A Look Back: A series looking back at the hard, holy or outright joyful memories in the past six months. While I prefer not to re-live every moment, each undoubtedly has found its place as one of the pieces that makes up life. Putting memories into words is my best attempt to savor the fullness of my boys’ continuing story.
It was our new normal.
Three weeks into our time at the Clinique du Val d’Ouest and we had the routine down pat. Trent and I weaved our way through sterile hallways to that unassuming little door. It never failed – I was impatiently panicked to enter as I pushed the intercom:
C’est les parents de Andrew et Malachi.
We stepped into the tiny purgatory of the Neonatologie, complete with personalized cubbies using cloud stickers, one marked Andrew and the other Malachi.
Scrub down and gown up for the third time that day. A final disinfecting as we walked the hallway to the first two tiny beds on the left. The ones that held now five pounds each of baby, but really the weight of my whole world.
We were the only parents there for the 11pm feed. Lights were dimmed, babies were sleeping. Only the quiet hum and beep of muted machines. It was the final feed before Trent and I would say goodnight and head back to our apartment. We had hoped for only five or six more days like this. Feeds were getting better, oxygen levels were generally stabilized, and we could feel the excitement building at the thought of bringing our babies home. Car seats had been patiently waiting for nearly a month.
I detached sticky sensors from Andrew’s chest, freeing him from his monitors. Trent and I carried him to the dark changing area. It was a short walk, but our favorite, as it was the only time we held our babies with no wires attached. We whispered and chatted like we did every night because there’s great joy in learning your children with the one you love most.
As I went about the changing, something looked different. Flip the lights on, Trent.
I couldn’t tell if it was from a medicine or if all that deep red was really blood in his diaper. I had Trent call the nurse back and take a look. She couldn’t tell either. She left for a minute and came back with a bottle of something…maybe peroxide? She poured it over his diaper and it was an explosion of fizz.
I don’t remember her name, but she was one of our favorite nurses. Young and cheerful, her face went serious. She didn’t speak English, but I understood her efforts to keep us from being too alarmed.
Peut-être n’est-ce pas grave.
Perhaps it’s not serious, Trent and I glanced at each other in a manner that told the other to stay calm..
The doctor on call walked in only a few minutes later. She’d already been a favorite of ours…and, bonus, able to speak English.
Feeds were immediately stopped and X-rays taken. Blood drawn. Andrew was stripped down and placed in a heated incubator for closer surveillance. Around midnight, there were no conclusions, and the doctor reminded us once again it could all be very minor.
Go home and get rest. We’ll know more in the morning.
Bright and early and we could’ve done it in our sleep.
Intercom. Entry. Scrub down. Gown up.
It was a typical morning at the Neonatologie – cheerful and buzzing. My day never really started until I gave those good morning kisses to my babies. Our doctor from last night made her way to Trent and I from the nurse’s station.
“I’m quite annoyed…” she began cooly. It was an odd way to start, but I knew it was her way of softening the blow. He’s still bleeding. I’m sorry, but it will be necessary to transfer him to another hospital with the highest level of infant care. We need to find out what is going on.
Everything after that was a blur. I unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears. I remember nursing Malachi while watching Trent hold Andrew’s hand a few feet away. He was so concerned, but his voice was calm and strong as he told Andrew what was going on and the arrangements being made. We were briefed on the new hospital and told we’d have to wait an hour or so to follow after the ambulance took Andrew away.
The team arrived and hopped into action. Andrew, alert and calm, was carefully transferred into an incubator-style stretcher. At least 5 professionals hooked up monitors, passed around paperwork, and chatted amongst themselves. I remember Trent’s arm around me as we stood silently and watched. The new crew didn’t speak English, but it wasn’t a time for words anyways.
Twenty minutes later and everything was ready to go. They wheeled Andrew into the hallway and told us we could open his incubator door to give him an a bientot kiss and a few words.
I love you. It was all I could manage.
I noticed Andrew’s tiny hand couldn’t quite wrap around his dad’s finger as Trent stood there praying over him. The words escaped me between all the questions in my head.
It was time.
Just like that, they wheeled Andrew away. Trent and I stood huddled alone in the hallway and it was the first time my rock finally cracked. We sobbed together in that void between our babies – one on the other side of the Neonat door and the other being wheeled outdoors for the first time in his life.
Once again, a new normal would be established. Between two hospitals, two babies and two people just trying to be parents for the first time.