Today I am allowed to hold you for the first time, but given it is such a momentous occasion I have decided to wait till your Dad can be here too. So on Saturday I will give you your first ever cuddle. I can’t imagine what it is like for you to have felt no one hold you. To have so little contact at a time when the human touch means so much. I wonder how much this will affect you in years to come, but I have a feeling I am overanalysing things too much. We have been given a one hour time limit and have been warned that if your oxygen dips you will be put straight back in the humidicrib.
You are on a whiff of oxygen, as Dr Mary says, at 22% in the crib, but none through your CPAP prongs. You are doing so well, it hurts me to think that there will be a time when you will slide backwards. I remind myself constantly not to get your hopes up, and not to look too far ahead.
The NICU is full again after a few babies moved into HDU and a few sadly passed away. Last night two babies were lost and the staff are noticeably muted today They take it personally, though nurse Sarah tells me they learn to separate themselves from the despair they witness. And the success stories are worth the devastating nights like last night. I so hope you are one of those success stories.
You have moved up to the second least critical bed in your row, furthest but one from the emergency surgery door. Next to you is Amy, one away is Aerie, and in the least critical bed is Madison. Madison is 27 weeker and is American but was born here while her Mum was on holiday and hopefully soon she will be transported to the states. Before that she will go to a level 2 hospital because they aren’t covered by Medicare and the expense is horrendous in a level 3 hospital. Aerie is a 32 weeker and I frequently chat to her Mum in the expressing room. Both seem to be doing well. Amy has been here all along and has had serious respiratory issues. She is a 26 weeker like you and is almost full term. Her mum travels 90 minutes each day to see her, leaving her two boys at home with their Dad who works nights. Her parents are hopeful that one day soon she will be able to move to level 2 so she can be relocated to a hospital closer to home.
Right now, life seems pretty happy, though I know it won’t last. There’s that voice again warning me of stormy seas ahead. I squash it to the back and focus on watching you sleep. Soon I will go home to your brother, as if I have two separate families to care for. Soon I will go back to my other life- a life that languishes uncomfortably in a waiting pattern for you to join.
I’m reminded reading through my old diaries of the other babies that came and went through the NICU. Of Madison who left to go to another hospital – I wonder if she ever got to her real home in America. Of Amy, who we met again at the Christmas party last year, who is even tinier than you despite being a couple of months older. She finally got her feeding tube out just this year, and the two of you played together like old friends, bunk mates and soldiers at arms. And Aerie, who think of often. Whose parents were given such a horrendous choice, and who will be missed by them every day. I had developed a relationship with her mother early on and found out she lived not far from us. I see her mum out and about, but she doesn’t recognise me. Sometimes, out of context, it is difficult to place people you have met in a previous life. A life you may well want to out behind you, gone but never forgotten. She has a little boy now, and I am so glad for her. Not that Aerie could possibly be replaced, but knowing the utter delight a child can bring, I am glad she has experienced it. Some things touch you in a way you can never forget. Aerie’s struggle was one of them. And as always, it highlights for me what could very easily have been had we not been so very lucky.