Another Version of FourPosted: October 28, 2014
Today marks the four year anniversary of the first time I held Das Big Boy. That seems crazy, because it seems like forever that I’ve been slogging away at my whole “Post for every day that he was in the NICU” goal. I can’t believe I had to wait a whole week to hold my little dude. [NB: he’s is bed whining for me to come back, and I’m going to do so in honor of the gratitude I feel for being able to hold him whenever I damn well please.]
He just said to me, “I need a hug.” I don’t care if he’s working me. Swoon.
Anyway, one of the many things that sucks about the NICU is that you have to get permission to hold your kid, and doing so, especially when they’re teeny and need breathing support, is complicated and kind of scary. One of the things that’s awesome about the NICU, like life changingly awesome, is the nurses. I learned so much from them: not only how to place a naso-gastric tube in a baby, or change the diaper on a two-pound newborn with the flipping abilities of an Olympic gymnast, but how to love in the face of fear, how to have confidence in myself as a mother, how to fight for my child, and how to bathe a baby. Hey, unlike most parents, I wasn’t scared to give DBB his first bath at home, even though he was still on oxygen!
I still remember when D, one of our amazing primary nurses, asked me if I wanted to Kangaroo DBB. For those not in the know, Kangaroo care is when a parent holds a diapered baby on her naked chest for skin-to-skin contact. It yields amazing results for the babes (better oxygen saturation, increased tolerance of feedings, etc.), and obviously for parents, too. So when D asked me on DOL seven if I wanted to Kangaroo DBB, I was thrilled. Up until then, I hadn’t been allowed to hold him, as he’d been too fragile, first on the dreaded Oscillator and Nitric Oxide (not to be confused with nitrous oxide, aka, laughing gas, aka whippets), then on the regular ventilator. He’d only just been extubated to C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure, Columbia Presbyterian’s method of choice for delivering breathing support to preemies–it allows them to do the work of breathing, but makes it easier by keeping their airway open with, well, air. Your dad may also have one to help with sleep apnea, or snoring. My dad would probably want me to tell you that he has no such thing.)
Anyway, DBB had returned from the brink of death (and I mean this literally, not flippantly), but he wasn’t exactly a picture of health yet. So I was surprised when D asked if I wanted to hold him. “Are you serious?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m serious,” she replied.
“Are you sure? Is it safe?” One of the things that sucks about the NICU is you are afraid that your own yearning for your kid could hurt him.
“I see a baby on room air (note: this wouldn’t last–as you all know, DBB would go on to need some sort of 02 support for 14 months.) CPAP who’s tolerating his feeds and needs his mom as much as she needs him.”
I looked at Herr Husband, “Is it ok if I hold him first?” I asked. Keep in mind that other than birthing Das Big Boy and pumping enough breastmilk for quads (according to the nurses), Herr Husband had done just as much as I had on our journey to this point. More, maybe, if you consider that he fed my every dietary whim and emptied my bedpan seventy-six times a day and night while I was on hospital bedrest.
“Of course,” he said.
I needed no more urging. I closed our curtain, stripped down to my nursing bra, sat in the chair, and waited for D to unravel DBB’s million cords, pull him from the incubator, and place him on my chest.
“Look how comfortable he is,” she said.
He felt like a kitten. Perched on my left breast, which was at least double his size, he clung to me with his little nails. He turned his face towards mine and nestled in. Like all babies, preemies lose weight after they’re born and DBB was at his lowest ever (external) weight of two pounds that night. I marveled over his tiny fingers and toes, and sang to him, and told him how amazing he was and how much I loved him. He opened his eyes to look at me a few times, and then closed them again. His head, my mother insists, was the size of a clementine, although I think it was more like a navel orange. He had the sweetest little old man face. His warmth blended into mine and, as with so many of the major things in our lives, it felt like both an instant and an eternity. The first time I held my son. I was so nervous that my arms ached after D returned him to his isolette. I’d been afraid to move for fear of sending his oxygen saturation plummeting or jostling him and making him uncomfortable.
I’ve forgotten a lot of the anniversaries this year: the anniversary of when my water broke, of when I ran out of fluid for good, of when I hit twenty-five weeks and we knew that life saving measures would be taken if he were born. But I remembered this one. It’s one that does my heart good, just like holding my boy does to this day.