The Special Unit Ward

Just when I started to relax a little, suddenly the pediatric doctor who had given us the news about Indiana came back with the same hesitant look.  She said that just as a precaution our baby was being moved up to the 6th floor in the special unit nursery to monitor her vitals.  If she remained stable, then she could be returned to us the next morning.  I looked at Alex, who simply said “Okay”, asking if it was possible for us to stay up there too.

“You can.  There are no beds so there really isn’t a place for parents to sleep.  We will have chairs though and you can certainly sit with her.  It may be a good time for you guys to get some sleep.  She’s in good hands, we’ve got her.”

Both my husband and I were on the same page – no way were we leaving her by herself that night.  Not that we didn’t think they weren’t competent enough to do the job of watching her.  It was more of a comfort for Indiana – and to be honest, myself.  To go from meeting our brand new baby to being split up from her to spend an entire night on a different floor? Nope.

Alex and I decided we would take shifts – one would stay upstairs with her and one would sleep for a couple of hours.  After a few hours, we’d switch places and this went on until the next morning.  We were also told she would be having another echo-cardiogram on the floor and meet with the cardiologist to discuss exactly what was going on.

Growing up, I always felt comfortable inside of a hospital; the beeps and hustle and bustle in the hallways gave me a sense of calm.  I did not have an ounce of “white coat syndrome” nor did tests, needles and what have you bother me.  It is going to sound strange but I would almost look forward to doctor’s visits.  I am fascinated by the world of medicine and how it seems to always change, usually for the better.  In a way it’s a good thing that I feel how I do because it helps me understand and process what goes on with Indiana.

Our postpartum nurse Clare, who is a freaking angel of a woman, told us we had to put her in one of those incubators as a “precaution”.  She would not be staying in one once we got upstairs and so it was strictly for travel.  I won’t lie – that was a bit a jarring and my stomach sank as she was placed inside for the ride.  It made my heart break for all the parents who had to keep their child inside the incubator, unable to hold their babies beyond sticking a hand in to hold theirs.  I wondered about the many parents that had to take the long walk upstairs and I remember Alex reaching out to touch me.  I tend to be the “touchy feely” of the two of us but I was too focused on keeping my wobbly legs moving forward. 

When you arrive on the floor you buzz yourself in, a doorbell will ring out and the double doors swing open.  There was hand sanitizer on the wall to our left which was to be used immediately as to not compromise any of the babies health on the floor.  It was an open floor plan with “rooms” separated by half walls and tall privacy curtains.  We were ushered to our immediate right,  “room one” and I felt myself relax as Indie was moved from the incubator to the bassinet. 

We watched as they hooked her up to various monitors; specifically cardiac monitor for recording the electrical activity in her heart and the pulse oximeter to record the saturation of oxygen in her blood.  There was what looks like a TV monitor placed above her where we can watch in real time her stats.  It was like staring into a computer screen with numbers and lines going up and down, “beeep… beep…beeep.”  I looked back at her and followed the wires scattered across her body that led all the way up to the machines and sighed.  It was awkward and sometimes we’d knock off a clip but, we were allowed to hold her and for that, we were grateful.  I had glanced around earlier coming in and saw the parents who could only sit by the incubators, unable to hold their babies to comfort them. 

Our little bird.

Alex took the first shift of the night and I went back downstairs to our empty room, my dinner sitting on the table waiting for me.   Of course I had no appetite but I needed to eat something and Alex reminded me before I left to do so.  I was also supposed to sleep but fat chance.  After eating maybe half of my dinner, I laid my head down on the pillow and stared at the door, the light of the hallway lit.  At this point Alex stopped texting me so I could rest but I could not relax.  Being apart from them was ripping me from the inside out and I found myself counting the minutes until I could go back upstairs. 

Once Alex and I made the switch, I got comfortable in my chair and looked down at my daughter, studying her.  My fingers ran through her wild, thick black hair that stood up on the ends like Jimmy Neutron (and to this day, still does).  I held her little hands in mine, stroked her cheeks and patted her back as I rocked her to sleep.  Regardless of being tangled up in wires, I held my baby comfortably and lovingly, kissing her face over and over.  I gave extra hugs and kisses for the parents that couldn’t do what I was doing, hoping and praying they would be able to soon.

Holding my girl.

Throughout our shifts, the nurses on the floor told us over and over that it was OK to stay downstairs.  And over and over we said, “No thank you we want to stay here” until they finally stopped asking.  There was no changing our minds and I think there was a part of them that assumed so; a parent’s love holds no bounds.  Alex and I stayed up watching when it was our shift, listening to the sounds of machines and quiet conversations throughout the floor. 

Despite the peace, you could feel a heavy weight and questions floating around in the air –

“When will get off this floor?” 

“Will my baby get through this?”  

“What can I do for my baby?”

“How did we get here?”

“Why is this happening?”

The floor came alive as the sun rose and Alex arrived to relieve me so I could go get cleaned up.  The tech came afterwards and performed an echocardiogram for the cardiologist to review later in the day.  As Indiana quietly lay with the wand on her chest, I stared up at the screen looking at her tiny beating heart.  I watched, as each chamber appeared, colors of blue and red flashing throughout the image.  Unable to read an ultrasound, I tried my best to figure out what I was looking at without disturbing the tech.  He remained quiet, speaking to Indiana a few times with comments such as: “you’re doing great” and “that hair is crazy!”  I knew when he was saving images of the hole itself; he stayed in one spot for a long period of time.  The hole seemed so massive and I wondered just how big this thing was on her tiny heart.

He finally finished after what seemed like forever and switched off the screen, packing up his machine.  We were told we would meet with the cardiologist after he finished his clinics at the hospital.  In the meantime, we had been cleared to be able to go back downstairs to our room.  Her vitals remained stable all night and she was good to go!  However, it took several hours so we waited while watching the traffic go back and forth. 

Finally, we were able to head back to our room only this time she left in the bassinet instead of the incubator.  I breathed a sigh of relief passing through our room’s doorway and we made ourselves comfortable.  We had survived our first night and the feeling of exhaustion settled onto my shoulders.  Unfortunately I was running on 48 hours of no sleep and could not get my eyes to shut.  Information that was given to us thus far about Indiana kept my mind busy, running in circles refusing to tire out.  The questions that remained unanswered continued to weigh heavily in my brain.

“Will my baby get through this?

“What can I do for my baby?”

“How did we get here?”

“Why is this happening?”

I have my own personal theory to the last question and it has given me some peace since this all began.  The universe, massive and full of surprises, gave this little girl to us on purpose.  This baby would need a lot of love, comfort and attention in what would become the fight for her life.  She was given a broken heart to be looked after by two people that would do everything in their power to help her.  There would be days that would become more difficult than others; but at least she’d be safe.  The universe believed in Alex and I by giving us our little Indiana; it believed we are those people and we can handle it. 

Our answer back? We can and we will.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll be posting my next entry within the next week.

Keep your heart strong.

– Lacey

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