Max has now been gone more days than he was with us. It doesn’t feel like it though. I was thinking earlier how high the impact-to-time ratio is for that two weeks of my life. And before it begins to fade away, I wanted to put some more of the experience down in writing.
The NICU. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I was more than prepared to spend the whole summer at the NICU. I called it his summer camp. At the time, though, it really was the most stressful place in the world.
Worrying about daily doctor rounds, urine levels, “preemies doing weird things”, blood transfusions, breathing masks, bradies, apneas, desats, every little damn thing. And the beeping.
There were monitors for oxygen saturation, breaths per minute, heart beats per minutes, and then some fourth one. Hell I’m even starting to forget. I think a blood pressure one.
Anyway, they each had their own little ranges, and when it got out of the range – BEEP. And there were 4-5 babies in the room with Max so the beeps were constant. And when you noticed it was your baby’s machine. Constantly scary.
I asked the nurse’s if they dreamed about the sounds. They claimed they got used to it, but would sometimes hear the phantom beeps when at home. It reminds me how I used to hear phantom AIM “you got a message” sounds that weren’t there.
The scariest sounds are when your babies heart rate goes down (bradycardia). It was one of those “normal preemie things”, where they usually snap themselves out of it or just need a little stimulation. But holy shit trying to sit and read my book and have those come up, just the thought gives me that pit-of-the-stomach churn right now.
I read “The Forever War” during our time in the NICU. I will now forever hate that book. Also, as a book it was kind of bleh.
I’d keep notes in my cell phone on what to ask the doctors and nurses everyday. I think I impressed them, because they’d say things like “you really read your stuff huh?” Well, yeah, this is my baby’s life. I don’t know if it was worse to be there or to be away. Even though you’re there, you can’t really do anything. We just needed time. The time he was supposed to be inside the belly – that’s what we needed.
My biggest fears were long term brain damage. Max’s brain ultrasound at 10 days came back normal and that was a big day of relief for me. Weird to think about that looking back. My single biggest concern was that he’d end up in some state where he’d be mad at me for giving him life. Like, with cerebral palsy or something like that where he’d rather not exist. There are times I’d rather not exist and I’m relatively normal. And the stories of a lot of these babies online were just – just frightening.
The nurses told us not to pay attention to the internet preemie horror stories. They said Max was different because he had a bit of a longer gestational age than a lot of the babies posted about. And just like restaurant reviews, people only really want to go up there with the bad. I guess the take away message there was that no one thought Max would have major problems. I don’t know if they considered death a major problem.
But I’m rambling, I should probably cover the experience in some sort of order. I’ll go with chronological. The first five days at the hospital I slept on the little couch in Keri’s room. My skill of being able to sleep wherever and on whatever paid off. It was great because little Maxy boy was just 1 floor away and we could go see him and check up on him whenever. Our first few challenges just involved having him in the incubator for humidity and the lights to break up the bilirubin. One night I went in to give them a camera so they could snap a picture with his mask off. Ended up, they took his mask off for routine maintenance right there and I saw his little face.
That was this time:
I was shocked. This little pissed looking guy was my son. I went back to the room and just cried like crazy. Why did he have to through this? When there are people out there with too many kids that they ignore them or kill them or abort them or whatever else. I’d trade both my legs for him to just be left alone and be healthy. Tough, tough, tough. But I was glad he had my scowl. He seemed as pissed at the world as I was.