I got to go to the level 2 NICU at about 2am to see my daughter. She didn’t even have a name yet. We thought we had 15 more weeks to settle on something. I had a big list which I realized contained the names of all the Golden Girls. I like old names, Judy was a front runner.
My boyfriend wheeled me down the hallway, a gown tied to me, cold pack, and blood soaked pad between my legs as I cried. I had to see that she was ok, I had to know she was really alive. It took 2 left turns to get me to a big rotunda and then a secured door where security asked for the number on a wristband delivery had placed on me the moment she was born.
We were buzzed back into the NICU and guided down the hallway to her room and there she was. I heard the doctors, I heard the nurses, I heard my mom, and my boyfriend telling me important things I needed to know but it all sounded like it was coming from down a long hallway. They were hardly even there for me. My baby was there in her little baby terrarium under a glowing blue Bili light, there to prevent jaundice. Lines attached to her umbilical cord, providing nutrients I was providing hours ago. Nutrients I felt like I should still be providing. I was suddenly filled with a sense of relief mixed with guilt and regret. She was everything I wanted and I had somehow failed her.
It was pretty impossible to get a picture for the first week. She just looked like she was in a tiny baby rave. I could only reach in through the little port holes and gently touch her hands and feet. I was told only touch, don’t rub, her skin can’t handle rubbing yet. I’d love to tell you that she was beautiful, I would love to tell you that she was a little doll. I can’t though. The poor thing hadn’t really begun to put on any weight yet. She was born 1lb 10oz and barely over a foot long. She looked like a cross between Dobby the house elf and Gollum. Bless her heart.
I am not really the type though to dwell. She was alive, I could work with that. Whatever developmental delays she might have, challenges she may face, or physical disabilities she may have, she was alive. Anything after that was something that we would manage. I didn’t really have a choice. They pumped both she and I full of antibiotics to combat the effects of the chorioamnionitis. The doctor put her on an experimental treatment of hydrocortisone. The idea was that because she was born in such traumatic circumstances she had heightened cortisol levels and when that adrenaline dropped she would crash.
The next morning the doctors met with me and told me it would be at least after Christmas before I took her home. She was born on 8/21/17, her due date was December 1st. Now I was looking at Christmas or New Years to bring her home. My boyfriend held my hand as I cried and listened to the doctor. Nurses came in, cheerful, caring, and full of the knowledge they have gained taking care of babies on the brink at 12 hour shifts, 4 days a week. These were the women who were going to get me through this.
It was a week before I could hold her.