Pascal’s ISCU stay

During Pascal’s ISCU stay I kept a small journal most days, writing down the small feats he conquered or frustrations I had, or things I learned. I wrote about the first diaper of his I changed and how proud of myself I was. As a new parent, it’s funny to be “excited” about the first time you “get” to change your child’s diaper. I didn’t get the “typical” new mom experience of changing every diaper all the time as soon as the baby was handed to me…no I had to be trained in diaper changing gymnastics through two tiny arm holes with cord obstacles and only got to practice a couple times a day.

IMG_3437At first I was sort of terrified to lift up his tiny, fragile body, but after a few tries I realized he wasn’t so fragile and that the process was really just awkward (with the arm holes and cords) and not nearly so traumatic to him..ha. The first time he had a “blow out” was really funny, probably because I knew I really didn’t have to take care of it :) (nurses are angels !). They had to get new cords/blood pressure cuff and ID bracelet, because when a preemie has a blow out, it gets all over all sorts of stuff! One of the few major tests Pascal had was an ultrasound of his brain to see if he had any bleeding. This is a standard test for preemies and they reassured me at his gestational age there was a very large chance he was fine (Glory to God, he was). I was nervous for all of 10 minutes or so as they scanned him, but happy to have the first opportunity to wash his little head when they were done, having left behind the ultrasound “goo”. I loved that he had a fuzzy blonde head from birth, and washing it for the first time with the nurse was a precious experience to me. Of course I had to put a hat on him right afterward so he kept warm, but I loved his little hats too.

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Leaving him was always hard, but hardest when he was awake. Even though at his age he could only see shadows, the small amount of time he was actually awake was exciting, and walking away from it when he was looking around felt tragic to me. This only happened a handful of times, the rest of the time he was sleeping soundly in my arms as I placed him back in his isolette, so I could walk away content knowing the triage of nurses in the room were watching over his sleepy body.
Babies don’t actually learn how to eat (suck swallow and breathe) until they are about 34 weeks gestationally, so when Pascal got to that point, most of our visits were about teaching him how to eat. He is what they called a “feeder and grower”. Glory be to God Pascal didn’t really have medical issues when he was born. In another time period, of course he still wouldn’t have survived, but in this day and age he was by all means an easy, “fast track”, ISCU resident. He had an IV for about a week, a feeding tube up until about 32 out of his 35 day stay, only had one, maybe 2 true bradycardia episodes (where his heart rate dropped to a too low level) but never had to get caffine shots to make him not have the episodes…just a couple toe flicks to remind his heart to beat :) . Even though his monitors did’t go off nearly as much as other babies around him, I still flinched every time they did, and was constantly watching the screen. All sorts of things: sneezes, holding one way or another, burping, made the monitors go off as “false” alarms, so the nurses were always walking up, silencing his monitor saying he was fine.

IMG_3639Most of my frustrations were about him learning to eat. I tried breastfeeding once a day, but mostly worked on his bottle feeding skills.I got into a routine, and all the people in the ISCU got used to seeing me at the same time every day. I would go in the morning with my mom (who stayed 2 weeks), sign in, wash up, get stickers and bottles, go to his room, hand the nurse my cooler of milk that I pumped the day before, wait till I got the go ahead from the nurse and changed him, then either tried breastfeeding, or tried bottle feeding right away. After working with him a while and burping him, the rest went into his tube and I held him as the food went down and after it was done for anywhere from 30 mins to an hour and a half (depending on how long it took to try bottle feeding). I then would leave, eat my packed lunch while i pumped again, then came back into his room, waited by his bed for the next feeding, repeat everything, pump, then repeat everything again…every day for 35 days. First I had my mom to help (which was great…got my lunch packed, or she got it for me, set up the pump room), then my mother in law would drop me off, then i started going on my own. It was a nice transition time, and I truly cherished every moment of those days at the hospital. I started feeling better, everyone knew me by name, I knew some of the moms, the nurses all chatted with me about this and that, Pascal kept growing stronger and bigger every day. Michael and I would compete for who could get him to take more of a bottle (michael would visit after work a few nights a week on his own, and we went together on the weekends). I never went a day without seeing him. The hardest times for me were leaving and going home..when I was there I was his mom, and after a week or so I felt more empowered to take control, and while following all the ISCU rules, the nurses still know you’re the mother and they encourage you to take control of your child’s care (as long as you have a child without a lot of special requirements/needs). Michael and I celebrated all his weight gain triumphs and feeding triumphs. We both laughed at how rediculously cute pascal looked when we burped him (looks like you’re choking him and his face was so pitiful).

IMG_1257One day I even walked in to find the night nurse that changed his NG tube wrote “I’m So Cute” on his tape mustache which adorned his face for a good portion of a week before getting a fresh one (Pascal liked to pull hs out a lot :) ). I got frustrated when he would feed well and then seemingly forget for a few days. I got frustrated with bottle nipples that were clogging from my obviously amazingly fatty milk :) (they were defective) that set Pascal back because he tired too much trying to suck and and time and again couldn’t finish bottles even though he was SO CLOSE to being able to go home. He was able to maintain his own body temperature the last week and got moved to an open air crib “box” and we got to take him to a family room a few times with a mobile monitor and watch TV together as a family :) I remember the second week when I was still in that “crazy hormone raging just had a baby” phase, michael drove us home from the hospital after I went back with him again to see Pascal at night and the song “One Thing Remains” by Kristian Stanfill came on the radio blaring the lyrics

“Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me

On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love”

I sat in the car holding his hand after we had arrived home in the parked car and cried with my eyes closed listening to those words and clinging to the hope they conveyed to me. I was tired and weary, I was at home without my child, and I felt hollow. I knew God loved me and I knew that he was bigger than this trial, that his constance in love and grace was in this situation in my life and he knew my pain.
I knew that this time would pass but it was raw and real and I was in the thick of it, and I cried tears of knowing, of thanks for his overwhelming love, but of terrible sadness and longing for him to take me to the next phase of this journey. I cried because being present is hard, and as much as I worked at being grateful for the immense relief of having a baby that was so much healthier than a lot of people in similar situations, I still longed for more. Patient husband silently held me and didn’t turn the car off, knowing I needed this moment before going inside. After the song ended I sniffled and wiped away my tears and we walked hand and hand into the house and I pumped diligently and rested my body as I did every day after being at the hospital. Moments. All these different moments melded together resulted in a tougher me, strong little baby boy, a renewed and strengthend faith in Christ’s unwaivering love for me and my husband, and ultimately we lived through to October 17, 2012 when we got to bring our little boy home.IMG_3653

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One comment on “Pascal’s ISCU stay

  1. Um. The “I’m so cute” tape mustache is the best thing I’ve seen all day. I might just walk around sticking them on unsuspecting children. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?

    I’m definitely catching up on the blogs.
    And most def leaving comments. Like a boss.

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