Welcome to the Hotel California
This is the week my son probably would have been born. He wasn’t due for another week after this, but because he was going to be my fourth section, his delivery date would probably have been scheduled for the end of this week. That means, he would’ve been home by next weekend. Instead, next weekend, he will be moving into his eighth week in the NICU, stalled out with eating issues. My cousin told me that one of her friends once referred to the NICU as The Hotel California, “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” I tend to agree with that analogy, after all, I checked out seven weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to leave.
Time in the NICU is a crazy thing. The time inside the NICU moves so slowly, you feel stuck in place, but outside the NICU, everything is speeding by. I feel like it has just been during the last few days that I have woken up from this NICU haze and realized that it has been more than seven weeks already (more than nine since I first entered the hospital and it all began). It was only after my new neighbor had posted that her son was now 9 months that I began to wake up. I thought, how can that be? I just met them the other day and she said he was six months old. That’s when I realized that time was passing on the outside even if it didn’t feel like it was on the inside here. I’ve been so immersed in this crazy slow down of time inside the hospital that I hadn’t stopped to notice how much time had passed and how much things had changed outside of the hospital.
When I was first admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure and preeclampsia it was the end of February, the last day of my boys’ mid-winter break from school. Here I am now, spring in full swing, staring down the barrel of May. My kids have had their spring breaks, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, and are now looking ahead to the end of the school year. Nine weeks ago, this all seemed so far away, I could hardly grasp the amount of time we were looking at or how I would survive these weeks. Somehow though we’ve made it through and are almost to what would have been D-day, but we don’t seem any closer to going home. A few weeks ago the doctors were very optimistic that my baby would be home for Easter. Now Mother’s Day is only two weeks away and I’m just praying I will have all my boys home with me for it. I’m beginning to feel like it doesn’t matter how much time passes because we aren’t getting any closer to the day I get to take my baby home.
People say that things get easier with time, but I don’t believe that to be true; I think we just become accustom to how things are. This doesn’t make things easier, it just makes things the norm. Sure, I’m used to come to the NICU each day and spending a few precious hours with my baby. That doesn’t mean that coming here and leaving my three other boys is any easier or that when it is time to leave the NICU each day I feel any less guilt as I leave one child, who is now more alert and aware, to go back home to my other three. In fact, it now feels harder and I feel trapped inside a constant cycle of guilt. Last night I stopped to talk to another NICU mom whose son came in a few weeks after mine, but at the same gestational age mine was when he was born. This is her first child so she stays here at night. She says she’s been getting out more now, but is still here for ever feeding (which is every three hours for 30-45 minutes). It made me sad. Sad that this was the experience she was having with her first child, sad that she was living here, and sad that I couldn’t do the same because I have three others at home. I left to go home and put my boys to bed only to miss bedtime by a few minutes and feel guilty again. Why hasn’t someone perfected teleporting yet so I can just pop between home and the hospital in a matter of seconds instead of traveling 30 minutes each way?
I know that, despite what it feels like, my son won’t grow up in the NICU. He will eventually come home, grow up, and probably be way bigger than me and even his brothers, but that “eventually” isn’t here yet and still feels so far away. Time is moving at a snails pace to the day that he gets to come home while the world around me, outside of the NICU, is speeding by. I feel like I real am stuck in the Hotel California, I’ve already checked out and I’d really like to take my baby and leave now.