The H-Word (Revisited)

A few weeks ago, on the after school pick-up run, HD hopped in the van and said, “So-and-so said the h-word!” Out of sheer curiosity, I responded, “OK. What’s the h-word?” Well, bless HD’s sweet heart and my hippy-dippy ways, because the answer I got back was, “He said it was hell but I know it is hate.”

Now, on Day 11 in the Children’s NICU in Omaha, I am pretty sure the h-word is actually Home, and if I’m being honest, it was dropped a little too soon around my anxious mama ears.

I have no idea when someone first said it here or even who that someone was (every day is a bizarre blur, especially since we started breastfeeding attempts), but I know it was right around or just before we hit the Week mark because Wilson was just blowing through every marker they had for her for progression all the way up until we started independent feeding. Then, we hit that wall everyone had warned us was coming.

And then, those mentions of the h-word quietly faded away in terms of soon, to be replaced by, “Well, when she does this…” with this meaning eats enough on her own (breast and bottle) and continues to gain weight.

As with any newborn, it’s very tricky to put a timeline on that this. So much depends on different variables and body parts and systems deciding to click and work together that we really have no idea if we are talking about a day or two or another week. Basically we just need to keep trying and trying to feed her until she recovers enough from surgery (again, every baby is different in terms of how long this takes) to be more awake and active during those feeding sessions and then, maybe?, we’ll know more about how long we might be away from our h-word.

In the meantime, we have been fortunate enough to be staying at the Rainbow Houseimg_8471 which is associated with Children’s and runs on a donation based system for families with Littles who are patients here. It’s is blessedly close (three blocks?) to the hospital, has free laundry facilities, a full kitchen you can use at your convenience, individual little lockers with a mini fridge and shelves for each room located just off the kitchen, and many nights meals are brought in by local groups from the community that are free to folks staying there. There is also a shuttle that runs every day in case you don’t have a vehicle to get you here. Plus as you can see from the photo of the entryway, it’s just beautiful.

Essentially, it is amazing and we are so thankful to have a spot there. To be this close to where Willa is makes a huge difference, as does having access to our own, prolonged “living” space and food storage. Because, let’s face it, for someone like me, the creature comforts of home are greatly, sorely missed right now.

As much as I may pour out here on the blog, I’m a fairly reserved and private person – an introvert who craves quiet as much as she craves music playing and sitting down with a “relaxed” cup of coffee, and her own bathroom (OK, that has nothing to do with introverts vs. extroverts, but you all know what I mean, yes?). Here there is no quiet. We are part of a well-oiled machine on this Unit, thank goodness, but with what is essentially a curtain for a door and all kinds of machines dinging at us or our neighbors all the time, and people* constantly popping in for one thing or another, my system is on stimulus overload more often than not. [*Side note: my brain is so desperately seeking signs of home that people on the Unit are constantly reminding me of folks from home. Often this means physical resemblance, but I was fortunate to have the same day nurse for three blessed days in a row and she sounded and spoke just like a friend from Hastings, which was so strangely comforting. Is this a NICU thing? Sleep dep? Survival mode? I clearly have no idea, but I’m grateful for all of you who have popped up here in spirit in these resemblances.]

Anyway, hence the leaky faucet face the last few days, but I stand by the claim that that is both normal and healthy and very much a given when your postpartum expectations suddenly get totally turned on their head. I mean, even ugly cries have to be scheduled because losing your shit behind a curtain is anything put private in a situation like this.

For Type-A planners like Ben and myself, it would be easy to slip into thinking that this experience is more like those first two h-words HD mentioned that day in the car. However, since WA is continuing to make progress (they continue to stair-step her up on her feeding levels, so between breast/bottle and NG, she is now up to 70mls of milk, so just over 2oz. every three hours), we know the actual h-word is coming….just as long as we stay patient and give her the time she needs to be able to thrive once we get there.

Of course I would like it to be sooner than later, but I know I need to back the h-word off the whole thing because the last thing either (any) of us needs is more pressure on the feedings to magically take off.

So. Deep breaths. Sweet snuggles when we can. And finding other ways to get that much needed space or quiet that keeps us calm and moving in the right direction.




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