NICU – remembering, adjusting, surviving

The fact that both my boys were born at 35 weeks is an rather odd coincidence for me. In some ways having had a baby in NICU has made it easier this time round. We’re far less anxious and are approaching the whole situation with more patience.

Aiden has been in for five nights now and we’ve been given no indication of when he’ll be discharged. What’s more, we haven’t asked for one. We learnt last time how quickly things can change; how the information one receives in the morning is irrelevant by the afternoon; how babies have breakthroughs and suddenly the whole process speeds up. We are also approaching each day without the expectation that it will be the same as the previous one. I remember Cameron feeding marvelously on day three of his stay, and expecting to have him home by the Friday. On the Thursday he slept all day, wouldn’t feed at all and was only discharged on the Sunday. Making plans for more than the current day is just a waste of energy so I simply don’t.

I also remember how every day in the NICU feels like two. You can have a great morning, with excellent breastfeeding sessions, which leaves you feeling hopeful and positive. But that very afternoon, your baby can’t be persuaded to latch, develops jaundice or just won’t be roused from sleep and you’re left feeling utterly discouraged. The range of emotions one experiences, the lack of sleep and constantly changing circumstances leaves one emotionally drained and confused about what happened when.

But of course it’s not the same this time round as it was with Cameron, because this time there’s a two-year old at home to consider. And so at the moment I find myself living in two parallel realities. There’s Aiden and our quest to establish breastfeeding. And then there’s Cameron, needing reassurance, patience and a lot of energy. Colin is bearing the brunt of caring for Cam, and trying especially hard to spend time with him on weekends as Cam is spending the majority of weekdays without either Col or I around.

Days in NICU are divided into three hour sessions, and that division has carried over to our home as well. Those sessions when I’m at home leave me feeling like I’ve tried to squish in a whole extra day. Trying to keep the house from disintegrating into total chaos, remembering to turn the oven on early enough to heat whichever freezer meal is on the menu tonight, spending time with Cam, getting that three-hourly reminder that it’s time to express again – at times it’s overwhelming. By comparison, the NICU, where all I have to do is cuddle with Aiden and attempt to feed every few hours, feels like a holiday!

Since I’ve been discharged, the two realities are coming closer together. There are moments when they are almost touching. Like yesterday when I changed Cam’s nappy and mentally compared it to changing Aiden’s. It was such a strange experience and I could almost feel my brain short circuiting! I can foresee a moment when the two realities merge, the effort of maintaining them both will catch up with me and I’ll just cry uncontrollably for a while! Until then, we’ll just keep swimming.

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