Have you ever had that time, at the beach, where you have gotten caught completely unawares by a wave?
You know, the big one that picks you up and throws you around
grinding your face into the sand below, tearing at your swimsuit and wrapping your hair around your head in a violent way
until you don't know which way is up and you just pray to God that when this wave has passed that you can get your feet under you and wipe the stinging sand out of your eyes enough to see and prepare for the next wave that comes
That is the NICU.
The NICU is not a roller coaster ride. You cannot get on and off when you want, and you can never see the hills coming.
The NICU is an angry ocean intent on showing you who's boss.
Hazel Grace was doing well. She finally got her left lung back open and she was doing well on the jet ventilator with settings of a pressure of 28 and even though her O2 needs were hopping all around, they never went as high as they were when her lung was collapsed.
Then, on Sunday early morning, the top lobe of her right lung collapsed.
Crash! The wave hit me completely unexpectedly. She had been holding her own for about 3 days, and we had just seen her late Saturday evening.
And I hadn't even taken a breath before that wave hit me.
But it seems that she is pulling through well and even though her pressure went up one point to 29, she is oxygenating about the same as she was before it collapsed, so even though they have not done another x-ray to see if it has opened up, clinically, it appears that it has.
Head above water, doggy paddle...
But how long can I hold out? How long can I keep this up?
I am tired, fighting exhaustion with a cup of coffee that grows cold before I can drink it
And I feel like I'm sinking and everything tastes salty and it shouldn't because I'm not in an ocean and so I wipe at my face, my chapped lips and burning eyes and find tears that I didn't even know were falling
I sit in the corner, body curved around the attachments to the pump that I must use so that I can contribute the one small thing that I can to the health of my baby, and I feel the milk flow dripping into the bottles with the rhythmic whirring of the machine
like so many tears.
They say that to help your milk to let down better, it helps to look at a picture of your baby or hold a blanket the smells of her, but I don't have a blanket of hers that I can bring home and the smell that my mind conjures when I picture my sweet baby Hazel Grace is one of antiseptic and plastic tubing...
one of a tiny body enclosed in a plexi-glass case.
But I have come to look forward to that scent, the scent of my baby, the scent she breathes
So what if it's not the scent of clean diapers and baby lotion
It's her scent.
And what does she think of me? A disjointed hand that smells of anti-bacterial foam?
But she knows my voice and sats higher when I am there and she hears me talking.
And so I go and I sit and watch her sleep. I look at her, at her little chest vibrating with the jet and her lungs expanding in their steady rhythm and I lean heavily against her isolette. I cling to my sweet baby Hazel's bed like a life raft
like it's the only thing that can keep me afloat in this wild ocean.
And I leave only reluctantly knowing that once I turn my back on that little bed, once I pass through those automatic doors and they latch shut behind me,
Once I look away,
I am setting myself up to be unexpectedly bowled over by whatever the ocean of the NICU decides to throw my way.
But so far, right now, today, the sea is calm and the waves are gentle
as gentle as the sigh that my sweet baby Hazel makes when she's snuggled in on her tummy and ready for a peaceful night's sleep.