Exactly on year ago today, we brought Emily home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We were excited...and scared.
We went to the NICU early that morning to learn how to mix Emily's high-calorie formula and administer her multiple vitamins. And then we waited, and twiddled our thumbs. And waited some more. It seemed like an eternity for the doctors and nurses to administer her hearing test, complete her discharge paperwork, and wave goodbye.
Once the papers had been completed, the remaining administrative procedures were quickly checked off -- and everything started to become real. We removed Emily's oversized hospital onesie and replaced it with a traditional take-home outfit. We put Emily in her car seat. A few minutes later, the automatic doors to the NICU shut behind the three of us. That's when the fear and worry began to take over.
Emily was ready to come home...but were we ready?
We had been coming to the NICU for 67 days. We were leaving a special place that had become like our second home. We were leaving the doctors and nurses who cared for Emily. And, we were leaving the medical technology that kept Emily alive.
This was our "holy crap" moment. We were no longer parents in name only. We were real parents. We were now responsible for a precious little blessing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. From now on, we would be feeding Emily all of her meals and changing all of her diapers. We were her primary caregivers.
Emily didn't come with an instruction manual -- or a nurse attached to her hip. We're both highly educated. But, a master's degree doesn't prepare you for a baby. As we wound our way out of the hospital maze, the questions started to stack-up.
- Emily weighed three pounds 12 ounces, less than the minimum weight requirement for her car seat. The car seat seemed to swallow her. Although the nurses had secured her in the car seat with hospital towels, I wondered -- would she really be safe during the hour-long commute home?
- Emily was coming home without any machines or alarms. How would we know if she was experiencing a Brady or a desat?
- The longest consecutive period of time in which I had held Emily in the NICU was an hour and a half. Sometimes she couldn't tolerate being held for more than 10 minutes -- even when she had graduated to an open crib. If she couldn't be held for long, how would she handle being at home with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
- Emily had primarily been tube fed -- and had only been bottle fed for a very short period of time. How would she react to regularly scheduled bottle feedings at home?
- We made sure that Emily had a toy to give her furry big brother. But, how would he react to a human baby sister?
We survived the car ride home for the NICU. The doctors and nurses provided us with enough of an education to survive our first night, first month, and first year together as a family.
Emily's been home for a year now, and there have been many other firsts. Emily's first smile, first tooth, first time crawling, first "Da" and first "Mama." And, for the billionth time, Emily has proven how truly blessed we are!