Friday, February 26, 2016

Letters to Eila: Your NICU Experience

Eila,

I pre-registered for you to be delivered at Baptist East. There was no real preference - I basically chose it based on proximity to our house and nothing else. Dr. Riedley Malone forgot when she scheduled my C-Section and booked us at Methodist. I assured her that I was fine with that. In the back of my mind, I wonder if she did it on purpose. We were about to deliver a 36 week-old baby, and I remember her saying a few months back that one of the perks of Methodist is the NICU and being in the LeBonheur system. Eila, I could not have asked for a better experience, especially given the circumstances and your premie-status.

It took your mom and dad a little while to get acclimated to the beeps and alarms on the monitors. We learned scary words like "desat" and "tachypneic" pretty early on in our journey with you. Our days began to take on a routine. We'd arrive at the hospital anywhere between 7:30 and 10:30A (depending on how much sleep we needed) and I'd pump before your next feeding. Initially, you were on a feeding tube. We'd watch shows all day in this order - The Price is Right, Young and the Restless (family tradition), How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, and Friends. That schedule usually included a break for lunch and took us to dinner time. Some nights there were Grizzlies games. We gradually got to do more with you as the days went by. I started to hold you every day until we graduated to skin-to-skin. Then your feedings evolved from tube to bottle to breast + bottle. You tolerate all of them well, but because we are required to feed you a certain amount while in the NICU, we often had to supplement with formula. I am fine with that because I want you to grow and be strong! We will try to get into our breastfeeding groove when you're home.

Your nurses are amazing people. It amazes me how endearing and helpful they all were. Some of them had to double as therapists for me when I'd cry and say "what am I supposed to do without all of you here?!?!" Or, "I thought this would all come naturally. What do I do with her head?!" {Aside to moms: I am on your team if your first week with your baby and learning the logistics are best described as "awkward." I won't lie to you and say that I fell into a fluid routine of handling Eila and maneuvering her to eat. Watching me switch from a feeding pose to a burp pose was like an Act of Congress. I'm learning to laugh at myself about it. End aside.} Eila, the point is that these nurses have a special gift and a special heart for taking care of babies like you. I want to hug all of them (some I have) and send them all love-letters and get them all raises and then shrink them, put them in my pocket and carry them home with me. Francine and Dina had the longest runs with you and had the greatest impact on my learning and confidence. I cannot put a value on how much they helped me while they were helping you.

Obviously, your dad and I are over-the-moon to bring you home. That means you're healthy and ready. But it is bittersweet all the same. You are the center of our universe now. Your monitors will be gone in a matter of minutes. We will strap you in this car seat and ride home with you. We will find our rhythm, sweet girl. Let's just be patient with each other. The biggest advice everyone has given me is to "love on the baby." That will be the easiest and most rewarding job of all.

We love you, Eila. Don't ever forget who helped you get a head start on a healthy life - the NICU team at Germantown Methodist is world class. Your dad and I forever grateful for them.

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