The emotionality of a looming homecoming
When I entered the hospital on Monday morning, there was an extra spring in my step and wider smile than usual upon my face. I’m always excited to get to the hospital and see my baby, especially if I gave up being with him the day before so that his father could be with him, but on Monday, the thought that this might be the start of our final week at the hospital made me even more excited. That’s right, after 11 weeks in the NICU, my baby might finally becoming home in the next day or two! The emotions, however, that this possibility is invoking in me are different than I imagined.
Of course I’m happy, I’m elated, but there are lots of other feeling mixed in there that prevent this from being a time of pure joy. The biggest emotions that prevents me from experiencing full blown elation are hesitation and fear. I feel like I can’t really embrace that this is a reality until he is home. We’ve been given a possible date for release before, granted it wasn’t nearly as sure as this one, but we had to deal with the fall out of disappointment just the same. So I feel like I can’t totally get my hope up just incase something happens. After all, I watched his neighbor do the car seat test and be ready to go home and then have an episode only hours before discharge, landing him in the NICU an extra two weeks, so I know things can always happen.
The next thing I feel is nervous. I’m not worried about him stopping breathing or getting sick or anything (not anymore than is normal at least), but he is coming home with an NG feeding tube, so there are certain things that go along with that. We got trained on how to use the pump and I learned how to put his tube back in if he pulls it out, but it is still a lot to remember and do. The fact that we will be operating on even less sleep than we have been and will now have a fourth child at home to deal with definitely ups the difficulty factor on everything. There is also that added pressure of possibly drowning my child if I don’t put the tube back in he correct way and it ends up in his lungs instead of his stomach. That possibility doesn’t exactly make me feel confident, despite any training I received.
Then there is the “oh my god, what have we done?” moment of realizing we are about to have four children in this house to care for. We will no longer have nurses to help tend to our most demanding child (at least most medically demanding), we will be on our own. The logistics of bedtime, trips to the store, and even everyday living with four kids 6 and under is enough to make my head explode. Having a preemie with special eating needs doesn’t make things any easier.
There is also a slight feeling of sadness at the idea of leaving the NICU. Despite the stress and sadness that having a baby in the NICU brings, you kind of get used to it, it becomes a part of your daily routine, and the nurses become like extended family. After 13 weeks of hospital living, 11 weeks in the NICU, it is going to be very strange to not be going into the hospital anymore. There will definitely be a transition period in which we have to adjust to a new routine, a more normal routine, the routine of being home. Though there is so much about the NICU that we won’t miss, we will miss the security of care it gave us and all the wonderful medical staff we came to know and love.
Of course there is also the “I can’t believe this is finally happening!” feeling, which is the best of all the emotions I’m feeling right now. I’m giddy and excited. He is finally coming home. We don’t have to share him with doctors and nurses or work around school schedules, traffic, or other events to see him. Instead, he is all ours, every moment of the day, the way it should be.
I know one day, probably one day soon, having him home will feel so normal. These past 11 weeks will feel like distant memories as we move on with our lives. The painful memories of the NICU will pass and the emotionality of finally having our baby home will slip into the mundaneness of everyday life. Over the next 24 hours, though, I will reveille in the joy and anticipation of what is finally ending and our new beginnings. I will ride the roller coaster of emotions and savor every moment of those first few days of his home coming. It has been a long journey, but he is finally coming home.