Sunday, October 5, 9:15pm
We’re in the nursery watching Baby M have his first bath and check-up to make sure all of his parts are working when we hear the commotion coming off the elevators.
The Clampetts (aka: the grandparents) have arrived!
It’s been a long 6-year journey not for only Rob and me, but for our parents as well. They’ve watched their friends become grandparents, dodged many “Any grandchildren yet?” questions and have been in on this process since day one.
Finally, finally, finally Rob and I can happily tell them: your grandchild is here. And he’s perfect.
The grandparents, proudly wearing their "It's a BOY" stickers
Our brand new bundle of joy is about to start his first adventure: the Special Care Nursery. They've been watching his breathing and it appears very labored.
"He's 'singing'," the nurse tells us. "Or we call it 'grunting'. It just means he's working extra hard to breath."
The little guy probably had some fluid leftover in his lungs. This could be because of two reasons:
1. He was 3 weeks early
2. He had a ‘quick trip’ through the birth canal (um, ew).
“We’re going to get him set up,” the nice nurse tells us. “Come by in an hour and ring the bell and you can see him.”
We both stand there helplessly watching her wheel our son away. He's only been here in the world for a few hours and they were already taking him away from us.
Monday, October 6, 12:30am
On what is quickly becoming the longest day of our lives – and quite possibly the most hours I’ve been awake consecutively – we ring the bell for the NICU. We’re buzzed in and instructed to wash up before entering. Because these teeny tiny patients are so sensitive and susceptible to germs, everyone must wash their hands for three full minutes before entering. Have you ever washed your hands for 3 full minutes? It’s an eternity.
Have you ever washed your hands for 3 minutes anticipating seeing your little newborn baby? It’s an eternity times a million.
The NICU is filled with little incubators covered in quilts keeping the smallest babies you’ve ever seen warm and safe. There are machines everywhere, beeping and whooshing and clicking. And there, in the corner, is our sweet boy: wearing only a diaper and lying spread eagle under a heat lamp. I would laugh at his pose if he wasn't covered in wires, didn't have a breathing tube taped to his face and the littlest IV I’ve ever seen in my life.
“You have the biggest baby in the NICU!” one of the nurses cheerfully tells us.
But he just looks so…little. And helpless.
Do we look exhausted, or what? Oy.
We’re allowed to visit as much as we like. By the next afternoon, he’s off of his oxygen and the nurses start to reduce the baby’s fluids and we get to feed him for the first time from a small bottle. Monday night, we’re allowed to change his diaper and feed him even more. The next morning he’s off of his IV. The grandparents scrub in and visit him two at a time. Not exactly how we imagined them seeing him for the first time up close. They weren't even allowed to hold him, just watch him in his little bin.
So. Freaking. Small.
Our sweet boy stayed in the NICU for only 36 hours before getting a clean bill of health and being released to the Well Baby Nursery.
And those 36 hours were the longest of our lives.
Monday, October 6, 10am
Baby M is officially named Maxwell James and makes his debut on social media!
Tuesday, October 7, 2:30pm
A nurse wheels Maxwell into our room. Thank god! Up until this point, Rob and I had just been sleeping in a hospital room for no reason; Rob on the pull-out bed and me on the Craftmatic hospital bed.
It was such a strange experience, that I kept calling our room our 'hotel room'. Every time we'd leave the room, I'd ask Rob if he had the key. He had to keep reminding me that we were in a hospital and there were no locks on the door. And somehow, even with the knowledge that anyone could come into our room at any point even while I was in bed, I was able to sleep.
I have to say, for brand new parents, we had gotten two awesome nights sleep.
Tuesday, October 7, 9pm
Our parents have gone back to their hotel, the nurses have left, and it’s just us and Maxwell and our first night together.
“What do we do next?” I ask Rob, over a sleeping Maxwell.
We haven’t had anything to eat most of the day, so Rob heads down to the food court to get us some dinner. Only in the south is there a Chick Fil-A inside the hospital.
I force myself to eat through the nerves that have taken over my stomach. I can’t believe the nurses just left the baby with us. How do they know we’re qualified to take care of him? I haven’t even mastered the swaddle yet!
Everything was still so surreal. The last two days felt like we were just visiting a baby in the hospital…now we’re responsible for one.
It’s cool to sleep with the lights on, right?
My first swaddle attempt. Max is saying, "Ma, really?"
Wednesday, October 8, 7am
Our first night in numbers:
11: the decibel and strength of Max’s cries at 3am (on a loudness scale of 1-10)
27: the total number of minutes I slept all night (not bad for a first night, no?)
314: the number of times I got up to check and make sure Maxwell was breathing
65: the number of times I “accidentally” poked Max to make him move to verify he was still alive
654: the number of times I whisper-asked Rob if he thought Maxwell was breathing
4,739: the number of times I questioned my abilities as a mother
Wednesday, October 8, 10am
Nurse: “You’re being discharged today!”
But Max just got out of the NICU!
But he’s only 3 days old!
But we only had one night of practice!
But he’s so small!
But we’re not ready!
But I still can’t swaddle!
When hospitals make the decision to discharge you it’s no joke.
I believe their exact words were, “You are free to go. Take your time and let us know when you’re ready to leave and we'll walk you out.”
What they meant was, 'You have to leave. Now. I will SAY ‘take your time’ but what I really mean is: Scram. I’ll call and come by every 20 minutes to ‘gently’ check on you to see if you’re ready. But you need to be ready. We’re done with you now.'
Rob and my parents headed downstairs to pull the cars around and I walked with the nurse wheeling Maxwell in his plastic bassinet to the nurse’s station where they would cut off the anti-baby-theft alarm tag on his foot before sending us on our way.
The nurses at the station congratulated me and wished me well. I put on my best ‘I totally got this’ face and smiled.
One of the nurses looked me up and down suspiciously.
“He’s YOUR baby?”
Me, “Yes. Well, I obviously didn’t give birth to him, but yes, he’s my baby.”
I let those words wash over me. He’s my baby.
“Well, I was gonna say: damn, girl, you look GOOD. That’s how you do it!”
And with that, we walked out into the warm Augusta day to start our life together as a family.
Strapping Maxwell into his car seat for his long journey home!
Next up: the road trip home!