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A Baby Story: Part Three

Part Three:  The Hospital

We were wheeled into our “suite” after just a few hours in recovery.  We had hoped to have a single, but the aforementioned “baby bonanza” meant that beds were scarce, and single rooms even more so.  To our dismay, there was another patient occupying one of the beds when we came in – in all the post baby scenarios we had mapped out, this appeared to be worst case.  They quickly drew the curtain – they were sans baby and figured ours would no doubt be a screamer – and we were left to ourselves.  We quickly settled in and I was about to go retrieve the parents to finally let them meet their granddaughter when the nurse arrived to steal our baby away.  Apparently Justine had a date with a tanning bed.

A heat lamp is probably a more apt description.  Standard operating procedure for newborns to keep them warm and such.  She was also slated for her first bath, which I was sent to witness,  pulling along the new grandparents in tow.  We watched, transfixed, through the glass as some stranger splashed soap and water on my now screaming 2 hour old offspring much to the delight of everyone around.  Honestly, in a matter of minutes from being ripped from the womb unexpectedly, this baby had goo rubbed in its eyes, a large shot in the leg, been shoved into a breast, dressed in a silly hat and now sponged down and left naked under a glorified fast food heat lamp down the hall from the one person she actually can recognize and would feel comfortable with.  I can’t imagine how she’ll feel when she gets her first paycheck and sees how much FICA takes.

As Justine settled into her incubator, we all returned to my wife to reassure her that the baby was fine, and indeed now no longer covered in dried goo leftover from the c-section.  She had regained most of the feeling in her legs at this point and was still bubbly and upbeat as we chatted with the family.  We regaled them with more stories from the operating theater, and described the last few hours in the recovery room and our meager first attempts at breastfeeding.  Thankfully the hospital provided dry erase boards so that we could fully diagram the process so that everyone understood how it worked.

Eventually Justine returned from her sojourn, swaddled up tight again and in her little hospital cart.  Everyone took turns holding her (except me of course) and we took the requisite pictures.  At some point during this process I nearly fainted due to lack of food – we had assumed that they would provide light snacks during the procedure (a cheese tray perhaps, or perhaps ‘pigs in a baby blanket’) but they had not, nor was their champagne in the recovery room (apparently that is reserved for platinum club members).  All I had eaten today, in fact, was two pop tarts and a box of Mentos.  So I left briefly to visit the hospital cafeteria, flanked by my mother-in-law and her husband, leaving Kim’s father and stepmother to have some one-on-one time with the newborn.

When we returned from our sustenance quest (successfully),  Kim’s father and stepmother said their goodbyes and headed back from whence they came, promising a return visit within a day or so.  The rest of us took our positions in what would become a routine for the next couple of days – sitting around, staring at either a) the baby sleeping b) the baby attempting to feed or c) me attempting to stay awake.  With breastfeeding a near constant activity, it could’ve been a reasonably awkward situation, but thankfully, the other patient in the room had been discharged, and we were left in this double by ourselves.  We slowly began to annex the room, nabbing chairs, tables, and finally piling things on the other bed.

We spent the next few days in the hospital trying to come to grips with this squirmy little thing that was suddenly our sole responsibility.  Due to the proclivity of births on that fateful Friday, I was sent home late that night in the event that the bed was needed.  Did I feel bad about leaving my wife and child so soon after birth?  Of course.  Did I toss and turn, concerned about their welfare?  Uh.  No, not really.  I was tired.  I returned early the next morning and stayed overnight at the hospital the next two nights as the overcrowding had abated.

A few things started to become increasingly evident as we spent further time in the hospital during Kim’s recuperation.  First of all, little Justine proved to be quite the sleeper.  Good ol’ fashioned “poke her until she moves to make sure she’s ok” kind of sleeping.  There were a few times that we had to skip a feeding because she simply wanted to sleep. There were also several times we took advantage of the nursery, sending our sleepy child off to socialize with the other babies so we could get some sleep.  I’d love to say that when we went to retrieve her later on that we correctly picked her out of the crowd, but we did not. Thankfully they are pretty cautious about keeping track of whose baby is whose – I guess people get upset when they discover 18 years later their actual kid was the tennis star, rather than the one they raised, who ended up majoring in philosophy.

The second thing we quickly learned was that life in a hospital warrants the quick disappearance of all manners of dignity and privacy one has come to expect in life.  Between the feedings (with doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, parents, dietary folks, vending machine repairmen, hog farmers, etc. all watching and offering their opinions), incision checks, and having to call the nurse to come ‘inspect the emissions’ after Kim came back from the bathroom, it was certainly an ‘eye-opening’ experience, for all involved (and several folks just walking by).

Finally, I learned that my wife does, indeed, have ice water running through her veins.  Despite repeated offers by doctors, nurses, and a slovenly fellow who had a cardboard nametag with a hastily written ‘Doktor Feelgood’ adorning his chest, my wife refused all manner of narcotics to fight the pain of her surgery.  The drug du jour was Perkaset, and she wanted none of it, fearing that “arms would reach out from the walls and grab her,” or some other hallucination. Instead all she took was some walnut sized Motrin and she did just great with it. I was amazed, as was everybody else.

As we approached the end of our few days in the hospital, I think we were both starting to feel antsy about getting home, and having our new child try out all the various gadgets and contraptions we had accumulated in the recent months.  At the same time we were a little apprehensive to lose the safety and serenity of ‘the nursery’ and the guaranteed sleep that magical room offered, and the amazing help that the lactation consultants offered in trying to figure out the mystery of breastfeeding.

And then the pediatric orthopedist walked in…

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