Linus spent eight days at the hospital. Checked into the ER around 4pm on Wednesday February 22nd (Ash Wednesday - appropriate!) and got in the car to go home at 4:30pm on Thursday March 1st. Eight days was eight nights, too, and since Linus hated the hospital crib, Bryan and I dozed through those nights (I did five; he did three) sitting up in a recliner holding the baby.
I find it HIGHLY ironic that on the 21st, I wrote a piece at Faith & Family about how 2012 had been tough on us so far... right before (what hopefully will have been) the toughest week of the year began.
I have all these THOUGHTS about the experience, but I find it hard to write about them. I keep feeling like I should remind you (and myself) that eight nights is not so bad, that it's a blip in the grand scheme. That, wow, aren't we blessed to live in a time when a baby can get really sick and thanks to modern medicine, be fine a week later? Some children have chemo or surgeries; IV antibiotics and supplemental oxygen are simple and painless treatments by comparison. We're lucky to have health insurance that will (mostly) cover Linus's stay. Thank goodness Bryan has a job with paid time off so we don't take an income hit from this illness. Isn't it great that we live within two miles of a good hospital?
And most of all, what a blessing that now that it's over, we've brought home a healthy baby and can go back to normal life. It was a hard week, but we don't have to grieve now. We can celebrate.
I will tell you what: it is hard to celebrate when you are as exhausted as I am.
On Thursday the 1st, a mere six hours before we got Linus's discharge papers but when we were still unsure if we'd get them, I had a meltdown. The baby was finally doing well enough that he didn't need oxygen while awake and I could take him out of the room for the first time since his admission, so we went on a walk and then perced on a bench near the nurse's station. I was nervous about how the day would go and suddenly feeling like I just. couldn't. handle. one more night in the hospital, and WHAM the dam broke.
The nurses were kind and sympathetic, seeming unfazed by my sobs. The charge nurse sat and chatted with me for a while, which helped. I hugged Linus and tried to snap out of it by thinking positively, but I couldn't find the energy. Couldn't pull out of the tailspin.
Then one of the techs - a woman with young children of her own who'd been particularly sweet and helpful during our stay - brought me a box of tissues. "I'm sorry I can't stop crying," I told her. "I'm losing it."
And she said, "Thank God! I was starting to worry you were a robot!"
"You been here for so long and you just so cheerful all the time. It doesn't seem natural!"
In my mind, everyone else handles things better than I do. Everyone else has it harder in some way. Here I am struggling along, and I beat myself up because things could be worse, because I could be better. It's a hard place to live, full of woulds and shoulds and coulds... and, as it turns out, pretty damn far away from reality.
My sister, who tells me the truth even when I don't want to hear it, pep-talked me on Wednesday.
"It's not just that you play Reverse Pain Olympics and think that everyone else always has it harder than you do," she said. "It's that if you can imagine your own life being worse than it is, you think you have no right to complain."
Think about it, she told me. If you met one woman coming out of the hospital whose child had cancer, you'd be sad for her. But if you then met another woman whose baby had been there for a week with pneumonia, you wouldn't say to her, "Suck it up! Other people have cancer!" You'd feel sorry for her too.
And of course I would. So why do I not offer myself that same courtesy?
Here's the truth: having a baby in the hospital is awful. Period. We were lucky, yes, that Linus was not in critical condition, but every day he was there was much harder on us than normal life (which is already pretty hard). The logistics of managing four children as young as ours, including nursing twins, when one baby is hospitalized? Mind-boggling. Exhausting. Absolutely zero fun and something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
Five days after we brought Linus home, I'm grateful for a happy ending, but I am still recovering. I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. The babies are making up for lost calories by nursing around the clock. I pushed pushed pushed myself for eight days and the sick-baby-crisis adrenaline and the ordeal-is-over endorphins have worn off. Now I am a jumble of exhaustion and pushed-to-my-limit craziness, liable to burst into tears at any moment.
But also, I'm proud of myself for pushing through, for doing something extraordinary (even if it's the undesirable kind of extraordinary) without losing it. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle it (I knew for a couple days before he was admitted that it was a possibility), and then I felt like I could do a day or two but not more, and then I felt like I could do just one more day, or another 48 hours, but that was it... and somehow I kept plugging along and I made it through eight days and I feel pretty much like a champion right now. I am awesome.
Oh! Also, though, we got a huge amount of support. Really, a staggering amount of support (I am STAGGERED), from so many people who love us, from people who said "yes" when I called and asked "could you?" and from all of you lovely people on the Internet who sent words of encouragement and comfort and commiseration. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
Linus and Ambrose all RSV-ed up. Poor babies!
Home and healthy, hooray!