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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Memories of the NICU that changed me forever

The NICU was a tough place to be. I knew I did not have the guts needed to be a medical professional, so being forced into this situation challenged me. I wanted to hold the babies no one came to see, the one who trembled from drug withdrawal I wanted to take home. The "pods" as they were called, were small, you were practically on top of each other as you tried to live this very strange and personal life with your baby. One day there were screens placed around a baby who was right across from me in our pod, her family was behind the screens with her. I knew I couldn't ask, but I knew what was happening. That baby's future was even more uncertain than my Teale, maybe she was in pain or wasn't going to make it on her own. The machines were turned off and the moan of the Mother I heard that day still haunts me. I sat there with Teale in my arms and wept for the family, but especially for the Mother. I prayed for them and selfishly, for me, I didn't know how I would survive such a loss. As the screens were removed and the family walked by, I avoided eye contact, too fearful I would break down into blubbering tears, something they did not need. Teale must have been about a month old when this incident happened, as by then I was holding her. I remember Mark wasn't there and I needed out of the NICU after the family left and the baby's space was suddenly clear. I put Teale back in her crib and went to the ladies room to cry and pull myself back together. I called Mark, I needed to hear his voice and then I went back to the sink I scrubbed at countless times so I could go hold Teale. It was so strange to me that everyone and everything around me just carried on, a Mom had just lost her baby. The other time I witnessed such a thing, it happened in my friend's pod. You may remember my HS friend had had a son with gastroschisis just weeks before I had Teale. Although we were in different pods, we hung together much and were able to touch base with each other often. The schedule Mark and I ran in the NICU barely varied during the weekdays. We had been able to get help for our in home daycare daily so that I could be at the hospital with Teale. Mark was running our daycare with the friends and family who stepped up to help us. Many of our daycare families pulled their kids, relying on their own families, to give us breaks also. I often got rides to and from the hospital, spending from morning until dinnertime with Teale. Dinner was spent at home with Mark and Beau. After dinner we would do something fun with Beau and then do his his bedtime routine together. Beau loved being read to, I was reading chapter books to him, he loved curling up on the couch to find out more about Narnia or to solve another Tree House mystery. After putting him to bed, someone would stay at our house while Beau slept. Then both Mark and I went back to the NICU to be with Teale until about midnight. Weekends varied more, we may have gone up separately or all gone, so Beau could see his sister. There were times people came to the NICU and then took Beau home with them. He had many play dates and really had to grow up fast during that time. He had been very attached to Mark and I, having been raised by both of us solely. Suddenly going from being with Mark and I constantly to being with many different people was somewhat good for Beau, as he became more confident with this independence. Although I worried he resented Teale, he never showed any signs of that, just care and concern for his baby sister. One night, after putting Beau to bed, Mark and I walked into the NICU past our friend's pod and could tell they were distraught. We stopped to talk in hushed tones, a baby in their pod was about to be let go. I am unable to really say how much these losses affected me, often those two families come into my thoughts. I wonder how they are today, if they have other children, if they ever "recovered." Other happier memories include New Years eve "partying" with our friends in the family lounge. They snuck in champagne and we toasted in paper cups the coming of 1999. Many other memories go through my head, good ones and bad ones as there were so many in the two months Teale spent there. It was a place of great miracles and huge losses. We were loved and cared for by many  more people than I ever imagined cared about us. I learned about God's presence and I trusted Him to be with Teale when I was not there. Mark and I made music tapes that were left playing softly for Teale when we left at night, trusting she was comforted by them. One day I was sitting holding Teale and a doctor came to me. She callously told me "Teale has failed three hearing tests, we believe she is deaf." My heart sank, did she really just tell me my daughter is deaf the same way you would tell a person "she has a cold?" Mark is a musician, he would be devastated and now I had to tell him. I sat their in shock, not sure what my next move should be. I had just gotten to the NICU when this bomb was dropped on me. I had just settled with Teale in my arms, not an easy task with all the tubes and wires attached to her. I wanted to go to a phone and call Mark, but was that fair to him, to tell him over the phone? After sitting there for what felt like forever, I asked the nurse for help in putting Teale back and went to call Mark. I don't remember how I broke the news to him, I only knew it was one of the most difficult things I ever did. The nurses were positive with us, reassuring us that Teale seemed to respond to our music tapes. We held onto that hope until the more extensive hearing test would be administered after Teale's release from the NICU. It was one more devastating blow, but I was numb and becoming more and more hardened to what the medical community told me. I had God, faith, hope and much love, I would continue to believe miracles could happen. With Mark by my side, we would get through this and Teale would be the best she could, whatever that turned out to be.

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