What has it been like to have a baby in the hospital, aside from the health stuff? Since this is our only child, we have nothing to compare it to. Sure, we’re aware that this isn’t “normal” but it’s normal for us.
The hospital is wonderful. The nurses and doctors and all of the staff are extremely capable and compassionate, and frankly they work miracles on a daily basis and should be sainted, in my opinion. There are all sorts of resources for us, from Ronald McDonald House to social workers and financial counselors to a library of relevant reading material. The cafeteria food is really good, and cheaper than restaurants. There are all sorts of programs for non-baby patients – this hospital is for children only, so the whole place is done up in bright colors with lots of art and interactive things on the walls.
I took eight weeks off work (on disability, at 60% of my salary) after Baby M’s birth to recover from surgery and sort of figure out what to do next. I spent the time doing all the things I didn’t have a chance to do before she was born – fixing up her room and cleaning out closets and creating a baby registry and sewing her quilt. I spent hours at her bedside in the hospital, even when I couldn’t do anything but change her diaper every four hours. Most days we kangarooed for as long as the nurse would let us. I read all the preemie books I could find.
Oh, and I spend time – so much time – pumping breast milk. I pump every two to three hours around the clock, although sometimes I go four hours at night to get a little more sleep. I have donated excess breastmilk already and I’d like to keep this up for as long as my body will let me. (Fun fact: I have kept track of every time I’ve pumped – 650+ – and I could figure it out in gallons if I wanted to. #statsnerd)
When I went back to work, things got tougher. I spend eight hours a day at work and close to six hours a day at the hospital, with more time on the weekend. I don’t cook. I don’t go grocery shopping. (I don’t go shopping at all.) I don’t clean the house. I do laundry when absolutely necessary, usually at night so it goes while I’m asleep. I try to snuggle the cat as much as possible. I eat well, I sleep as much as I can, and I stay connected with Peanut. It’s a tough schedule, but the motivation is so strong that it’s not hard if that makes sense.
When might things change? It’s hard to say. We are in the stage two unit, where babies go home from. All told, we spent ten weeks in intensive care and we’ve now been in critical care for almost four weeks. As I write this, I expect that Baby M will be in the hospital for at least another month (so, mid-January), possibly longer depending on her oxygen needs. There’s not much left to do to welcome her home – buy a car seat, send out my maternity leave notice at work, and hunker down for the winter. I’ll write more about my career choices in a future post.