Sunday, September 12, 2010

kangaroo care = magic

September 6, 2010

The day began at 7am with a call from Tony (from Kelly's phone, of course). I suppose he felt like we'd really "bonded" the day before, so he felt completely comfortable calling me directly to ask for some gift cards and support for Kelly. "Ah wanna do right by her. An ah wanna make shur shees got food an munie fur close. Shees geddin out tuday. Docturs cumin tuh checker blud preshur rill soon." I told him we were happy to help, and as soon as Ryan gets back from the airport, we would go get some gift cards and meet them at the hospital. He called back 3 or 4 times in the next 30 minutes to confirm that we were going buy some gift cards and meet them at the hospital around noon. I wasn't sure what part of my message was confusing, but I tried really hard not to let him hear the frustration in my voice (we'd worked so hard to repair our relationship yesterday, I didn't want my "tone" to send him in to a rage).

After calling and confirming our plans with Ryan, I texted Kelly (knowing that it was probably Tony) that "we still have a trust account set up with Mary to get you through the next 6 weeks - whatever you will need to heal and be comfortable. We'll give her a call in a few hours (still 6am in california) to start paying your rent through the trust. We will also meet you at the hospital by noon to say good-bye and shower you with gifts! :) " 

Tony immediately called back and asked "did you just send that message?" to confirm (again) that we were going to support Kelly when she got out of the hospital and meet them at noon.  Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.  We are going to meet you at the hospital. We are going to bring gift cards. Calm DOWN! 

I texted Ryan (on his way to pick up Shannon at the airport) that I also wanted to give Kelly a bouquet of happy balloons since (Tony told us) she hates flowers. Ryan and Shannon picked up $200 in gift cards, a Get Well balloon for Kelly, and a Dora balloon for Sophie on their way back from the airport. When we got to the hospital, Luke was in the NICU. We weren't alarmed, but they explained that since his birthmom had checked herself out, the baby needed to be under strict supervision (not that she'd even seen him or held him since that first night, but I guess that's the hospital policy). The nurse walked us down the hall to the elevator and then up to the security doors on the 3rd floor. She explained that we were going to need to scrub in before we entered the NICU - and sure enough, there was a giant sink with individually packaged surgical scrub brushes and files to clean under our fingernails. We felt like we were going in to surgery.

The nurses in the NICU were incredibly protective (as well they should be) of the babies. Ryan and I explained that we were Luke's "adoptive parents" and one of the nurses looked at us like she might have to call someone to see if we were allowed to be there. We explained that we'd been visiting him in the mother/baby nursery for the last 3 days and the only reason he was up here was because his mom checked herself out early (and clearly we were the ones who cared since we were the ones visiting him). She pointed to Shannon and asked, "Who's this?" and we all replied at the same time, "This is Shannon/I'm the cousin/She's our photographer" which confused the nurse even further. I was reminded of what Kelly told us about people in the south just not understanding or supporting adoption. Mary thought maybe this wasn't an adoption-friendly hospital.

The nurse told Shannon that she was not allowed to stay very long because she wasn't an immediate family member, then she gave us the run-down of who WAS allowed in the NICU. We followed her back to a private little room in the corner where Luke was sleeping in an isolette. Seeing Luke in the NICU was not alarming because he wasn't hooked up to anything, but I imagined it might be difficult to say "NICU" to our families without freaking them out just a little.

Luke looked great. He was completely out of his blankets, so we could finally appreciate every little inch of him. His skinny arms, his giant feet, his slender fingers...he was pink and absolutely perfect. We all watched him breathe as Nurse Janice explained all of the numbers on his monitor. Then we explained to Janice that Shannon had just flown in from Kansas and she was only in town for 48 hours. We asked if there was any way to trade off - that one of us could go out to the waiting room so Shannon could stay and take pictures. Janice didn't actually seem to mind if Shannon was in there, but she wanted to check with Luke's doctor and the other nurse who was caring for Luke's "roommate" - an 11 lb baby named Ethan who was hooked up to a feeding tube...sleeping under bili lights...receiving medicine through an IV. Ethan currently had 3 visitors in his room, including two grandparents staring at him through the glass door and a little brother named Aiden who was running and jumping in to the curtain that separated us. Surely, tiny little Shannon with her camera was not going to upset the apple-cart.

Janice left the room and Shannon said, "I'm surprised. I really didn't think they'd let me in here. But maybe since Luke's not sick, they'll be a little more lenient?" Just then, Janice returned with a paper towel in her hand. She said, "Okay...I talked to Luke's doctor and she said, if we fill out this official form, we can call Shannon your approved support person while she's in town." We all looked at the paper towel and smiled at Janice. She was awesome. And she continued to be awesome - waving and smiling at us every time we walked through the doors - even if her patient was on the other side of the room. She made it possible for Shannon to be in there with us and she made our time in the NICU really special.

I looked at the clock and noticed it was almost noon. Time to meet Tony downstairs with our balloons and gift cards. I looked at my phone. I had 5 missed calls from Kelly. Ryan looked at his phone. He had 4 messages. They were ALL from Tony (from Kelly's phone). We went out to the lobby where Janice was telling us about Luke's feeding schedule and the blood work they were going to do. I answered a call from Brandon. He and Sarah were at the hospital. Ryan said he would go down there and meet them after he delivered Kelly's balloons and gifts. My phone rang. It was Tony. He and Kelly were waiting downstairs too. Kelly was checked out and ready to go. I said, "Okay...Ryan will be right down". I hung up and Ryan's phone immediately rang. It was Tony. "Okay, man...I'll be right down."  Good lord, dude. We're COMING!!!!

Shannon and I waited upstairs for Ryan to come back. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of silver outside and realized it was Ryan - running with the mylar balloons to greet Tony and Kelly in the circle drive. Shannon snapped some pictures and we watched from the window as Ryan hugged them good-bye. I suddenly became aware that this might be the last time I ever see them. "I wonder if I should have said good-bye" and then laughed at my attempt to sound genuine. As I watched them drive away, I saw Ryan walking in with Sarah and Brandon. We knew they wouldn't be allowed to see Luke in the NICU and it made us glad they'd been there to hold him and love him for the last 3 days.

They brought us Chick-fil-a and we sat in the lobby, talking about Tony and Kelly and how nice it will be to have them out of the hospital. We wanted a real chance to bond with Luke and it was causing way too much stress, knowing they could just walk around the corner any second. Brandon had to be at the airport by 3:00, so they decided to go to Target to buy some air mattresses and an abundance of pillows and comforters - then drop Brandon off. Ryan decided he'd go with them (and pay for the air mattresses) since we'd be hosting several waves of visitors in the next few days.  Shannon and I went back to the NICU in time to talk to Dr. Lipson, the pediatrician who saw Luke on the first day. Janice walked in at the same time and assured Dr. Lipson that all of the right papers were signed - she could finally disclose specific medical information to me. As I stood there listening to the doctor, I started to feel something I'd never felt before...something I'd waited my whole life to feel. The doctor was talking to me about Luke's blood work and his body temperature, and for the very first time, somebody was talking to me like a mom.

I'm a mom.

I'm Luke's mom.

A social worker named Yanni walked in and asked how things were going. I told her that everyone in the hospital had been amazing, minus the nurse from yesterday. I told her it really upset us that she felt the need to remind us that he was not "ours" for 10 days - that it was completely unnecessary. Yanni looked mortified. "Do you know her name?"

"It was Sarah. She was Kelly's nurse from yesterday and she went out of her way to find us on the 4th floor while we were holding Luke. She completely ruined our day."

(matter of factly) "You need to file a formal complaint with the hospital. This should be a magical time for you. Her comments were totally inappropriate and they certainly do not reflect the standards of this hospital."

I told her (again) that everyone else has been really wonderful and we were ready to write a letter to the staff, thanking them for their excellent care and sensitivity until that happened.

She asked me again to please file a formal complaint. "That's the only way this hospital can officially do anything about what happened and try to repair it.”

As she walked away, Shannon congratulated me on saying something - that I'd done the right thing and I'd gone through the proper channels. I felt good about everything that had happened that whole morning. We'd given Kelly and Tony everything they needed to get through the next few weeks, we'd finally been treated like Luke's parents by the staff at the hospital, we'd spoken up for ourselves about that horrible nurse, and now Janice was gathering hospital gowns and blankets so I could experience something called kangaroo care with my precious little bundle.

If you’ve never heard of kangaroo care, it’s the most magical thing to ever happen between a mommy and her baby. I was given the chance to hold my son using a hospital gown pulled around me with Luke laying directly on my chest. The benefits were immediate – Luke took 25 mL of formula after 30 minutes of skin-to-skin contact...the most we'd seen him eat at one time. My body temperature helped to regulate his body temperature so he didn't have to stay in the isolette (or the hospital) quite as long. It could have been the fact that Kelly and Tony checked themselves out of the hospital early (against doctor's orders), but our stress levels were down by about 195% that day. Shannon was there to take pictures and capture the whole thing, so (as much as I enjoy taking pictures and documenting our journey) it helped me just relax and enjoy the experience because I knew her photos would be AMAZING!!!

And they were.

Ryan returned from Target in time to see Luke curled up against me and we had a special little moment to take some family photos. I explained to Ryan what Dr. Lipson had explained to me (that Luke had to maintain his body temperature for 24 hours outside of the isolette before we could take him home). I also told him how amazing this kangaroo care thing was and how he HAD to do it. Shannon added, "the therapists at work talk about how the results have been proven just as effective with dads as it is with moms". Ryan seemed excited. It was pure bliss.

The three of us decided to go get lunch. There was a Mexican food place down the street and some chips and salsa sounded perfect. Maybe a margarita?  

We got back from lunch and scrubbed up:

Luke ate 40mL and gave us some huge (albeit) involuntary smiles. It was exactly what we needed.

Before we left the hospital, we stopped by the nurses' station on the 4th floor to file our formal complaint against the evil nurse, Sarah. Yanni told us that a nurse named Kim was expecting us, and sure enough, she took down our statement and assured us that Sarah was entirely out of line. The hospital would take our feedback very seriously.

We got back to Brandon and Sarah's around 8pm and decided we were in for the night. We fixed ourselves several glasses of wine and watched most of Glee (Season One) on DVD as Shannon loaded up her photos and created these videos:

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