The NICU Chronicles - While it is hard to tell, there is still so much to say about Eli's birth. Now that we are farther away from this traumatic event, we can finally revisit these moments. We want never to forget the amazing people that helped us through. This blog is how we will remember...
It was really the second night that our baby was in the NICU that was the worst. The first night was so full of shock and horror that it all just melded into white heat. A blur you can't really see. A thick fog that clouded our eyes and even made it difficult to hear.
What did the doctor say? Our baby will be fine? Our baby can't breathe? His heart? Wait. Stop. What is happening?
Recovering from surgery made it difficult to travel from my hospital room over to the NICU but that first night Eric wheeled me over and we got to sit with Eli, making sure our voices were barely a whisper so as not to stimulate him. We could only touch the big toe on his left foot while a pulse ox monitor made the big toe on his right glow like Rudolph's nose.
We sat, latched on to his tiny toe, and listened to the NICU's music. To Eli's song - a mix of whispers, jarring beeps and humming vents.
Our roller coaster's dips and waves started from the moment of Eli's birth.
Thursday was the worst. Now, it was real. More information had arrived. More medical. More tests, x-rays and ECHOs. Now, the bars have come down, the ride has left the gate and it was too late to look back.
I've heard people say, "I'm cried out" or "I just don't have any tears left."
Thursday night Eric and I sat alone staring at our tiny baby during the tiny hours before dawn. We cried and cried. Cried for our baby and cried at how helpless we felt.
Maybe she handled all NICU parents this way. Maybe she saw how broken we were. But Eli's nurse slowed the roller coaster - if even for one night.
She was small, soft spoken and kept her long red hair pulled in to a pony tail. Her quietness belied her skills. Her small frame worked the room quickly and her deft hands efficiently changed medications, untangled tiny IVs, rearranged tubes and reset monitors. She took me over to Eli and slowly explained what every tube was for, what every wire monitored, what every machine supplied, what every liquid was tasked to do and what every sound meant. From his head down to his foot, her finger tips traced every line. This line monitors his heart, this for his oxygen level, this one provides blood pressure medication, this one sedation, this one is an antibiotic, this too...
She asked if I would like to take his temperature. It would be the first thing I would ever get to do for him. She asked me if I would like to change his diaper. She gave me a tiny, white tee to sleep with.
"Afterward, we will leave it with him, so he will have your scent," she said. She did everything she could to help us bond on a primal level - body heat and scents. By taking it one step further and educating us on a night where we knew nothing, she gave us something to grasp. I still have that tiny tee.
By all appearances, Aaron was her opposite - a massive man with wild, dark curls and a booming voice. While most entered Eli's small, dark room that night with hushed tones and quick glances, Eli's respiratory therapist's voice was jarring and his stare was unfaltering. Aaron's height was intimidating, even in pale green scrubs. His wide face was full of pity when saw us that night.
"Sometimes this whole thing is harder on the parents than it is on the babies," he said. "Your baby will never remember any of this, but you will never forget it."
As if he and Jen had previously discussed that night's tutorial strategy, he too took the time to explain Eli's vent. He showed us on the digital screen, the peaks and valleys of breath. He taught us how to determine which breaths were the vent and which belonged to Eli. He said that at times, Eli's lungs would over power the vent - that our boy would devour a deep breath all for himself. He was pleased with Eli overall and it was one of the first tiny rays of hope that crept in during that 3 a.m. darkness.
The soft-spoken nurse and the giant therapist, these Champions of Eli, didn't just work to save our son. They saved us. They armed us the best they could for this battle. Saved us from being swallowed whole by fear that night.