A Half-Month In Pictures

I already wrote Michael’s birth story, but since I did it from the hospital on an iPad, I couldn’t put any pictures with it. Today is picture day: a half-month (almost) of my life, and all of Michael’s:

November 30, 2011

Christian killing time as we wait for the walk to the OR, around 8:15 p.m. The nurse accompanying us looks wide-eyed at me as I round the corners and walk like I know where I’m going…because by the fourth time, I do. 🙂

A quick glimpse, and then Michael disappears into the NICU.

December 1, 2011: Under the hood. Michael, in the NICU, under a heater and suffering from “tachypnia” (rapid breathing) and low oxygen saturations. He has an IV, a temperature probe (the heart), heart leads, and a pulsox. Soon to be added: NG tube for feeding.

On Friday, I take no pictures. Pretty much I cry all day. Just as well that nobody tries to visit. Bad enough falling to pieces in front of doctors and nurses, bad enough having complete strangers trying to hug you and make you feel better…doing it in front of family would be even worse. Because nobody can do anything to alleviate the suffering. Oh yes, and my milk starts coming in.

December 3: visit from the kids

In the morning, the staff decides that Michael has a “pneumothorax,” a partially collapsed lung. They put him on his tummy under the hood again and start pumping 100% oxygen in. It’s RSV season, so no kids are allowed in the NICU. No adults except parents and grandparents, for that matter. They wouldn’t even let great-Grandma in. Hence, almost all our visitors come to the window and view Michael through soundproof plexiglass.

Alex has control of the video camera. His finger is on the button when the curtain swishes open, and he gasps, “Oh! He’s so cute!” But of course, he doesn’t turn the camera on first.

After they leave for home, I return to the NICU and document some details: blood pressure cuff on a thigh…

…the hand recovering from a lost IV earlier that afternoon (the purple tube is the extension of the NG tube, through which he gets all his feedings by “gavage.”

…and the top of the “hood,” with the blue oxygen piping air into it.

December 5, 2011

Sunday, at last, I prevail in my pushing for nursing time. The pneumothorax has resolved, they’re weaning him off oxygen, although we’re stuck at 30% and can’t get off the last 9%. They put him on a cannula and we start nursing…some. Not all the time, though. Look at my poor baby’s heel. He’s black and blue with blood gas, blood sugar, and bilirubin sticks. I’m officially discharged from the hospital Sunday night at 11:20 p.m., and I continue on a day by day basis as a “house guest.” Hoping that sooner or later, I’ll get to nurse him around the clock.

December 7-9, 2011

Just when we think we’re on track to be going home Thursday, he drops his sats and we’re three steps back. Another crying day. But the last one. Slowly, he begins to improve, and around midday on the 9th, he’s finally wearing clothes, lying in an open crib, and un-oxygen-supported:

Now we only have to wrangle four delicate cords when nursing–the pulsox and the heart leads. After one false start, he passes his “car seat test, gets his hepatitis shot (finally). Saturday the 10th is Discharge Day. It begins with a formal permission to leave, pending circumcision…at 10 days old. I don’t remember it being so traumatic for the other two boys. Poor baby! My parents arrive late afternoon, and we make good our escape. Back at home, the kids arrive home from a show at the university and are wild with excitement. I can’t believe how big they all seem. But Michael’s asleep, so we send them to bed and they have to wait for morning for the big moment:

So there you go. That’s the story of a half-month, a half-Advent, and the beginning of life as a family of six. The drama’s not over, but at least it’s shifted to me and my health instead of his!