I didn’t understand that I loved my son until we got to the hospital. I’m not entirely sure I understood that he was my son. I felt love. At home listening to Christmas music, holding him next to Tyler, I cried for how full my heart was. All the same it hadn’t hit me, I didn’t know the depth, until he was in pain.
It was the pediatric hospitalist, a doctor for the Pediatric ICU who showed me how to use the breast pump. I hadn’t nursed in over 12 hours and my breasts were enormous. I thought I knew what engorged meant when my milk first came in but it could not compare to my breasts expressing the physical pain of my child not eating. When he cried my breasts cried draining milk through my shirt, aching with helplessness.
At lunch time that same day we had taken him to his two-week check up at the pediatrician. They had given him a clean bill of health and sent us on our way. Almost immediately upon arriving at home Haines become inconsolable. He refused to nurse. This wasn’t alarming, he’s a baby. He’s fussy. At 9 pm though he still hadn’t nursed and couldn’t be calmed for more than a minute or two. His piercing cry had weakened and his breathing was congested and labored. The pediatric after hours line sent us to the hospital to get him checked out.
We thought we’d be sent home with a tall hospital bill and being told that we had a bad case of new nervous parenting, nothing more. It quickly became apparent this wasn’t the case. Our ER room filled with nurses, technicians and doctors. They stuck a tube down his nose and then his throat to suction the thick mucous that was choking him. An X-ray machine was brought in, an IV set up. When the team for pediatrics came down to move him, one nurse kept a bag valve mask in her hand to be ready to manually breath for Haines if he needed it.
We were ushered out of his room when they announced that Haines would need an airway and a spinal tap. They were testing the spinal fluid, blood and urine for infection. Now it was me who was inconsolable. Although we were shown the family waiting room we stood in the hallway directly outside of his room waiting for someone to speak to us, waiting to see him. They had decided against intubating him but he did have a breathing machine, a CPAP, on for the first 12 hours or so. The sight of him twisted our insides. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that I got to hold him. It was after 22 hours that I gave him a bottle, his first food.
After a few days we found out that Haines has Group B Strep, a blood infection. Anyone who has recently received prenatal treatment knows that pregnant women are tested for this. Individuals who test positive get antibiotics during labor to prevent babies from picking it up in the birth canal. I had tested negative. Little did I know that women could test negative one day and test positive the next. What would I have done if I had known? Nothing, of course. We did as we were told by medical professionals. We didn’t know, didn’t understand.
Once we got the news of the type of infection we also found out the treatment, 10 days of IV antibiotics. This was another heart sinking moment. We’re wanted to take this baby home and to unhook him from these machines and monitors. But all he needs to be a healthy baby boy is to finish his treatment. So we waited.
In a hospital, time takes a very different meaning. Day or night just means a different nurse is on shift. Either way I am watching bad movies and Law & Order SVU at all times. I have finally sorted the room so that the couch is more like a bed and I have reusable grocery bags filled with our items. One bag for snacks. One bag for our clothes. One bag for baby’s. One bag for books and things to do. I write this now just as much for the cathartic act as I do to fill the time.
Today we take home a bouncing baby boy who is fattening up and growing stronger every day. This wasn’t the way we wanted to learn to be parents but Haines is helping us learn fast. And he is showing us all about love.