Saturday night as we were donning our hospital gowns and srubbing our hands in preparation for entering the NICU, we were engaged in conversation with another NICU visitor. He was apparently waiting in the family lounge while his wife and (I assumed) a grandmother visited his son (their third child) inside. He was one of those happy talkative types that drive me crazy. I probably found it so irritating because I was in that sort of manic state trying to rush through things as quickly as possible so that I could get inside and see my baby andwhyareyoustandinginmyfreakingway!
So anyway, he started telling us his life story, blah, blah, blah and lamenting the fact that they had been doing this "SINCE WEDNESDAY"! I didn't scoff at the man or call him a sissy or anything. I know that having a newborn in the NICU is tremendously taxing no matter what the gestational age or how long the child has been in there. It is not a contest this NICU Parenting. I know that.
However, I did have to smile, nod my head and say "Oh, we have been here since February." It is not that I wanted to one-up him or make him feel badly. I just wanted a little recognition for the difference in being there 4 days as opposed to 90-some days. There is a difference.
Sunday morning I sat rocking Azure while she was getting her 11am feeding. She quite gassy and uncomfortable to begin with and not at all in the mood for a bottle so we decided it would be a gavage (tube) feeding. They put the tube down and she rested against my shoulder and we rocked and rocked and I talked quietly to her during the half hour feeding. I tried not to notice the man across the room staring at me, probably silently wishing me death threats as he sat next to his son (his third child too) who was full-term but having serious breathing issues and is "low stim" (no holding, very little if any touching). I felt him looking at me and I tried not to stare back. I feel so badly for this man and his wife who is sick and still mostly bedridden somewhere on the floor above us. I feel this man's jealousy at my "luck" for being able to touch and hold and rock my baby. I can put her nasal cannula on by myself and lift her out of the bed myself and rock her and do those things parents are supposed to be able to do. I want to tell him that I have been there, the low stim days, and I know how hard it is and I am so sorry his son is going through this. His son who is easily twice if not three times Azure's size. I recognize his side. I do not think he recognizes mine and I wonder if I should explain it to him or not.
Last night we were back for Azure's 8pm feeding and this time she was all pooped out (diaper filled, not tired) and raring to go with the bottle. The man was there again and watched as T fed her the bottle. This time though his nurse spoke to us from his son's bedside and mentioned that Azure has the seniority in the NICU both as the eldest baby and longest in residence. She asked us how many days we had been there and we figured out the number was in the 90s. Then, then I think the man understood, he could recognize our side, a little.
It is not a competition and no one will win or lose. We will all go home eventually either with or without our babies. We must recognize the love and the struggle and the spirit that goes into being a parent of a child in the NICU (or any child who is hospitalized at any age, for any reason). I have said before that I do not know how anyone does this with one or more children at home to care for. How in the world do you do it Sol? Compared to them I have it easy, compared to others I have a more difficult path to follow.
I felt kind of bad about making my comment to Mr. BeenHereSinceWednesday but I mentioned it to our nurse and she said it was probably good for him to hear that. It allows others to recognize their own place in the order of things.
It could be worse, it could be a whole lot worse.