Oh, that is right, my fever. I completely forgot with all the fear of my baby’s apnea episode. I try to convince the nurse that I am fine but she is determined to get me back into bed. I’m not allowed to go down and see my baby (and think of all the other babies) until my fever is down. With a helpless sigh I give up, understanding the infection risk and agreeing that I wouldn’t want my- or any other-baby to get ill because of me (talk about a bad mom, getting a bunch of preemies sick). Apparently my urine sample also came back with too many white blood cells and when they check my vitals again, they don’t look too good. I wish I could have gone down to hold my baby but instead I worry about getting her sick, could I have gotten her sick already? Could it have come in the few drops of breast milk she might have gotten in her mouth? The nurse taking care of her reassures me at the other end of the phone line that this should not be the case. I’m so tired of should. What if I have gotten her sick? I know some preemies don’t even survive early infections. I also know that she is in one of the best NICUs in the country and that they do everything in their power to take care of these preemies and their health. I manage to go back to sleep and luckily I wake up completely fever free and my vitals look much better!
My mother and father in law come by in the morning, I get a pretty cross necklace that I have been eying and my mother in law fusses over me, helps me to the bathroom so I can brush my teeth and get ready in order to look somewhat normal and she remakes my bed. We go down to the NICU together, my father in law wheeling me down in the wheelchair. After we sign the necessary papers that we are not sick (I’m thinking about last night’s fever but they told me it was okay to come) and haven’t been for the last 72 hours (hmm, where are those handy mouth masks they wear in Asia…?). When we try to roll through the locked door in to see little Madeleine (I really want to see for myself that she is okay after last night’s scare) the door does not swing open as it normally does. I guess we have activated the automatic shutdown lock since we have been standing too close to the door with the wheel chair and tried to open it “without authorization” (grandpa). The person behind the screen who checked us in is severely confused, she explains that she is just an intern and has no idea how to now get the door open. She repeatedly tries to buzz us in by pushing a button in her booth but nothing. She then tries to call a supervisor but can’t get ahold of anyone for the longest time. She looks slightly panicked as a line of anxious parents waiting to see their little ones form behind us. I am sitting there in the wheelchair, slightly embarrassed while my father in law is not sure what is going on and my mother in law happily chatters away. Finally, somehow the door gets open (luckily because I think people were starting to get annoyed). My mother in law lets her husband roll me in first since only one person besides the parent is allowed at a time. My baby has “graduated” to a different bed (eh, she stopped breathing last night but okay…), nr 13 (hmm) because she had such a good morning (yay) except her jaundice is up from a 4 to a ten and she did lose some weight, which is normal but I completely blame myself; stupid milk production (or lack thereof). My father in law (despite having to take both the flu and the whooping cough shot to be able to “interact” with the baby) declines to hold her, “oh no she is way too little”. I can’t say I blame him, with all the cords hanging from the little preemie’s body she looks impossibly tiny and fragile. My mother in law though is excited to hold her brand new grandchild. I understand that all everyone else sees is an adorable healthy looking (albeit very yellow) little baby (at over 5 lbs she is considered “big” for a 34 “weeker”) but all I can think about is the apnea. There are more problems with being a preemie than weight. Yet again the thought strikes me that “what if I was somehow misdiagnosed and this is the outcome”, should my baby really have to suffer? It’s really terrifying me and nobody told me it would be like this after she was born. I worry about taking her home and not being able to take care of her and how I would freak out if she had breathing problems under my watch or worse…stopped.
That night I’m feeling better and am hanging out in the NICU with my precious baby. I ask a lot of questions about the monitor and what everything means. I ask about Madeleine’s homecoming and how to take care of her. The night nurse is a chatty Katy and tells me everything I want to know, how I should totally isolate my baby for at least 4 weeks once she is released (only get out for doctor’s visits), continue to check her temperature and her weight, count her diapers, make sure she is eating. She also needs an adult to be in the car with her, holding her chin up and make sure she is breathing and only take her on short, necessary car rides (if it can be avoided she shouldn’t be in the car for longer than 20 minutes). Nobody should visit and if family absolutely has too, limit it to close family that have not been sick or been around illness for at least 72 hours. Everyone around the baby should religiously wash their hands and we have to be careful with my son and dog. Any infection is extremely dangerous, could even be fatal and is a sure ticket back into the NICU. We should carefully monitor her and continue the 22 calorie formula powder in her breast milk as well as the vitamin D drops. Even though none of the nurses recommend the alarm because parent gets so worried and frantic (“you should watch your baby not monitors” and “you should rely on your instincts not alarms”), this nurse recommends a simple alarm that records movement that you clip on to baby’s diaper. It is also important to remember that that just because the baby has reached full term (or 40 weeks) she will not magically be okay, development and maturity can be slowed down the first two years of the baby’s life and beyond. She tells me that my baby won’t go home anytime soon though; she still has blood work to wait for, antibiotics to run through her system, jaundice to get better and lungs, immune system and digestive system to mature and develop. Besides, any time they have an apnea episodes, five more days are added before the babies are allowed to go home.
The next morning the doctor stops by (my doctor always comes by super early). She is concerned about the pain I experience when she presses on my belly and that I am still bleeding. She tells me that she will recommend that I will stay another day or two.
The baby’s aunt and uncle come by later on after having picked up their daughter at the airport. I appreciate how nice they are and how they really seem to listen to what we have been going through. A lactation nurse comes by; she is definitely the kooky kind (but I do take kooky over the milk Nazi kind any day). “You are supposed to get at least 75 ml of milk at each pumping by now” (eh, okay, so I don’t, not even close, who are we supposed to blame here, my body, nature, biology…my boobs?) My brother in law comes in after auntie has stayed with the baby and me through the lactation session and he gets a little misty eyed as he sees the baby snuggled in my arms. He offers to take my son out on a fun adventure one day next week during their Easter break which I really appreciate. After the hugs goodbye I am feeling better about things, I get to stay another couple of nights to be close to my baby, she is doing better, they take really good care of her here and they won’t release her-or me- until we both are okay, but when I reach my room, I’m in for another surprise!