I don’t remember signing up to be an extra on MTV’s reality show Teen Moms,but I’m pretty sure I ended up as one last night while staying overnight in the ICU with my baby.
First off, my baby is good, really good. We got excellent news and I will post on that update later. However, my son did have to spend a night in ICU last night after a procedure at Children’s Hospital. I had been told that most of the beds in ICU were private and would be nice and quiet for my baby to recover. I got very little sleep the night before the procedure because I was nervous. I’d gotten up at 5:30 am and had a very long, emotionally trying day. I was kind of hoping that my son would sleep soundly, thanks to some good drugs, so I could get a little sleep, especially now that more than a week of living in the hospital was really starting to take a toll on me. It seemed like this might be a possibility as I came into ICU and found my baby resting peacefully in a large, but otherwise unoccupied room. There appeared to be many unoccupied rooms in ICU, so I was very hopeful about a quiet night.
Unfortunately, just as I began eyeing the small pull out couch, contemplating a quick nap while my son slept, a nurse came in and wrote another patient’s name on the board. Looks like my son was getting a roommate, oh well. Then they wheeled in a little boy who looked similar in age to my son and I overheard them say that he was a former NICU baby. I thought to myself that this might actually be nice, on the other side of the curtain will be a mom who has been going through a similar experience as me. I pictured us pulling back the dividing curtain and bonding over NICU and post NICU war stories while rocking and comforting our babies. I thought how nice it would be to not be so lonely that night. Then in came three very worried looking people with “caretaker” badges on. One was an older woman who seemed a little old to have such a young baby (hey, who was I to judge though), accompanied by a young girl who appeared to be her daughter, and then an equally young boy. It quickly became clear to me that the teenage boy and girl were the child’s parents.
I’m an open minded person, so this didn’t bother me. Ok, so I had to revise my picture of how things would be that night. Sure, the mom was a lot younger than me, so we wouldn’t have too much in common, but we still had one big thing in common, something that I find to be a great common ground with other women, we were both mothers and on top of that, we were both worried about our sons. Once things settled down and seemed okay, I asked the mom how old her son was as she passed by me on her way back from dinner. She stopped to chat as we exchanged birth weights, current weights, gestational age at birth, current chronological age, and what procedures our sons had had. She seemed nice and mature enough. I began to think maybe I’d misjudged her age and that maybe she was in her 20s but just looked really young. I didn’t want to insult her by asking her age, after all, I wouldn’t exactly want her asking me how old I was and then making judgement on me for being almost 40, which I sure seems super old to her (I thought it was super old too, until I realized that Brad Pitt is 50 and my own sister in now 40).
The baby’s father stayed with her, which changed my plan for the night, but it was sweet, and I thought I might still get to chat with her a few times as she passed in and out. I’d play the role of the veteran parent, telling a funny story or two about my first year parenting and assure them that they too will get through it. It quickly became clear though, that this bonding I had invented in my head, was not going to happen. Despite their son trying to sleep (as well as mine) and my attempts to be as quiet and courteous as possible in our shared space, they turned on their tv and cranked the volume to the MTV reality tv show they were watching as loud as they could. I figured that they just didn’t realize how loud it was and that they’d turn it off before. Besides, it didn’t seem to disturb my son, who was resting in my arms, so I just plugged my headphones into my IPad and watched Orange is the New Black until my son’ late night feed was done. I decided that midnight was as late as I could sit holding him and that I needed to put him in his crib. When I took off my headphones, their tv was still blaring. It was starting to become clear that these young parents had not been taught the same lessons about curtesy that my parents had taught me. I decided not to complain about it, as long as I was able to get my son to sleep in his crib despite the noise. I was so tired, and there were so many hospital noises anyway, I figured that I could deal with the tv noise. At that point, one of the nurses came in to check vitals on both babies and was merciful enough to turn their tv down to a more bearable level. I was finally able to fall off to sleep for a bit, but was awaken at 2:30am to Teen Mom drama. The young parents were taking turns sleeping on the couch (which I’m wondering if they knew pulled out) and sitting in the chair. Teen Mom was in the chair and decided that she didn’t want to be anymore and it was her turn to to have the couch even though she apparently had the couch from 8pm until 12am. Teen Dad was unwilling to give up his time on the couch early so a fight ensued, a very loud fight. There was lots of swearing and yelling. She must have been slapping him on the back pretty hard at one point and then there were the threats of a break up. This continued for 15 minutes before one of the nurses heard the commotion and came in to check on them and remind them that there was a patient next door trying to sleep. After that they fought quieter until, I’m guessing, Teen Dad gave up and let Teen Mom have the couch. In the morning, the teen parents returned to fighting over their sleeping accommodations as they blasted more MTV reality tv at 8am. Teen Dad wasn’t too happy that Teen Mom never gave the couch back up to him the rest of the night.
Despite the ridiculous fight, with the childish threats in the middle of the night that made me feel like I was stuck in one of their awful MTV reality shows, I have to hand it to these young parents for dealing with a situation that was difficult for even an older, more experienced parent to deal with. I’m guessing that these teens didn’t plan to get pregnant and have a baby at whatever young age they were. I know they weren’t planning to have the baby five weeks early or for the baby to have a medical condition that would require surgery and a hospital stay at such a young age (no one plans for those things), but here these teens were, together, by their son’s hospital bed. Sure they fought, so have my husband and I during these times of high stress. Yes the said stupid things in a sleep deprived state, My husband and I are guilty of that too. They also did something else that reminded me of my husband and I. They supported each other, comforted each other, and as they fell off to sleep earlier in the evening, they whispered “I love you” to each other. I guess that Teen Mom and I had more in common than I thought.
So maybe I wasn’t an extra in an episode of the reality show Teen Mom; maybe I was an extra in the reality of what it is like to be a parent of a child in the ICU. Sometimes you just need to change the lense in which you observe the world through to see how alike we all really are.