home, your body is no longer yours and it’s no longer about you. This is extremely evident when his foot gets stuck in your ribs and he reminds you he is there every waking moment of the night with kicks and hiccups and movements. Now imagine that a few days after he is born, you are discharged from the hospital, but he is not. You are told to go home and “get some rest” while he is in a pod, alone. You return to the same bed and room where you were kept awake by the miracle of kicks from within you…but those are no longer there. You are alone too. Empty womb, empty crib.

PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO DO THAT! Because I have no idea…

Thank God I have some more time before he is here, praying for at least five more weeks. And speaking of thanking God, the hole in Gabriel’s heart has either closed or is so small that it is undetectable for now. I had this appointment right after touring the NICU, it was a blessing on a day of puckering.

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