8.01.2011

Unlikely to Forget: Jaundice

At first I was afraid to say it out loud, thinking it would immediately jinx the situation. But it's true, at least this far: the transition from one to two children has been infinitely easier than the transition from none to one. Our parental temperaments are completely different this time around, and Juliette's temperament - which was, let's face it, a little tough as a baby - has been downright extraordinary.

That said, we've had two issues that are totally minor in the grand scheme of issues. I'm still recovering from my back pain, but before that there was the jaundice.

Genevieve's bilirubin count was high the second night of our hospital stay. By morning, it was high enough to merit twenty-four hours under the phototherapy lights. Upon hearing this news I cried, of course. It's just not what you want to hear. You don't want anything to be wrong, not even some little thing that can be fixed by fancy lightbulbs. And you want to go home. Like crazy.

Just the thought of her having to be in the nursery did me in. I swear, the whole time we were at the hospital I practically had to fight off the nurses who would come and try to convince me she should be wheeled off to the nursery. This child has been living inside of me for nine months; how can I just blithely wave goodbye for a few hours? But when she started her phototherapy, I only got 30 minutes with her every two hours, just long enough to nurse. I intentionally did not take a picture of her in the incubator, wearing the protective foam sunglasses. I didn't want to remember it, though I do.

So there was an initial upset that we had to stay, but it was clear fairly quickly that jaundice is common and the lights weren't terrible, and again, in the grand scheme of things, all was well.

And then I had to be discharged.

They explained that I could stay at the hospital, just not on the busy maternity floor. A nurse wheeled me down to my new room, in a bustling recovery unit. It was loud. But not just normal loud. More like: oh, there's a hospital renovation construction zone on the other side of my window loud. Really, really loud. But, whatever, they'll pack up and leave at five, right?

I immediately headed back up to the maternity ward, so I could sit vigil by the incubator until it was time to nurse Genevieve again. Only, the elevator we'd taken to the new floor inexplicably required a security clearance. I asked the lady at the desk, and she pointed me down the hall - way down the hall - to the guest elevator. The one we'd taken was for medical personnel only. (Not that anyone told me that; I hadn't realized it was my responsibility to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way back out of the woods.) I started walking, which, you may recall, isn't the most comfortable activity for a woman who's only just given birth to an eight and a half pound baby less than forty-eight hours before.

Halfway to the elevator - I'm really not kidding, it was a long way away - the postpartum hormones kicked in. I tried to compose myself in a bathroom, but all I could think was: how am I going to do this every two hours, all night long? By the time I was buzzed in to the maternity ward, I was a weepy wreck. I solemnly promise that I did not intend to make a scene, but I'm happy to report that it worked. They let me move back into my room on the maternity floor, with the understanding that if a lot of babies were born I might be ousted in the night.

So: happy ending. I was near enough to nurse as often as she needed without having anymore nervous breakdowns, and we went home in the morning.

And here's Genevieve, perfectly pale at two weeks old. I didn't realize how much the bilirubin had discolored her skin until it fully cleared up.So grateful, so blessed.

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