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TITLE: This Simple Honor
By Karen Petty

When my son was born, he unexpectedly had to stay in the hospital for 9 days. This piece is written in a "day by day" format. Maybe other families who've had similar experiences will find something to relate to, in this piece. It was written for my son.
Day 1
Wow. I cant believe this is really happening. Just hours ago, we still thought I had almost a month to go before delivering this baby. But after a surprisingly eventful check-up, we were sent home for our bagsÖand then directly to the hospital. The nurse will be in soon to start my i.v. I hate needles. But, I sure want to meet this kid. So, Iíll be brave.

After a false start, weíre back in the o.r. There are so many people here. I donít recognize any of them. How could I? Theyíre all draped in blue & wearing masks. Oh God, this is so scary. Please cause everything to go safelyÖand help me to rest in You. Ah, here he comes. What a relief to see my husband. I remember from our last delivery how invaluable he was, in quieting my fears. His eyes had shown no alarm, as they scanned back and forth between me, and all the excitement happening at the other end of the hospital bed. Just love and support. He steadied me. Thatís for sure. And Iím counting on him to do it again!

Itís so strange to make casual conversation, now, with the doctor, while on the cusp of one of the biggest events of my life. Oh, I feel I canít get enough air! Mike is right beside me. Am I ok? Iím ok. Is that my baby crying? Heís born! I still cant swallow. The anastethesiologist is giving me something. Heíd better not be knocking me out. I havenít seen my son! Oh, here he is! He is so beautiful and tiny. They say he has all his fingers and toes. Thank you, God! My husbandís eyes are wet with tears. Mine are too. Iím not worried about breathing anymore. I cant wait to hold you, Baby!

Day 2
How am I going to get over into that wheelchair? Iím so sore. Iíve got to go see my boy, though. He is in the NICU. I was able to hold him, yesterday, within the hour of his birth. But we were both so tired. Maybe this morning, heíll feel better.
He has so many needles poked into him, as he lays in that warmer. I can see more of those wires & tubes than I can of my precious infant son. His breathing is so labored. We never expected that our child would need special care. The nurse is bringing him to me. Holding my new son is the best part of my day. Hey,..his breathing is steadying as I cradle him. I think he knows that mommy has him.

Day 3
Dear Baby Noah,
More of your fan club, came by today. So many people called to check on you. You are already so loved and cared about.
Your brother and sister are looking forward to getting you home so that they can play with you. Theyíve seen you through the nursery window. But havenít been able to touch you yet. Thatíll happen soon enough. We just have to get your respiratory rate up, and your lungs dried out. Everyone is praying for you. I am too! Love, Mom

Under normal circumstances, a new mom and baby would be going home, by now. But, I donít mind staying. I want Noah to be well. I feel a bit like a hobo, as Iíve been discharged, but carry my things along on a wheeled cart by day.I take whatever room is available, by night. I wash my hair in bathroom sinks, and spend my waiting time, pasting pictures of the new guy, in his baby book.

The staff have been so nice to me and very kind to Noah. Sadly, I almost feel like the nurses and I are getting to know the baby better than the rest of his family. But, it cant be helped. Dad has to take care of the other children. And I get the honor of coming into the nursery every two hours to hold and nurse the newest member of my family. They ask that I wash my hands with a strong smelling soap, and put a gown on over my clothes, each time. I sit in the same rocker, looking into the same sweet face, during each visit. His respiration improves, without fail, when Iím holding him.

Day 4
Another day, somewhat deflated by the sobering fact, that we cant take our son home today. Ultimately, though, I canít help but to be thankful. Noah has gained weight everyday, and is requiring less oxygen. Theyíre even planning to take the i.v needle out of his tummy tonight. God is good!

Dear Noah,
Dad came by again, to see you, last night. He whispered to you, during your feeding, asking you to open your peepers. Your eyes popped open just a bit, and you looked very sleepy. As your daddy spoke to you, youíd raise your eyebrows like you were listening and wrinkle your forehead.
While Iím serving your breakfast, lunch or dinner, I look at your hands, feet, earlobes, or whatever I can get to, through the tubes. You are so wonderful and loved! Mom

Day 5
Yea! I hear that we may get to go home, by the weekend! I look so forward to getting home. I want Mike & the kids to see all the amazing things I get to see, each day.

Noah is only on 36% oxygen now and breathing much more peacefully. Iím so thankful, to God. Still, I wonder why He allowed this to happen. In the scheme of things, this health challenge could be worse. I canít fix any of this anyway. So, I might as well keep trusting. It feels good to know that God is holding Noah is His able hands every hour of the day!

Dear Noah,
India & Jake came by to see you, today! They had to use the smelly soap and had to put on gowns, just like your dad & I do, when we come into the NICU. Dad had to lift your brother up, so that he could see you. Jake asked if he was ever that little. India couldnít stop smiling at you. She says that you are sweet. And you are! Mom

Day 6
I recognized a woman in a white labcoat today, while in the NICU. She is a specialist. We used to attend church together. We joined hands and prayed for Noahís health. Itís good to have extended family (Godís family) wherever we go.

They removed the monitors from Noahís chest today, and put him on room air. He is even in a regular crib. I cant wait to watch him sleep in his very own bed, at home. In fact, I canít wait to sleep in my very own bed, at home.

As I was leaving the nursery, from the most recent feeding, I heard one nurse say to another, ďHe is just too goodĒ. Many of the special care nurses have commented that Noah is such an easy going and sweet baby.

Day 7
For just a bit, today, I left the hospital. My mom came and drove me to my new home. Even seeing the bare yard, stirred an excitement within me. The last time, Iíd been here, the house was empty, as weíd anticipated moving our belongings in. This time, to my surprise, it was full of all our things. My mom, aunt, sister & neice had unpacked every box, and beautifully decorated our home. Mike and some of the other men in the family were still finishing up the decking, by the back door. What a fabulous sight! This means two things; 1.) Noah would come home to his very own room, complete with framed pictures, his crib, toys, and clothes in his closet! And 2.) Somehow, Iíd gotten out of all the heavy lifting. Not a bad perk.

Walking back down the maternity hall to the nursery, feels surprisingly good, after my brief jaunt into the outside world. But for now, taking care of Noah is one of my top priorities. The familiar smell of the hallway causes my footsteps to quicken. Two hours is too long to be away from my tiny boy. I press the door buzzer and wait to be let in. I canít wait to hold Noah and talk with him about my morning. Looking into his eyes lifts me. I know God is lifting us both.

Michael came by with the kids tonight. He has been working hard on our new home, to get things ready for all of us to be there together, as a family. A friend brought a scrumptious home cooked dinner by the hospital for us. It felt good to eat all together, for the first time in over a week. My older two, scooted up on the bed next to me. Noah smiled immediately, when Mike spoke to him. He opened his eyes wide. ďDadĒ changed, burped, and snuggled Noah too. I canít wait till weíre all home.

Day 8
Dear Noah,
The doctor turned in the order for you to ďroom inĒ with me, tonight, and be discharged tommarrow! It is wonderful to be in the same room with you, just the two of us. Iíve been keeping track of how often you eat, and when youíre diapers are changed, like the doctor asked me to. I want to will time to go faster. But, Iíll have to be patient for a little longer. Things are quiet here. They sure wont be when we get home. So, Iíll savor these hours, here.
I am very thankful that you are doing so well! God has kept you in His care since the day you were conceived. He handcrafted special gifts & abilities within you, even as He knit you together. You are so precious, Noah. Iím not sure why God allowed you to go through so much these past eight days. But, He has been with you each moment, even when mom & dad have had no control over things. I love you. Mom

I can barely sleep, for watching the baby. No oxygen tube. No wires. No monitors. Just a peaceful rest. Iíve been looking so forward to this simple honor. As his chest rises and falls, I can see that he is breathing easily. Things are beginning to feel normal. God is good.

India & Jake had to pick a number between one and ten, tonight, to see who could hold the Noah first. Jake scooted all the way back in his chair, and we stacked pillows on his lap, before placing the baby in his arms. He was fascinated with his tiny toes. Indiaís eyes poured over Noah as she explained to him how sheíd already filled his diaper stacker, at home. Then it was ďdadísĒ turn. He held his new son for a long while, touching his forehead (which relaxes Noah and makes him turn to jello).

Day 9
Well, this is the big day. Noah is sleeping right through it, just now. Mike is on his way to bring us home. The doctor says that Noah has an extra heart sound or an innocent murmur. As his blood vessels grow larger, the ďsoftĒ murmur should go away. Noah is eating so well, and now weighs 6 lbs. 7 oz.

After letting us know the best ways to care for Noah, Iíve asked the doctor to take our familyís first group photo. Weíve had great doctors, and NICU nurses. In spite of what recent days have held, I feel blessed to have had such good care. India wants to help by carrying the diaper bag. Itís great that the kids want so badly to know their new brother and be a part of his life. I sure love my older babies, too. On day nine, weíre finally walking out of here, with a healthy baby and a bigger family!
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