After my son was born, they moved him to the other side of the room. My mom, husband, and best friend went to look at him while the doctor stitched me up. She said it would only take 3 stitches, but she lied. She also said the general anesthetic would numb the area, but again, she lied. So I felt each prick of her needle while I tried to concentrate on the little miracle the placed in my arms. My mom cried. My husband cried. My best friend cried. I, however, was too tired to cry. They moved me to a recovery room and took the baby to the NICU. The family headed home to rest, share the pictures they took, and tell everyone that the golden child had arrived.
The nurses kept coming to check my sugar every two hours. I kept pretending to be asleep. I snuck out of the maternity ward (well, not really–I didn’t see anyone so I just walked to the elevators). I was going to see my son! And I did…from a wheelchair. Turns out there was a reason none of the other moms in the ward were roaming the halls. See, when you push a person out, you’re kind of tired. Your body sort of shuts down in order to build energy again. So, when I arrived at the NICU and boldly told the nurse I was there to see my son, my body boldly told me to sit down. The nurses brought me ice chips and then wheeled me in to see the baby. He was in an incubator with tubes in his nose and an IV in his arm. Seeing him hooked up to all those machines broke my heart, and I started to cry. The emotions of childbirth, plus seeing my son looking so helpless, weighed down on me and I had to return to my room.
After eating lunch and getting some of my strength back, I went down to the NICU again. Good thing I did, because these jerks had given my son formula without my permission. I fully intended to breastfeed, but hated the pump they brought to my room. They hooked me up on a high suction level, but all it did was hurt my boobs and make me sweaty. I sat next to the baby and stuck my hand in the incubator to touch him. He reached out and grabbed my finger, holding tight. Even though his eyes were closed, he knew I was there. I headed back to my room after spending some quality time with him.
My grandmother visited and read a psalm. My dad came a little later and made jokes. My husband came and took them down to the NICU so that they could view the baby on a screen privately. Only the mother and father were allowed in the NICU. My mother came a little while after, failing at all the things I had asked her to bring for the new baby, but getting me a robe and pajamas. Finally! I could roam the hospital halls with dignity again. I put on my new Calvin Klein shirt and my robe, prompting my grandmother to tell me I “look[ed] like real people.”
After my parents and grandmother left, and my husband went back to the NICU, I took a few minutes to thank God for my child. However tiny, he was here. His lungs may have struggled, but he was mine. I prayed that he would be healthy and could come home soon. I prayed that he would be taken off the machines. I closed my eyes and went to sleep, hoping no one would come take my blood for another few hours.
The next day, the baby was taken off of oxygen–he could breathe on his own! Unfortunately, the nurses decided that meant he needed a pacifier. Not only did they give him a pacifier, they attached it to a burp cloth and propped it onto his face. Thanks, NICU. Thanks for giving my breastfed baby a bottle full of formula and a pacifier. Anyway, they showed me how to feed him. They brought a Breast Friend pillow and allowed me to take him out of the incubator. They set up a huge screen around me–I suppose for my “privacy,” or maybe because they didn’t want my breast to be seen.
The NICU adventures continued. A nurse became a pain in our behinds. She told me I wasn’t breastfeeding correctly (why don’t you stay on your side of the screen, lady?), waved away my husband’s suggestion that I keep trying, and urged another nurse to “just get the bottle.” Then, as my husband stood with our son so that I could get comfortable to feed in the ONE chair by the baby’s bedside, she demanded that he sit down. “Sit! Sit down! Sit down with that baby!” My mother in law doesn’t speak to my husband like that, and she gave him life. Already angry about the formula and pacifier, he went off. I went off. I told them to just give me my child and let me go home. The other nurses turned to look at the angry “Rastafarian” couple. I calmed down first when they said they were calling the supervisor. Undeterred, my husband told the nurse to “go ahead and call.” I told him to take a walk and calm down. The supervisor came to tell me I had to calm my husband–I told her about the nurse and how she had been irking my nerves all day. My husband came back and we settled down with our son.
I finally just agreed to keep the peace with the NICU staff. I’d follow the rules they never bothered to explain, I’d listen to the nurses who told me there was no such thing as nipple confusion, or to tap my son’s foot to wake him up to eat. My main priority was getting my son home and out of that hospital.