After I was discharged, we settled in to somewhat of a new reality. I spent my days at the hospital just sitting by his side.
Pumping every few hours.
My mom came often and sat with me and took me to lunch.
My father-in-law chauffeured me around, picking me up and bringing me back to their house to nap. Then coming back with my mother-in-law for the evening visit.
I read to CJ from the books my cousin sent us. I tracked some of his milestones. I took photos.
I got used to the beeps. The wires.
I washed my hands so often they were raw. (Even now, the smell of that hospital soap brings me right back).
Chris went to work and then came straight to the hospital every night. He didn't complain, but he was exhausted.
We learned to change his tiny diapers, we gave him baths.
CJ spent most of his time sleeping under the lights. He was on the intensive side, but only because he was so small. The other babies needed more care. CJ was there just because he was so small.
We waited for results of tests and measured feedings in "cc's".
Only our immediate family visited-- the NICU was strict and didn't allow any visitors without us there, except for our parents who were on a list. I wasn't ready for others to meet him yet.
We shared photos with family and friends. They thought he was bigger than he was. It's hard to understand what a 3 pound baby really looks like.
We met with doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses. The nurses did mostly everything. I always say now, the NICU nurses are like angels. They have hard jobs.
We ate mostly because our parents helped us with that. I can't imagine how we would have eaten dinner had Chris' mom not had something waiting for us every night. We were too tired to think about food.
I called every morning before I showered to check on how CJ did overnight. I'm grateful still that it was always good, he did good.
I cried when we got home sometimes. But I laughed too, delirious and overwhelmed and giddy over that perfect child I just wanted in my arms at all times.
We became his parents even though everything felt foreign. But also everything felt familiar at the same time, since we didn't really know anything different.
Eventually, we learned to give him bottles, slowly and patiently. He still had a feeding tube for what he couldn't finish. It took forever for him to eat half an ounce (15 ccs). But we were proud as he worked his way up to eating more and more.
After about two weeks, he moved to the less intense side of the NICU. Then there were 6+ babies in a room shared by two nurses. They worked around the clock-- 3 hour cycles of vitals, changings, feedings, recordings.
I was relieved to have moved, the other side was heavy, dark, quiet. Scary. The new area felt more like the stepping stone to going home.