Let's just say that during my pregnancy I became very familiar with possible pillow combinations and TV schedules. Sound fun? It wasn't. You know that antsy feeling you get after having a cold for a few days now multiply that by 7months. The deal was if I made it to 36wks I could come off bedrest. I made it to 34wks 4days.
I had spent many weekend days in the assessment room at labor and delivery. I knew the drill and even after the 4hrs I contracted (even on meds), I was sure I was going to be sent home. After every attempt to stop contractions failed they informed me (while Michael was out of the room getting a soda)that it was time to prep for my c-section. I had just been crying that if I had contracted 7hrs only to be sent home I'd be really sad.
I knew I was having a c-section, that she'd be early (my water broke on the table) and that she'd spend time in the NICU from the beginning of my pregnancy. But nothing prepares you for the onslaught on intense emotion brought on by giving birth followed by the sharp and surreal discomfort of not being able to hold and touch your child before she's whisked away.
Even writing about it now 5mon 2wks later it's overwhelming. She wasn't inside me anymore, I was empty and she was gone. I tearfully begged from 7am until 1pm before the NICU nurse agreed to let me hold and feed my baby. Those were excruciating hours. From the first time I held her until she left the hospital I was with her every 3hrs (except the 1am and 4am feeds).
While I was still in the hospital Michael's sister brought me a framed photo of Riley to keep by my bed. It was so strange to have only a picture of the human being I'd just given birth to. I still ache when I think of all the moms who took for granted the ability to have their baby rolled into their room. I climbed out of my bed into a wheel chair, signed out at the desk, went down the hall to the elevator, got off in the basement, went through the tunnel, into the children's hospital, got on the elevator, went up a floor, and into the NICU 6 times a day. The neonatologist applauded my "aggressive breastfeeding" and the nurses at my hospital lectured me about never being in my room and warned me about hemorrhage.
On the 3rd day they decided to discharge me. That was the first time I cried, but unfortunately not the last. I couldn't imagine leaving. I was discharged and after Riley's 10pm feeding I went home and Michael dropped me off the next morning (and all the mornings that followed)by 7am. I never left before 1pm and sometimes not until dinner time. Always back for the next feeding and I was never done for the day until 10 or 11pm. I packed a bag, never missed rounds and if I wasn't at Riley's bedside I was pumping.
The world did not turn those first 12 days of Riley's life. It was only her, Michael and I. Only the NICU. Notes about how much she ate, her lab results and how many wet diapers. Breastpumps, snacks in the hallway, waiting for feedings, night nurses, day nurses and tears (mine not hers).
Numbers..day of life, adjusted age, bilirubin levels, blood sugar, temperature in celcius, milliliters she ate, weight in grams, length, loss or gain, minutes breast fed, 1 hour per feeding, doctors round between these hours, number of brachycardic incidents, days until she can be discharged, ounces more to gain....
The stress of the those numbers and the countless panicked phone calls about all the stupid numbers. Living in 3hr intervals. And then one day very unceremoniously, it ended (the hospital stay, not the fear or stress about numbers).
I wasn't free from the fear and tyrannical numbers until the first pediatrician appointment. She was healthy and growing and mine to keep and hold and love not just during visiting hours, but for always.