NICU Review Part 2

It’s been a couple of months now, but those 16 days with Max is what will define the rest of my life for me. I threw out a lot of old t-shirts yesterday, and justified it because they were all B.M., Before Max. That was another chapter of my life, the prologue.

My favorite parts of the NICU were when we could take Max from his cage and he’d cuddle with Keri and I’d sing songs or read stories. I think Max loved it pretty much the most ever.

His first book was my epic rendition of Rumpelstiltskin. He dug every second of it.

Here’s an actual picture.

I’m moving to Chicago for work and will put Max graffiti everywhere as much as possible.

And also, edit some more pictures.

It’s great getting new pictures from family member’s camera’s we haven’t seen before. It’s like seeing a new version of him. Love the kid, love him. He’s gotta be A#1 Angel by now.

Max and his Mr. Stinks

If this was HBO, the following post would be proceeded with something like… may contain adult content. But really not, it’s just about poop and about what may be the proudest moment I had with my boy Max.

Setting some background: during his NICU stay, he started getting milk fed to him through his feeding tube, and it was really important that he pooped it out, to make sure all his innards were working properly. In fact, that’s an issue that remains important throughout your life. Max’s stool become common enough conversation that I decided to nickname the act of pooping as “making a Mr. Stinks.” Just to break up the monotony.

Because, everyday, we’d keep check on him, and every phone call, we’d ask the nurse… “Has he had any stools!?” and sometimes they’d be like, “Yeah, a little” or “There was some smear in his diaper” or “No, so we’re probably going to give him a suppository later.”

Anyway, monitoring this stool thing was one of the many big deals and situations we kept a close eye on all the time.

Well, one night, May 26th to be exact, we were up at the NICU, and Max had yet to make to a Mr. Stinks that day.  Not majorly concerning, but the more Stinks the better. We showed up so Max could have time for his time of skin-to-skin Kangaroo care with Keri.

This is usually when I would sit next to them singing songs or reading books and he’d lay peacefully and you knew he loved it because all of his vitals would be dead on perfect.

So, the hour was up and the nurse was putting Max back in his incubator. Then she said something along the lines of, “I smell something…”

Artist’s Rendering:

Immediately, I reached for the phone as if I was about to snap a photo of the Loch Ness Monster. Well, it nearly damn well was.

She opened his diaper, and there in all it’s pea-green glory, a giant Mr. Stinks…

And not only was it just there, more was coming out, right then! My boy was doing it, and he was doing it right!

It was my single proudest moment as a father.

The nurse was like, “Ooh” and Keri was smiling, but then she looked over at me and said, “Are you taking pictures?”

Hell yes I was. And looking back, I’m damn glad I did.

NICU Review – Part 1

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.