home sweet home, finally
I am thrilled to report that Baby Z is home, finally!
Last week Z’s pediatric team told us on Tuesday she could come home as early as Thursday if she kept eating and gaining. There was a lot of pressure on that little girl, and me too, since she did better on the breast than the bottle. But I was just along for the ride, and everything was on her time. There was pressure on Mac, as well, since he was returning to work after three weeks off. None of us had any idea how we would make this work, with child care, NICU visits, me unable to drive, and too few able hands.
Then I remembered that last Wednesday was the day she was originally supposed to be delivered — before we realized the placenta issues were so serious — on the autumnal equinox, just after 36 weeks. It seemed like a fitting time for a homecoming, though nothing was yet certain.
I had gotten into the habit of calling the NICU at least twice a day before and after our visits — at night before bed, I’d call to see how she did after the shift change and with bottle feeding; in the morning on our way in, I’d call to see how she did during the night, whether she gained any weight, and to ask about any schedule changes. Talking to the bedside nurse helped me feel connection when I wasn’t there, and gave information to satisfy my mind, even when the news wasn’t great.
We still didn’t know whether she’d be approved for discharge until Thursday morning, when we could confirm that she ate well and continued to gain a few grams. Still, we prepared. What else could we do? Tuesday night, I stayed at the hospital to work with Z on breastfeeding. I gave our tiny new daughter a bath. I watched all the safety videos required before discharge. Wednesday night, Mac installed the carseat and I made up the co-sleeper. We had already washed baby clothes that would not yet fit. Mac had already moved the glider to our room. I unpacked newborn diapers.
Unfortunately Mac couldn’t be there to bring Z home from the hospital. My aunt and uncle were out of town and other family were unavailable. I asked Jaye’s favorite sitter to drive our car and play with Jaye at the cafe while I got Z. So it was a less than ceremonious event, without Mac and Jaye there too. Honestly, I just wanted to get Z out of there before they changed their minds.
Our first moments at home were glorious though. Jaye and I showed Z around, before settling in to the glider for some skin-on-skin time. That first moment of rest was much like the same beautiful moment I experienced more than two years ago, when we first brought Jaye home. I cried tears of happiness, of awe. Relief. But unlike then, I didn’t have Mac to share the moment. I snapped some pix on my phone and sent them to him at work. You do what you can.
These past few days, as we begin our new lives together, have been an adjustment for everyone. It’s been tough, but not in the sense of NICU tough; challenging in a different way, in the way that sleepless nights and constant feeds and caring for a tiny newborn and toddler are tough. Tough in the way one would expect.
For all the worry about her feeding, this baby has a voracious appetite. She obviously has some making up to do. Rather than feed every 3 hours on her hospital schedule — yet eat only half as much as she was supposed to — Z eats at least every 1.5 hours. It makes sense, really. She still eats half as much, but now twice as often. She is growing, and that’s what matters.
Baby Z has already had two post-discharge visits, one with a home care nurse and her last visit with the NICU ped team. By all accounts, she is doing great, gaining weight, and should hopefully have no long term effects beyond this first year. We still need to watch for breathing issues — especially when she eats — and also make sure she doesn’t waste calories crying or trying to stay warm. She weighs over 5.5 pounds — more than a pound over her birth weight, though she is still too tiny for newborn clothes. She spends much of the day either swaddled, or in a diaper laying on me.
Jaye has had an especially tough adjustment, particularly because she came down with a cold the night before Z was discharged. She is very sweet with Z, but it has been really difficult keeping them apart. It is still hard for her, as Mama isn’t readily available. Z needs to eat a lot. Jaye has gotten some special attention from cousins and sitters, but it’s not the same. I’m hoping this part will get easier with time and my recovery.
Aside from that, our (not a baby) Jaye is such a big girl now. Not just compared to this tiny baby, but really much bigger — like she outgrew a whole size this past month — and far more mature. I feel like I’ve missed so much these past weeks, and it’s sad. Jaye understands so much, she is so sensitive, so verbal. She has such an incredible personality. She is truly a light. And guess who is now sleeping in her big girl bed? We didn’t even plan it, but she asked for it. (Now if we could just get her out of diapers before she grows out of them…) Honestly though, I’m mourning Jaye’s baby-hood. It’s not that I still want her to be a baby. I absolutely love the person she is becoming. But I do miss that part of her little life with us. And our life as a trio is now over.
Our first home visitors were Jaye’s birth grandma and teen uncle. They came bearing bags of groceries and gifts for both girls. We are so blessed. So grateful.
Words can’t really describe where I’m at right now. Elated. Exhausted. Enamored. Eternally grateful. Still in awe.
As I wrote the last words on my last post, I found myself crying tears of joy.
“Our family is complete.”
I never thought I’d write those words. Even though I came to feel it with Jaye, I really did. There is absolutely no question that our family was perfect before. I was so happy as a trio, so content. I was a mother. We had a daughter. We were a family. We were finally seeing a future life where we could travel and do other things easily. Not anymore.
Still, as several of you pointed out, those words I wrote before, they are so powerful. They mean so much. They mark an incredibly long journey that started long before this blog. They capture the dreams and hopes and anticipation, and all the defeat, the failures, the challenges. They signify the end of so much pain and longing, and most importantly, the beginning of a new life we never thought was possible.