These first few weeks with Alexander have been a wonderful blur of cuddling, feeding, changing, bathing, playing, and visiting with family. No, I did not include sleeping in that list. This will surprise few of you. Right now, Alex is asleep in a baby carrier (Thanks, Jené!), which means I have my hands free for the moment. I've been better at keeping up with our photo site (www.flickr/photos/mallons) because that's pretty much a one-handed task.
I do not know how long the current nap will last, so I'll try to speed blog to get you all up to date from the beginning, starting with Cappy's first journey from womb to home, with a brief layover in the newborn intensive care unit.
Here goes: I went into labor on Sunday night, January 28, and had the baby on Monday night, January 29. The labor itself was long but uninteresting. Right after his birth (or perhaps during the final part of it), the room was suddenly packed with people--doctors, nurses, technicians, who knows who else. They let me hold him for a very short time before they had to whisk him over to the heating table because of problems: fluid in his lungs, possible amniotic fluid infection, and what they determined later to be pneumothorax, which means that air sacs burst in his lungs, releasing air outside the lungs, which pushed in, collapsing parts of each lung. They don't know for sure what causes this, but Alexander's pediatrician says it is common among full-term babies, who are developed enough to do some damage to their lungs if they try to let out a big cry a little too soon.
Darrick was with him, talking to him and touching him as much as possible while Alexander was on the heating table. He even got a little alone time with Alex before the baby was brought to me for a quick cuddle, then whisked off to the newborn intensive care unit.
Alexander was in an oxygen tent for a day and a half, which was really difficult for us because we couldn't hold him, and his little mouth would root, but I couldn't feed him. They were feeding him through an IV in his cord stump. Fortunately, the supplemental oxygen worked, so by the next day, they were giving him less and less.
Once he was out of the tent and getting oxygen through tubes in his nose, we were able to hold him and I was able to feed him, but this was very difficult because he was still hooked up to all sorts of monitors and we were constantly trying not to let the tubes and wires get caught on anything or get weighed down and pull on him. At least one (if not both) of the tubes going into his cord stump were feeding directly into an artery. But, we were still overjoyed to be able to hold him, and I was thrilled that he took to feeding right away, even though I just had the colostrum at this point.
Later that same day, they took out the respiratory tubes and he was completely off the oxygen, but he still had to stay in the NICU for five days for monitoring while he had a full course of antibiotics for the possible amniotic fluid infection. During this time, we spent as much time as possible with him. They let me room in with him for a couple of nights, sleeping on a cot in a tiny, brightly lit side room within the ward, his little crib by my side. By this time, the cord IVs had been removed. He just had a scalp IV in for the periodic administration of antibiotics. It looked strange and sad, but it was far more comfortable for him than any other IV because the head has so few nerves.
All the other wires monitoring his heart rate, respiration, etc., were still attached, and these would set off loud beeping alarms pretty much whenever he moved. They were constantly going off, all day and all night. I got used to resetting the equipment when it was clear that the cords had simply gotten tangled or pulled out slightly or moved a sixteenth of an inch to the right or left. It didn't help that he's a kicker, so even as he slept, the beeping would begin whenever he kicked out (or even dreamed of kicking).
We still, to this day, appreciate being able to hold him without worrying about cords and wires getting in the way, although I have to admit that I kind of miss being able to look up from my bed at the monitor that showed his respiration rate. Any of you who have been paranoid new parents, especially in this age of abundant SIDS warnings, understand exactly why that was reassuring.
Most of the nurses were great, although a few were completely bonkers. Not just a little off, but totally loony. Maybe we'll blog more about that later (although I doubt it--who wants to dwell on crazy when there's so much beautiful baby blogging to do?). One difficult part of having him in NICU was that each nurse had a different style, so he was in a sense partly parented by people with different approaches, and nurses, being busy, took approaches to soothing him that they had to by necessity, approaches we wouldn't have chosen and wouldn't have had to choose because we have only him to care for (although on the other hand, we also got a great deal of terrific advice from many of the nurses).
I worried about how easily Alexander would settle in at home after spending the first five days of his life in NICU. Would we have to create some sort of bizarre mobile with fluorescent lights, flashing monitors, and Brahms lullaby composed of carefully edited crying babies? On those fussy evenings, would we have to beep in his ear to get him to sleep? But I shouldn't have worried. He is an adaptable little guy. In fact, he's remarkably unfussy overall. The worst "problem" we've had is my lack of sleep because of how frequently he feeds (and even that is starting to get better).
Now that he's home, he's doing just great. He gained 5 ounces his first week, which thrilled his pediatrician (most babies lose weight the first week). He's a member of the frequent feeder program, eating a lot and often, so I suppose after a certain number of feedings, we'll get a free Visa, right?
We've received lots of very thoughtful gifts and cards from generous people, and some family has stopped by to meet Alexander:
Mom, aka Nana, was here for three weeks, helping out immensely and generously both before and after Alex came along. We'll showcase some of her wonderful contributions when we post pictures of the nursery, which we haven't finished yet (what with the need to eat, sleep, and shower as well as care for a new baby).
Dad and Betty, aka Grandpa and Grandma Bearse, are here for two months, stopping by to visit with Alexander and even managing to catch him awake a few times.
My sister, Christine, was here for about five days, cuddling her new nephew, helping out, and sharing with us the episode of The Office we missed at the beginning of the season. It was painfully glorious, as The Office tends to be.
Darrick's dad and stepmom, Grandpa Mallon and Grandma Mary, stopped by for a couple of days to meet their first grandson (and to get suckered into helping us with a little plumbing problem).
For those of you who haven't been able to visit (or who are kindly waiting until we have fewer visitors and more sleep before stopping by) as well as for those of you who have met the boy, we'll try to keep you updated on his progress with this blog and the photo site, so check back when you have a chance. We had some catching up to do, so this post is unusually long--and took several days to finish. The nap I mention at the beginning of the post was ages ago and is now of interest only to historians and anthropologists. Future posts will be much, much shorter, especially during these first few months.