Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ronan's Birth Story Part Three: There and Back Again (A NICU Tale)

Life and time both run away from you.
Priorities change. When my son naps, I have to make a decision. Do I:
A. Wash the dishes?
B. Watch one more episode?
C. Exercise to battle the baby weight?
D. Fold the mountain of laundry the cats are using as a nap site?
F. Vacuum?
G. Clean the bathroom?
H. Shower so I feel human?
I. Make dinner?
J. There's something else I used to do . . . what was it . . . BLOG?!

So, yeah, that's kind of life right now.
It's not a bad thing.
In fact, it's pretty much a GOOD thing.
It's just life.
And life is lovely, but it's filled with a ten-month-old who is crawling and exploring like energy is going out of style. Mine is, but his? Oh, laaaaaawd have mercy!

But it all started in the NICU. 
P.S. Want a brilliant description of the NICU? Read This

The NICU is . . . it's a different sort of place. A different state of being. You exist in that tiny room for as many hours a day as you can stand. Completely sanitized.  You hate leaving that room to eat or go to the bathroom because of the washing, the checking in, checking out, and, really you just hate leaving because your tiny little person is in there.  So you sit in that chair, snuggling that tiny, fragile person for as long as you are allowed, wondering if the scent you smell is him or the hospital.
I always heard stories about that "straight from heaven scent" newborns carry.
I don't know if Ronan every smelled like that. I mean, I liked his smell, but it seemed . . . sometimes I wonder if it was too sterile. If he smelled like hospital, like his islet and the tubes and the clean hospital blankets. Once he was home, I think he smelled differently. Now, he smells like himself and his chamomile baby wash. It's perfect.
But I'll never know his true brand-new smell.

You don't get to hold preemies the moment they're born, you know. They're whisked away--for their own safety--to their warm little nest, hooked up to IVs for nutrients since they may be too little to nurse, and, sometimes, there are the little oxygen masks.  32 weeks seems to be the tipping point for oxygen--before that, it's almost guaranteed that the preemie will need assistance breathing until his lungs are stronger. Once the baby hits 32 weeks, there's a strong chance that he can breathe on his own. Ronan was the latter--I don't know if it was the steroid shots they gave me that morning and evening or if he was just ready, or if was just God, but that tiny little body had strong lungs under that bird-sized ribcage. When he would hiccup, I was afraid his chest was going to explode then collapse, it was so violent in someone so small.

He was, shockingly, born with feathery hair all over his head, but no eyebrows or eyelashes.
We couldn't really take pictures of him except on our phones, and, even then, we had to sanitize our phones and then sanitize our hands. I used that little bottle of foaming sanitizer like it was going out of style.

Ronan spent one day in the most critical level of the NICU.  I couldn't bring myself to look around. The babies in there, so very, very tiny. Incredibly tiny.  Parents and doctors hovering.  I didn't want to see--I didn't want to see what he almost was. What he could have been. I still can't look at pictures of preemies without my chest constricting, aching. It scares me. I should have been braver, more understanding, but I was afraid. So I looked at him, and that was all.