March for Babies

Monday, May 22, 2006

Not Competition, Just Recognition

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.


Cat, Galloping said...

I would have said the same thing to the Wednesday man. Do you ever kind of wish that they would just put up signs on each bassinet with the relevant stats? Obviously a giant invasion of privacy but it seems like most people want to share their story and no everyone else's. Or do I have that completely wrong?

Pygmalion's Wife said...

Ooooo I second Cat's suggestion about the signs. It'll never happen, with HIPA and all, but it would be kids were always the biggest kids in the NICU, and I always felt a little ashamed when I'd see the parents holding teeny-tiny babies that had obviously been there a while, and I was there to visit my big fat jaundice-y thirty-five weekers. I would have said it, too, and good for that nurse for pointing out the "order" of things!
Also, do you mean that they replace the NG tube every feed??? My Grublet was on NG feeds for three months, and we'd leave the tube in for a week at a time between changings (unless he yanked it, which did happen from time to time). While this was probably not the MOST comfortable thing, I would think it's less traumatic than sticking the thing down every single feeding...or was it just time to change the tube? Grub eventually ended up with a G-tube, but he has chronic dysphasia...hopefully Azure will graduate soon to eating on her own, either from the bottle or directly from the dairy bar.

Sol said...

Hi Blue. Great post. I started leaving a comment and it has gotten so long that I posted in my own blog, so as not to take up too much space here. Love to you and Azure.

tracyb said...

Hmmm. We had a sign over the bed when Ricky was in the NICU two years ago. HIPAA and all. In fact, it was more a sign of respect than anything else, especially since the nurses didn't want anyone roaming around looking at the signs. We were *only* there for 15 days but it seemed like 15 months. I can only imagine being there for actual months on end.

In any case, be strong and love Azure. She's getting bigger and stronger every day. Someday all of this will seem like a strange dream. Really.

Anonymous said...

My 42-weeker was in the NICU for a few days and at almost 9 pounds we were considered a total oddity. My babe was at least 3 times the size of the other babies. We were definitely not in with the in crowd. My son was born on Nov. 6th and I remember the baby girl next to him was born on Sept. 12th (my birthday) and was just starting to eat but still mostly on the feeding tube. 14 years later, we still get invited to NICU reunion parties, but it doesn't seem appropriate for us to go.