As if I wasn't tired and depressed enough, it started to snow on Thursday, April 28th. And I mean snow. It was blizzarding outside by the time I arrived at the hospital. Brian dropped me off (I still can't drive for another week) and he and Paisley waved to me as I carried my nursing pillow into the hospital. I was getting to know the doctors, the nurses and the drill pretty well and while I wanted to bring him home more than anything, I knew Declan was where he needed to be.
Until he wasn't. I walked into the NICU that morning, over to bed 19 only to find a very sick little boy. This boy was on a ventilator and I could tell from his heaving chest that he was very ill. I grabbed his wrist to read his bracelet and saw another name. Not West - not my child. But someone's. Maybe it was the exhaustion, or the snow or the very real fear that gripped my heart when I first walked over to his bed but I lost it. I made it outside the NICU doors and started to cry. Declan's doctor came rushing over, "They moved him but they didn't tell me" I cried, "I thought that little boy was him. I thought he had taken a bad turn overnight." She apologized profusely and took me to where they had moved my son. He was fine. He was lying there, all wrapped up, pinker than ever and on the low-risk side of the nursery. I was so happy to see him. All the machines that only yesterday looked so imposing now looked like nothing compared to what that other baby had been hooked up to. Despite my relief, I couldn't help thinking of that other boy and the mother who would be by his side today. For her there would be no mistaken identity...that was her baby.
Because Declan was responding so well to the antibiotics, the Foothills hospital transferred him to the Peter Lougheed in the North East quadrant of Calgary. It was far less convenient for us but we knew it meant we were in the clear. The Foothills is where the very sick babies go and they had had two emergency twin deliveries overnight. Our little guy wasn't a worry to them anymore and that was great news.
The next few days were a blur of driving across town, being dropped off, nursing pillow in hand while I waved good-bye to the other half of my family. I hated it. I cried every morning because I had to leave Paisley and every night because I had to leave Declan. I sat by his side all day and held him and nursed him. I had an awful headache and when I did go home and manage to sleep, my dreams were punctuated with the ringing and beeping of NICU machines. I was hearing the same noises as Declan except I was at home in my bed. Paisley was not handling things well and was having a hard time understanding where her brother was and why she hadn't yet met him. Mom was leaving her every day and the tension in the house was palpable I'm sure. Brian was great and took the whole week off to watch Paisley. The only positive in all of this was that the two of them got a chance to hang out and I know they both really enjoyed that.
On Sunday, May 1, 8 days after he was born (and three days ahead of schedule!), Declan came home with his family. Brian and Paisley came to pick us up and as I dressed him for the the first time and put him in his car seat I was shaking. I was excited and exhausted and a part of me felt guilty. I was leaving behind other Moms I had gotten to know and other babies who would not be leaving for a long time, if ever. I still think of them all and wonder if they are still there - waiting to go home.
I walked out of the elevator and watched as Paisley came running up to us. She saw her brother for the first time and I cried. She thought he was cute and was clearly overjoyed to meet him. By that time, the blizzard had passed and the sun was shining and both my kids were with me. It was one of the best moments of my life. That night I still woke up every three hours to feed but instead of a machine, I held the warm, healthy and strong body of my perfect little boy. Patchy head and all.
By the time we got Declan home, this is what the poor little guy had been through:
- IV's in each of his limbs and in his head,
- Heel pokes to draw blood over 40 times. His heels were shredded and eventually at the hospital, they would just squueze a heel and blood would come out of one of the holes,
- A lumbar puncture,
- Nasal tube and stomach aerated numerous times,
- A central line placed in his arm and up into his chest cavity.