CJ was born on September 10 at 29 weeks, 5 days. He weighed in at 2 pounds 15 ounces and was 15.5 inches. He was intubated at birth but by the time I saw him 7 hours later, they had removed the tube and he was breathing with the support of CPAP (forced oxygen). I took this as a great sign.
I had never seen a baby so small. He had lots of tubes and stuff but otherwise he looked like a perfect baby, just teeny tiny. He was in an isolette (closed on all sides with little doors to reach in through) and under "the lights", to rid his body of excess bilirubin. Because he needed the light to hit most of his skin, he wore only a diaper and a little eye mask, as if he was in a tanning bed. He had bruising from his rough start (he was stuck in the birth canal) but he had no major injuries -- they sometimes worry about broken bones when a baby has to be pulled out like he was. From his belly button, he was hooked up to a Central Line (an IV providing his nutrients). Then there were the various leads that monitored his heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure. There were a couple of main monitors around his bed -- one for the Central Line that beeped periodically and one for the leads that beeped all the time if one was disconnected or his numbers altered a bit.
CJ started out in the intensive area. He shared a room with a baby named Grace. There was one nurse per room and the room was attached to another room with two babies, so the nurses could cover for each other if one needed to leave for a moment.
I was able to hold him the day after he was born. It was for a short period but his nurse encouraged as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. He was screaming as she took him out and I was a little scared (he was so little! and he was hooked up to so many wires!) but once he was on my chest, he settled down. I cried holding him, but these were happy tears. My baby knew me already. I will never forget that feeling. He was mine.
The next few days were a blur of hand-washing and sitting by CJ's side. I was still admitted and for the first day or so needed to be wheeled down to his room in a wheelchair by an aide. After a couple of days, I was able to walk down on my own and typically did so in my pjs and slipper socks. I had visitors but they met me in my hospital room, only our immediate family joined us in the NICU. We felt some need to keep this part of our experience private. It was partly for medical reasons (we didn't want to expose him to germs), but also for personal ones too.
Our hospital encouraged family-focused rounds so we were able to listen in and ask questions as the doctors went over any tests, any changes to his care and so on. These were quick but informative and many of this doctors spent the time to explain things to us in a way we could understand. They were happy with his progress so far.
One of the neonatal doctors, who had resuscitated CJ at birth, stopped by every so often and each time he'd remind us how "traumatic" his birth was. He was well-meaning, I know he meant it to say "But look how far he's come and how great he's doing" but what we heard was "trauma". Thinking back on it now, it does make me a little grateful I was under general anesthesia and didn't realize what was happening.
There was some fear, in general, but Chris and I powered through it and tried to take it all day by day. I kept thinking, how can I be stressed when my tiny son is the one who has to do all the work? How can I not be strong for him?