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Weary & Burdened Ep. 011: Bluebird

The bluebird is a symbolic representation of happiness, health, new beginnings, birth and renewal.

In many cultures the bluebird stands as a sentiment of positivity. It’s a sign of good things to come.

In the NICU at BC Women’s Hospital, the bluebird is used to signify a milestone of health and development.

Each NICU bed has a whiteboard. Listed on it is the name of the baby and other pertinent information. When that baby has reached a point where the medical staff determines they’re healthy enough to be transferred out of the NICU, an image of a bluebird is placed on the whiteboard.

A mark of health, freedom and a new beginning for the baby and their family.

The beginning of December saw a number of bluebirds. It was so exciting to see babies progress to a point where they were healthy enough to transfer to a hospital closer to home or to their home altogether!

Families spend anywhere from days to over a year within the NICU walls. Imagine that. Living an entire year or more in a hospital.

David was due on February 16th so we were told he’d be in the hospital until then, at a minimum, but more likely until late March or early April with return visits to reattach his bowel.

You can probably understand the emotion and excitement that occurred when the bluebird made its way onto the board of one of the babies. The relief it brought to the family of the recipient.

That small symbol was the goal of every family in the NICU. The gold star.

On the afternoon of December 9th I ventured off to a former NICU moms' house for a tea and treats. There was a gathering of a handful of NICU moms. We had a great time talking. No one can really ever know exactly what you’re going through but the other moms there were travelling a very similar path. It was nice to know people in a similar situation and living in the same, unnatural, environment. It was important for me to sit and chat all things baby and NICU with others going through it. I would imagine that NICU-mom talk could be overwhelming to an "outsider." While we were there, we talked about our situation A LOT but it was cathartic to hash everything out verbally with others.

When I returned to the hospital David wasn’t looking too hot. They had ordered blood work, blood cultures and a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray had come back fine and the cultures would take 48 hours. The blood work showed low hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelets so they were certain he had an infection of some kind. They started him on 2 kinds of antibiotics and gave him a blood transfusion. Plus, they gave him lasix to help drain the excess fluid. That meant another IV. I tried not to panic but infections were scary.

Dec 10

The nurse informed me they'd stopped his feeds to see whether it had an effect. They also increased his oxygen support. Sigh. It was a little step backward. Frustrating. But we stayed positive. Up and down, up and down. Shouldn't have been a big surprise but it was never easy.

It was hard not to get a little envious of the families who made huge strides forward. They’d put in their time though and we knew we’d get our turn soon enough.

There was a board outside of the NICU (beside the pump room) that listed all of the babies. Beside their name they had a colored magnet. Red indicated critical, yellow for stable and green for growing. David had been a red since birth. I never saw the board but Reuben and my friends had checked it out. On the 10th, the mother of David’s old neighbour came in and told me she noticed David had been switched to a yellow button. Wahoo!!! That was exciting.

Unfortunately, David had gotten progressively worse. He was extremely puffy and his oxygen support was very high.

I went for dinner with a friend but to be honest, my attention was never fully on anything other than David. I'm sure to a lot of my friends I seemed far away and distant because my mind was constantly jumping back and forth between what I was doing and how he was doing.

After dinner we returned for a late night visit before heading to bed and I was quite concerned. He seemed to be getting worse but the doctor's didn't appear worried. I left hoping I wouldn't receive a late night call. I had such a hard time getting to sleep and ended up calling in at 3am to check on him. He was holding the same.

Wow did I cry a lot that day. Continual tears. All day.

Dec 11

There was absolutely no cell service at the hospital. You should've seen the chaos this created! It was quite comical to see all the people walking around holding their phones up trying to find service. I, too, was one of those people because I was expecting a visit from my brother.

I had put on makeup just to prevent the crying debacle of the day before. Nobody likes to cry with makeup on. Fortunately, I didn't have to because David was doing dramatically better. Weird how my mood was dependent on a little person in a plastic case.

It was a mass exodus of babies leaving the unit that day. Bluebirds everywhere. About 5 babies flew the coop.

I made sure to stop in on the families I knew and wished them good luck. We took pictures together, planned a NICU reunion and hugged goodbye. The joy on their faces made me emotional. They were free! Free to cuddle, bathe, clothe and kiss their babies whenever they liked; No more asking doctors or nurses for permission to parent their children; They were free from wires, IV's, machines, masks and alarms; Free from living in an alternate city and home; Free from sandwiches and cafeteria salads.

Shockingly, I didn't shed a single tear. I think this even surprised my new friends because I’d gained the reputation as quite the crybaby. I didn't cry because I knew how happy the families were. A burden had been lifted off of them.

That afternoon my brother arrived. It was his first time meeting David. He brought some stuff I had from home and a care package with the most fantastic incubator cover EVER! An accomplished seamstress sewed a Batman cover for David with his name on it. I called his incubator the Bat Cave because it was a blackout inside which was perfect for sleeping and growing.

What a difference a few days can make.

My brother and I went for dinner at my favourite restaurant. It was a nice visit. I couldn’t remember the last time I had dinner with my brother - just the 2 of us. In fact, I don't think we ever had. Funny. Sad. Little David brought so many people together. Small miracles everyday.

I made a quick call to the kids before going to see David. Josh was getting so big. I noticed the most change in him. I missed a lot being in Vancouver. I missed the girls' Christmas concert, all of their dance demos, Christmas parties, field trips, baking cookies and sledding. Oh that was tough! I hoped the kids were either young enough to quickly forget or old enough to understand that I would've done the same for any of them.

All we could do at that point was to patiently wait for the yellow magnet to turn green and for David’s bluebird to arrive.

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