Now we settled into a pattern for the remainder of our time in NICU. The next morning mom brought Mercy and Gilead in for a visit, and we determined that it would be best for everyone if they stayed at our friend's home with us. For next six days we would wake in the morning, eat breakfast with Mercy, Gilead, and our friends, pack a lunch, and head out for a day at the hospital. We weren't able to see Abel between 6:30pm and 7:30pm, when the nurses changed shifts and updated one another on the babies in their care. Therefore, we would always return to see Mercy and Gilead and eat dinner with them. Then we'd tell them goodnight and head back to the hospital until sometime after 10pm. We typically arrived back at the house after 11pm, updated our hosts, fell into bed utterly exhausted, and then repeated the routine.
What matters in life comes sharply into focus at times like these. Though we were excited about Ryan's new job, employment suddenly wasn't the end-all it had been for months. In the NICU we weren't the typical group of post-partum mothers, either. We were hospital gown, sweatpant, and maternity clad mothers who didn't care about our waistlines or looking like we had it together. It was our babies that mattered. I didn't get to meet many of the other parents, but our faith and church family are what carried us through that time.
Our days in the NICU consisted of holding Abel and feeding him--or trying to. We did a lot of praying that he would actually eat. Most feedings I would be allowed to try to breastfeed him. When he seemed to tire we would then try to bottle feed him. He typically only took 5 to 15mL, and we were told he needed to be taking 45-50mL orally before he could be discharged. Once he would give up on the bottle, the rest of his milk would be syringed through a feeding tube.
The doctors made their rounds late morning. We looked forward to these updates and actually learning if Abel was making any progress. And he was. At least in the breathing department. By day 4 his respirations were down to about 80 per minute, and he was still oxygenating. However, four days is much longer than an infant should be having breathing and eating trouble with TTN, and by this point the physicians felt an echocardiogram was in order. I remember thinking "oh, good. Maybe we'll finally know what's going on." Then instantly realizing that I didn't want it to be anything that would show up on an echocardiogram. I'd rather just never know.
On the evening of Abel's seventh day he actually nursed decently. He took 35mL from me. We began to feel some real hope. That was the morning that the effects of this time was really showing on our children as well. When we had left that morning Gilead turned and ran from us, sobbing. I began to cry, too.
The next day, Abel did even better--taking 45 to 55mL at the breast each feeding. We knew then that we would be going home very soon.
On Abel's ninth day we arrived at the hospital to find patient education handouts awaiting us and Abel minus his feeding tube. I'll never forget rounds that morning. "This is Abel M., and he's ready to go home."
Our time at Doernbecher is slowly becoming a blur. During that time we were blessed by wonderful physicians and caring nurses, many of whom were Christian. Life is just beginning to feel normal again. We arrived home from the hospital only to begin packing to move. A week and a half later we loaded a truck to move across state for that job Ryan had been offered.
God is indeed good--but sometimes that doesn't look at all the way we imagine it will.