My feelings don't end at excitement. We are nervous as hell too. In a lot of ways, we are similar to first time parents taking their newborn baby home. We are yet to face the sleepless nights, checking on her multiple times just to see her chest rise up and down, and asking ourselves, "why is she crying?" There will be no monitors, nurses, or doctors to provide us with comfort or knowledge when we might need it the most. We are thrilled to break free of all the NICU technology, but after 3.5 months, being 'let free' stirs up some anxiety as well. The nurses tell us we are ready, but self-doubt can be a very powerful feeling when beginning to enter a new "normal" in your life.
I find myself becoming more emotional as we get closer to bringing her home. Many tears are pure happiness (and somewhat disbelief that we are finally "here"), but there are anxiety tears too.
If preparing for Elise to come home hasn't been enough on my plate, I've had some medical issues myself. Some of my swelling has reappeared and I can't seem to shed the weight even though I've been on Weight Watchers since March 11th and pumping 6-7 times a day. Adding a few headaches and dizzy spells to the list made me call my local OBGYN and schedule an appointment for today. I absolutely adore my Schneck OBs-- a very talented group of doctors who are extremely in tune with their patients and care deeply about what they are going through...pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and postpartum. As I began running through my symptoms with my doctor, he started to take notes and just listen. Then he asked the million dollar question, "How are you doing emotionally?"
I couldn't say a word. All I could do was cry. My number one goal was to remain strong throughout this journey, but I never said I wouldn't shed tears. As I tried to speak about my feelings through tears, my doctor made me understand what I was feeling was acceptable and normal. He looked up from taking notes and said, "You've spent every ounce of your emotional energy on getting through these last four months. Now you are filled with anxiety as you prepare to bring her home and try to muster up more emotional energy for this new journey you are about to begin. You can't be supermom. I won't let you. If you weren't showing me signs of anxiety/depression after everything you've been through, I'd be worried about you. You have been through hell and back. Let it out."
It's easy to feel like you are alone when you are on a unique journey such as ours. "Traditional parents"with "traditional newborns" have seemed to pop up all around us. Commercials on t.v., friends having babies, or your husband being a pediatrician and examining these types of babies. When what you don't have is always in your face, it's hard to not feel like you live on an abandoned island.
After my appointment today, it is comforting to know that my anxiety is normal and a slice of 'traditional mommyhood' is around the corner. My doctor has all the confidence in the world that my emotions will change once I get Elise home and find a routine in a new life together. He wants to see me in two weeks to get an update.
Elise, herself, has had an amazing medical family for the last 104 days as well. When I was transported by ambulance to St. V's on February 3rd, strangers surrounded me. Staff doctors, residents, interns, medical students, nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatologists. They were buzzing around my unfamiliar hospital room as I held onto my belly, praying I could keep Elise inside me for at least three more weeks so I could deliver a 28 weeker, not a 25 weeker.
On one of the nights I was lying in my hospital bed, Karrie, a NICU nurse stopped by to say hello. In 2006, Karrie and I were two IUPUI students that happened to both sign up for a month long internship in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I was an education major and would teach English in the schools and Karrie was a nursing major and would work in the hospitals. We both would learn Spanish at a language school and live with host families nearby. We had a great time blossoming a friendship in Mexico with many, many fond memories. Once we returned back to campus, we became Facebook friends to stay in touch.
Little did I know that six years later I would really need Karrie in my everyday life. When she visited me before Elise arrived, she said to me, "Don't worry, when you deliver, I'll make sure I sign up to be Elise's primary night nurse. I'll take good care of your little lady." Little did we know that Elise was on her way. Elise came three days later as a 25w 5d preemie. The first night Karrie was able to take care of Elise was the first time my shoulders finally got a rest. In the scary, unfamiliar world I was quickly beginning to live, Karrie was a familiar soul that God knew I needed.
When I couldn't sleep at night, I called Karrie. When I was scared to ask too many questions of the doctors, I kept Karrie on the phone answering all my mommy questions. When I was afraid to bond, Karrie said cuddle with your baby girl. When I was fighting back tears, Karrie would hug me and reassure me that everything was going to be OK. When I so badly wanted to touch my daughter, Karrie would let me take off those darn purple gloves for a few seconds and touch her. When I was afraid to love, Karrie told me to love....and never, ever stop.
Tonight, Karrie works her last night shift with Elise.
Karrie once said, "There will never be another Elise in my life." Well, there will certainly never be another Nurse Karrie in our lives.
G & J & E