I am going to be honest. The idea of asking people to bring gifts for babies in the NICU in lieu of ones for G’s first birthday was mostly appealing to me because I didn’t want any more stuff coming into the house. We have more toys than I know what to do with sometimes. I just didn’t know what we’d do with more.
That was the driving force behind my request. There was just the added bonus of helping others who need it (which I truly do want G to understand the importance of one day.)
Selfish? Maybe. I kind of think so.
Our friends and family donated and we received a lot more than I imagined we would. Friends who weren’t able to make it to G’s party went out of their way to mail items to us. Mr Boots even had a coworker who wasn’t invited to the party drop a small bag of things off for our donation box. These gestures touched me beyond words and I am so happy we have friends like this.
The big drop off day was a couple weeks ago. I spent about three weeks keeping G out of the box — which was tempting with the colorful paper I wrapped it in.
Since we were in the area for the 5K race, I managed to schedule the drop off that evening. Hubby didn’t want to wait around after the race “just to drop the stuff off,” so he and G went back home after the race. I killed time by shopping.
By the time we left the race and had breakfast, I had about 6 hours to kill. Shopping took about 4. I really wanted to drop the stuff off at the hospital’s guest services desk and head back home myself, but I killed some more time by complaining that I was bord and watching WETA UK with my mom (apparently she knows (like, personally) two British actors and I need to watch the show Midwives).
I arrived at the hospital a bit early, due to my wanting to get home, and I called my contact in the hopes she’d be available earlier than discussed. No such luck. I left a voice mail letting her know I was there then found a place to park and waited. About 10 miutes after our scheduled meeting time I decided to take the items inside and see if the guest services person could page her for me.
My contact called me as soon as I pulled up to the hospital’s entrance. I told her I was out front and she said to bring everything up to the third floor and she’d meet me there.
The third floor. The Labor and Delivery floor. The NICU floor.
I had three boxes with me and my car was parked in a drop off/pick up only area. There was no way I would be able to carry all the boxes with me across the parking lot, so the guest services woman offered me a wheel chair.
She seemed annoyed that I couldn’t open the dang thing by myself, but it seemed to need the two of us to unfold it. I wheeled it to my car, loaded it up, picked up a box that slid off, wheeled the chair back inside, and went to re-park my car.
The third floor. I was going up to the third floor. I got tears in my eyes.
What the heck? I must be getting my period soon. This is silly. This does NOT justify crying, I thought.
When I got up to the third floor the NICU coordinator was waiting for me. She seemed surprised at the amount of stuff I had loaded on the wheelchair.
There were thank-yous and we are so greatfuls then, “What I am going to have you do is bring this back into the NICU so you can show the nurses.”
The coordinator opened the first set of doors and huge tears started rolling down my face. Halfway down the hallway a huge sob escaped, catching me off guard.
She stopped to turn and look at me. “Are you going to be okay?”
I started laughing, despite being a blurry eyed teary mess. “Wow, I’m sorry. I had no idea this would make me cry. I honestly didn’t think I’d be coming up to the third floor, let alone the NICU.”
She assured me it was okay. That a lot of parents who return to the NICU are emotional and it sneaks up on some of them.
I commenced sobbing. I felt stupid but I really couldn’t help it. We neared the second set of security doors and I knew what was beyond them. Straight beyond them.
The room G stayed in.
She asked me again if I was okay, and again I said yes and that I felt dumb. She told me again it was okay and that she’d find it strange if I wasn’t emotional coming back.
The doors opened. I looked straight ahead. Suddenly, it was last year. I expected to see what I saw every time I walked through those doors: an opened door to a darkened room where my baby lay illuminated under bright Bili lights.
But it was closed.
That made me feel slightly better.
Two nurses were at the nurses desk and they remembered G. One of them was Nurse M, the most awesome nurse we met in the NICU. She was the one who, I felt, advocated for us when we didn’t know how and got the doctor to agree to on-demand feedings instead of the every four-hour feeding schedule G was originally put on. What made her more awesome to me was that she didn’t have children. I saw her and realized I how much I had wanted to see her again. If the other nurse hadn’t been there I think I would have hugged Nurse M and told her just how awesome she is.
But I didn’t want to make the other nurse feel bad, especially if I had actually talked with her during G’s NICU stay. I was so emotional, so tired, so … lost, that Nurse M was really the only NICU nurse that left a lasting enough impression on me that I recognized her when I saw her.
Plus, the sobbing commenced. This time the nurses were also assuring me how I was acting was normal.
They asked if I remembered which room G was in. “That one,” I said, pointing straight ahead to room 307. I wondered, briefly, who was behind that door. A premie? A full term? Parents wondering when they’d get to bring their baby home?
“Someone is in there, otherwise we’d let you go in there.”
I assured them that was okay. I don’t know if I could have handled that. Standing by the nurses desk, standing on the floor of the NICU, seemed to be doing enough to my emotions. I think if I had gone back to that room I would have sat in the green plastic recliner and sobbed, just like I did so, so many times during G’s stay there.
The nurses and coordinator started taking all off the items out of the box. It was like a baby shower, but for many babies that weren’t ours. They would hold up a onesie or swaddle and go, “Oh! Look at this!” or “This is so cute!” or “I need these!” The swaddles were a huge hit with the second nurse because she could use them in infant classes. My parents had bought two infant swings to give that were like icing on the cake for the nurses.
It was about this moment that I realized just how good I felt doing this. Up until then, I had never seen the person on the receiving end of my donations of anything. These items weren’t for the nurses personally, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by their reactions. They were truly happy and truly appreciative of what I wheeled up there.
I showed up expecting to do what I’ve done at Good Will: hand my stuff off to a stranger and be on my way. Knowing someone somewhere would benefit at some point would be a distant afterthought.
But as I watched (through the tears and sobs) as they ohhed and ahhed the goodies I brought, I realized that this was the best thing I had done. In a long while. I felt good, despite the tears and the many feelings and memories (not all good) coming back from those days after G’s birth.
Feelings I thought I had come to terms with. Emotions I thought I had tamed. Memories I thought were filed away as Note-to-Selfs For If-I-Have-Another-Baby because I want things to be
better different if there is a next time.
I had an hour alone with those feelings as I finally made my way back home.
I knew G would be my take home baby, despite the anxiety and fear I felt during his pregnancy. G was born full term and the only reason he was in the NICU was because the hospital wouldn’t administer antibiotics for his sepsis in the nursery. I felt so sad for him. I knew he needed to be there, but I felt like he didn’t belong because he was full term. I had a bad time emotionally while I was there; I can only imagine what parents of premie or sicker babies go trough.
Hubby kept G up until I came home, saying he thought the two of us needed to see each other before bed (I had texted him when I left the hospital to tell him I was leaving and the visit made me cry). I started crying again as I brought G onto my lap. G looked at me and touched my eyes, he usually pokes them but this time I think he was trying to figure out what the wet stuff dripping from them was. I held him and nuzzled him, because I can, and he was tired enough that he was willing to snuggle.
I have wondered if his NICU stay molded him a bit: he didn’t seem to like swaddling and likes being clothing free (he only wore a diaper), he enjoys the outdoors (those Bili lights are intense), and he hasn’t been one to be held for long (we couldn’t hold him except to feed him).
It was a blessing that G stayed at the hospital longer than me. We had the chance to rest and eat and buy some last minute things while he was there. It was a mixed blessing though. While it was nice to prolong a crying baby needing middle of the night feedings, it’s a shitty feeling leaving the hospital with no baby in hand. I felt helpless not being able to hold, an therefore bond, with my baby on my terms when I finally felt up to it those first few days. The experience has definitely made me realize what I want done differently post-birth if I have another.
I was struggling with these thoughts and feelings, trying to file them back on the tippy top shelf of my brain, while a warm fuzzy feeling crept into my heart. We did good. This NICU donation request was a very awesome thing we did. There will be babies who will be pretty stinking cute in new outfits and their parents will have less to worry about shopping-wise before bringing their babies home. And that feels good.
I’m hoping to make this a “thing” for our kid’s birthday parties in the future. I’d definitely like G (and Hubby) to tag along next time.
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