This is yet another excerpt from the journal I kept during our long, painful wait for Lora Leigh to come into our lives. Soon after her birthmother put her baby into my arms, both were whisked away to upstairs wards. Gail went to surgery; Lora went to the nursery. We went into the hallway and wondered, what in the hell do we do now?
First, we head to the payphones to let the world know that a baby girl has been born, 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and that she will be ours (we pray). Then we head upstairs to the nursery to see where she is and how this whole process is going to work.....
We are, by no means, certain that all will go as we hope. We are, by no means, breathing normally.....
It is nearly 2 p.m. when they finally come to get us and lead us into the back, inner workings of the nursery. This is pediatric intensive care. Hearts are routinely broken here, I know. We pray that ours is not as well.
They usher us into a little, private exam room. There is our baby, red as a crawfish, lying in an enclosed plexiglass case. It’s not an incubator, it’s a warmer. Lora is having a hard time holding her body temperature. All we can do is reach in through the little portholes.
Marty reaches for the foot. I reach for the hand. We sit in chairs and take in every inch of our little baby.
And there we stay for about an hour. Just looking, staring, trying to comprehend the dream-come-true lying in front of us. We are truly in a state of disbelief.
And we are, perhaps deliberately, perhaps not, holding ourselves back. We know that, at any second, she can be snatched back from us – despite so many reassurances to the contrary.
Finally, a nurse comes in.
”Have you held her yet?”
She decides it’s time. We are eternally grateful.
She preps Lora, wrapping her up – mummy style – in the hospital issue blanket. And soon, my daughter is placed in my arms.
My daughter. Sound asleep. Not a clue as to how monumental an occasion this is. I feel the tears burning my eyes, but don’t want them to come. I want to SEE her. I want to cherish this moment.
The camera is in the car, however.
“Go get it,” the nurse said. Marty heads off.
And so, I have about five minutes alone with my baby. The baby I have dreamed of, fought for, wished for, prayed for, nearly died for, is in my arms. I hold, I smell, I look and I start to tell her about the life that lies ahead.
I tell her I’m her mom. I tell her about her dad, that he’s kind of goofy at times. I tell her about her Nana, that she’s REALLY something, but that she will be loved and spoiled and cherished forever. I tell her she has a brother and a sister and three little puppies. Laycee will sniff you, Lucy will bark at you, Lyon might pee on you.
And then, there is Dad, camera in hand. He grabs a nurse from outside to come take the picture.
“I know you!!” I shout. The face is so familiar.
It’s Missy Lapeeze. We went to high school together. We have a little mini reunion! And she gives us the first dose of excitement we will receive from the staff. She is thrilled for us. Her friend in Texas just adopted a baby boy last week, she tells us. She knows, she tells us. She understands.
She snaps a photo of Marty and me holding baby Lora. Our first picture with our new daughter.
We take turns holding her and taking pictures. Missy and I catch up a little, but not much. There are more monumental things going on in that room than a high school reunion. But, it is so nice to have a friendly face in there with us. Now I feel like we have an “in” with the nursery staff. It certainly can’t hurt.
Next comes a nurse named Danielle, wearing green hospital scrubs. She brings the baby her first drink of water. It’s to make sure that all the pipes are connected, Danielle explains. It’s an important test. It also is the first taste of anything she will ever have outside the womb. I am so thrilled that I am there for it.
Danielle prepares the little red and white bottle and shows us how it is done. Most babies squeal, she said. They certainly do not like it. Lora is sound asleep and couldn’t care less. But, eventually she begins to suck. And everything seems to be connected correctly.
Danielle hands her to me, along with the bottle. I oh-so-gently try to repeat the feat. It works. Marty takes pictures. Then I hand her to him. I take pictures. Lora puts down nearly an ounce – a lot for this experiment, Danielle explains.
Then we move on to the good stuff – Enfamil with Iron!! Danielle prepares the little 3-ounce bottle and hands it over to me. I am now feeding my daughter. And I can’t explain just how happy I am that I was the one allowed to do it. I got to give my daughter her first meal.
Marty and I take turns. Then comes the burping. I am doing it the old fashioned way – over the shoulder – with little success with the first nurse (we never did get her name) comes in to check on us.
“What’s the best way to do this?”
She shows us the in-the-lap method. And, for the record, Lora’s first burp came at 3:42 p.m.
Lora puts down about a half an ounce. A good amount for a child four hours old.
A little while later, Danielle returns with all the stuff needed to give the baby her first bath. At first, she was going to let me do it. But then she thought better of it. Parents, she said, are too gentle. This first one requires a little elbow grease.
“You do the first one right,” I tell her. “Then I can do all the rest of them wrong! But, can we watch?”
Just then, another girl comes in.
“Your mother is looking for you.”
I knew she couldn’t stay away! What a great surprise. I go out to the waiting area and there she is, dressed in black – along with her new t-shirt, “Nana is my game, spoiling is my game.”
“Mom! Mom!” I run over to her and hug quickly. Then I grab her hand.
“Come on! They’re about to give her her first bath.”
We go back to the back and my mom gets to see my daughter for the first time.
Before the bath, Danielle offers to do a set of footprints for us to keep. She gets a crib card and the ink pad. Lora doesn’t like this one bit. She starts to turn an even deeper shade of red, showing definite signs of a temper.
Then Danielle puts the squirming, squealing little red baby under the faucet and starts scrubbing. Marty takes pictures. I just watch in awe, holding my mother’s hand oh-so-tight. I am so glad that she is here. What timing.
Our visit soon comes to an end. They put Lora back into the warmer to bring her temperature back up. Marty heads out to Sears to get our tire that was being repaired.
I really want to go, too. I want to go eat and sleep and stretch and decompress. But I already begin questioning whether I should leave. Am I allowed to leave? Missy reassures me that it’s allowed, that they will take good care of her.
So, FINALLY, at about 5 p.m., I leave the doors of Terrebonne General Hospital and my daughter. Mom drives me to Lou’s. She has spaghetti cooked and salad. I eat good. Then I sleep. Actually, I crash. I hit Lou’s sofa and fall into a deep sleep, filled with sweet dreams of a tiny little face and tiny little burps.