After 6 weeks, I knew that I had already used half of my maternity leave sitting in the NICU. I struggled immensely with the decision to go back to work until June Parker came home so that I could have at least 6 weeks at home with her.
I distinctly recall one Saturday sitting in the unit, talking to Alice and another nurse about how long they thought she’d be in the unit and if I should go back. I explained my office was about a 10 minute walk from the hospital (but honestly, closer to 15 or ore by the time I waited on elevators, got checked in, got scrubbed in and got to June’s nursery). They said there were other UK mamas who had gone back to work with a baby in the unit and that it always seemed to give them purpose and a drive.
While I felt like I didn’t have any options, I reluctantly nodded my head.
Again, the unachievable expectations. I know that parental leave in this country isn’t at all what it could be, but after having to endure such a challenging start to parenthood, it would have been nice to have had more than 6 weeks home with our babe. I know often women have to make the same kind of decisions simply because they don’t have the time banked up. Especially when you’re talking about a second or third child. I was already worrying about time once I returned to work full time because I knew June would have a lot of follow up Dr’s appt’s and I would have absolutely no leave remaining. I didn’t have 12 weeks to begin with but thankfully had short-term disability so that helped out financially once my sick and vacation time had expired.
The schedule was grueling. I went in to the office at 7am, headed over to the unit around 8 to drop off the milk I had pumped the night before and do June’s 8 o’clock care–diaper change, temperature, feeding, etc. then I would make the 15 minute walk back. I’d leave around 11:45 to make it for her 12pm care, only that often it had already been done. The unit would shut down at 4pm for Sterile Procedures, so I would stay in the office a bit longer and be there when the unit reopened at 5pm and stay until shift change at 7pm.
Lew had gone back to work for several weeks at this point and was also helping on our house renovations. He also had picked up a lot of overtime thinking that he wanted to get in some extra shifts before June was born. So he was working 4-days a week and coming in at 5pm to see June before he would have to clock in over in the adult trauma unit. Initially we thought he’d be able to make see her on nights he worked, but with the level of severity and infection of many of his patients it wasn’t safe.
After one week of me returning to work, we got word that June would be moving down to the step-down unit. This was great, in that it meant that she was one step closer to going home! But also meant since June only had a primary at night shift, we were going to be missing all the familiar faces we had come to love.
The step-down unit was great and Lew and I continued to keep the same, exhausted schedule–him working 4 days a week, me working and going back and forth multiple times a day to the NICU and trying to get our home ready for June to come home to. We had some drywall work done so there was dust everywhere–not a place you want to bring a baby with underdeveloped lungs into. We looked into getting someone to deep clean our home before she was discharged and it was going to be $800. Yeah, right. Not happening. So, we buckled up and with the help of Lewie’s amazing parents, got it done –mostly with their help.
One weekend on a visit, we got word that June was likely going home in the next few days and we needed to bring her carseat in so they could do the carseat test. We knew that June was going to be going home on Oxygen and with a heart monitor. The carseat test would monitor how she did in those positions–would her oxygen saturations plummet or would she be okay? Thankfully she passed with flying colors. I went to Buy Buy Baby hoping for some new Preemie clothes (which were super hard to find!) to bring her home in. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it worked.
On Monday, April 11th, just a few days prior to her due date, we brought June home. We alerted our supervisors over the weekend and then early that morning to the step down unit. Our absolute favorite nurse in Mother/Baby, Joan, was working that day and since the step down unit is on that floor, she commandeered the stroller so that we had to come find her so she could see June before we left. We got June ready, went in to watch several videos about caring for her at home and then started the discharge process.
It was very surreal–especially being in the step down unit. Again, no familiar nurses and even the APP on duty that day was new to us. We were educated multiple times on her oxygen and monitor and how to stop the machine if her heart rate were to drop. We learned very quickly that it’s much more difficult to keep the wires and sticky pads on when you’re outside of the hospital environment.
Once discharged, we made our way to see Joan and get the stroller and then up to the 4th floor to say goodbye to some of our nurse family there. We then headed to the car with our precious cargo. Lew had promised me a steak dinner from Blue Heron once June was released (no rare meat during pregnancy) but darn them–they are closed on Mondays. I don’t recall much about leaving Lexington other than sitting in the back with June and looking up front to see that Lew was incredibly nervous. Her monitor went off several times although she was okay–it was a terrifying sound.
We came inside and breathed a sign of relief. We finally had our girl home.