I'm naturally an introvert. I'd take sitting quietly in the library to socializing at a busy party, any day. The ordeal we are going through, having our newborn baby chronically in the hospital, has forced me to speak, and speak a lot, to other people. From surgeons, nurses, social workers, security guards, doctors, ward members. Its exhausting, and takes a lot of energy. Not something I was expecting.
Some people have asked me why having a child in the hospital is so difficult. I mean, after all, someone else is watching your newborn! That means you can sleep, right? Here's the thing. My maternal hormones have gone haywire being separated from my newborn on a long-term basis. Its instinct to want to care for your child. There isn't a time of day or night when I don't want to be with her. But I have three needy children at home. There is not a time of day or night when they don't want me with them. Its gotten to the point that whenever I even put my shoes on, or even look in my purse, I am pelted with: "Are you leaving, mom?" "Mom don't go!" "I want you here, mom!" When I actually walk out the door in the evenings to go an bathe Ellie, the girls get hysterical. This is not my drama - its theirs. Millie has literally pounded on the window screaming, "MOM COME BACK!!!"
When I get back, I'm smothered. I am totally smothered. It is really hard to feel like my own human being when the only time I have to myself is driving back and forth from the hospital. Its not like my time at the hospital is all relaxed, either. Eloise relies on an finicky piece of medical equipment to keep her airway clear of secretions. Anywhere from 1-5 times a day we have to pull out her replogle and rinse it out. It makes her gag, cry, flare her nostrils, and turn all red. Its miserable for her. When we have to re-tape it to her face, she cries and cries because it hurts. We have to take a mouth suction and clear her out. Imagine having to put one of those mouth-suckers from the dentist in your mouth several times a day. It makes her gag. I also have to make decisions about her care, be flexible with surgeons, and figure out how to deal with all sorts of personalities. And I have to leave her there.
On the sunny side, I'm getting lots of help. My parents could not be better at supporting me. My best friends have really pulled through. My extended family, like my aunt Carol and my grandma, have really been incredible. I have grown to love the nurses and doctors at the NICU, and many of them have become life-long friends. I am enjoying seeing the foibles and learning the stories of hundreds of people I would never have known otherwise. Eloise has a laid-back personality, which really works in her favor through this. Our nanny is extremely competent and responsible.
I am not happy, but I am grateful for what we have, and the help we have received. I'm grateful for modern medicine, and for the caring people who have devoted their lives to taking care of others. I have lost parts of myself from this, and I'm pretty convinced its not for the better. But I don't have a choice but keep going, for all these little people depending on me. I work really hard on staying, at least externally, cheerful.