The intensive care nursery is a surreal place. It is a series of
small rooms with berths for the isolettes and cribs. Each berth has
monitors, stomach pumping vacuum pump hookups, hooks for IV bags, and
lots of electrical plugs. Inbetween the berths, the nurse's computer
stations were set up. And the people! Nurses everywhere (one nurse
for 2 babies), serious looking doctors consulting important looking
papers. And the parents-- wandering around in various states of
exhaustion, despair, denial, illness, and pain. ICN policy is
supportive of parents-- breastfeeding mothers get free meals,
unlimited parental visiting hours, breast pumping rooms and supplies,
open doctors rounds, overnight accomodations (on a pull out sofabed,
in the ICN's pump room, but at least the sheets are clean). Oh, the
babies! Most of them cloistered in their isolettes (one of the nurses
called them "baby houses"), but a few loud ones on plexiglass cribs.
LuLu spent most of her time in an isolette-- first because she was too
little to keep warm, and as she outgrew that, she had to stay in for
the jaundice lights. And the noise! Insistent, beeping alarms from
the baby monitors, hospital announcements (code blue, emergency
c-section, room 8...), crying babies (my milk came down almost
constantly) lots of talking (mostly loud parents). The nurses were
consistently patient, kind and helpful.
After I was discharged on March 8, we spent two more nights in the
pump room because we just couldn't stand the thought of staying home
without her. After a while the nurses told us to go home and sleep.
At this point I was a wreck-- crying all the time, pumping like a mad
woman, trying desperately to get her to nurse. She was still on the
IV and nasogastric tube. As the days wore on we got into a routine of
sleeping (and pumping) at home, and spending the days at the hospital.
She developed a heart murmur. After 6 days of treatment it finally
went away (which involved returning to the IV, and not eating while
the medicine did its thing). Everyday we asked the doctors when we
could go home, the answer was always the same-- when LuLu was ready.
She had to gain weight, she had to breath reliably on her own, she had
to kick the jaundice, she had to keep warm on her own, she had to
nurse well... the list seemed impossibly long but as the weeks dragged
on, she slowly ticked the items off her list.
At some point I stopped asking the doctors when we could leave, which
made the announcement that we could take her home all the more