So today I went back to work… again. That’s right, another fun-in-the-sun va-cay is over. I’m actually getting tired of vacation, if you can believe it. There’s nothing more that I want right now than to get lost in a big project at work. Luckily, I have several waiting on me with all the vacation time I have taken. Ali and I would love to get back into a routine, although I imagine all new parents crave some consistency and maybe a shred of their former lives. Physically, we actually probably have it a little easier than most new parents… we get to go home. And outside of this new phenomenon, called “pumping”, we get to sleep most nights uninterrupted.
So after a semi-good night’s sleep I went to work. As I worked hard to get back into the groove, I couldn’t help but notice my penchant for checking the clock. I swear sometimes that the time was standing still (December 19th can’t get here fast enough). Finally, the clock hits 11 am. Hey that’s good enough for me so I grab my keys and I’m out the door. I’ve got a good chance to catch them doing rounds, which is important since I’ve got Ali locked down to 1 visit a day which we will do together after work. As I’m driving over the Acosta bridge, my left thigh vibrates that familiar double pulse that I know is a text message. I’m pretty good about not texting and driving (a little promise Ali and I have to each other), but I do gamble a glance this time (after I made sure I didn’t have any cars around me of course). It’s from Ali and says they are moving both Chris and Kate to the other side of the NICU today and maybe before noon… I nearly wrecked. (Ali, not really – that was just for dramatic effect.)
This is huge news. We’ve never actually seen the other side, just heard stories. It must be some magical place where parents are always smiling and babies always laughing. They say it is where babies “graduate” to when they are healthy enough to get by with less supervision. This is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. The nurse to baby ratio on the side they have been since they got there is 1:1 or 1:2. Once they graduate that ratio goes up to 1:3 or 1:4. Terrifying, but it’s the natural progression to them coming home. Babies aren’t sent home without “graduating” to the other side.
By the time I drove the additional 200 ft. to the off ramp stop light, I had received 8 additional texts from Ali. I had to hurry, I was worried they would not let me see them if they were moving them. They are very private about that. Whenever a new baby comes in, they make sure you aren’t there to see anything. I believe it is a privacy issue, but it’s still nerve racking. My first visit to the NICU the morning Chris and Kate were born, I arrived just as Kate was getting ready for her new incubator. I stood by and watched, probably with a lost look on my face. A nurse noticed me and asked me to wait outside until they had Kate transported to her new bed. “Well, can I see my son then?” I asked, my voice teetering on the edge of politeness about to fall off the cliff to anger. Fortunately for me, this nurse was very gentle and understanding, as all the NICU nurses are. She walked me to Chris’s bedside and grabbed a chair for me. I’m sure they deal with parents like me all the time, they are pros. That was my first encounter with the process of moving the babies.
I made the right turn on Prudential, over the railroad tracks (thank goodness I missed the train) and on to the hospital. Luckily, I found a great parking spot on level 2 right by the stairs. Doing my best speed walking impression I made it to the NICU in just a couple of minutes. As I’m scrubbing in, I see the nurse who calmed me down at this very spot just 3 days prior. 3 days that now seem like 3 years. My world has drastically changed since that Friday afternoon and all for the better. Ali is on the road to recovery and the twins were “graduating” today. As the Neonatologist told us right after delivery on October 1st, “Emotional Roller Coaster”. As the nurse sees me she walks over to me and calls me by my nickname in the NICU, “Hey Dad, big day today. How’s momma doing?” I love this nurse. She talks to me while I finish scrubbing in and then pulls me over to show me the other side of the NICU. I thought this is it, I’m actually going to get to see it! This must be what it is like to see El Dorado, I thought to myself. She pulled back the door and gave me a peek. Looked pretty similar, I thought, except brighter, more spread out, and unfortunately more crowded… but it was quiet. Not nearly as many beeps, buzzes, pings or flashing lights.
So with the magical “other side” legend debunked, I proceeded back to our side to check on Chris and Kate. Kate is always the closest to the door so I stopped at her bedside first. Aimee, Kate’s primary nurse walked over. She is one of our favorites. As she is going through the latest news on the move to the other side, the Neonatologist walks up. They were still doing rounds. She sees me and smiles. She’s nice, but all business.
Today I understand everything she tells me. A few Brady’s for both Chris and Kate, but that’s normal. Chris’s head circumference is stable, that’s good. Chris is going up in feeds, another plus. And they are both being transferred to the other side, good I guess.
The two sides of the NICU are like segregated facilities in a prison. Our side, the side Chris and Kate have been on since their arrival is the maximum security side, 24 hour lockdown. Where most inmates are viewed through a plate of glass. The other side is the minimal security side. Inmates can enjoy physical activities and are allowed social interaction in the yard twice a day. Most of the time you’ll see a game of kick ball or hop-scotch going on, and a little gambling on the side.
Chris and Kate will have to adapt. Fortunately for them, they are the founders of the Little Fighting Irish gang, one of the most feared newborn gangs around. Those pour saps on the other side have no idea what they are in for. Their time on easy street is over, the Little Fighting Irish are coming and they take no prisoners. It’s futile to challenge them, I mean they already have the nursing staff on the take. We took care of that by greasing as many nurses as possible with gifts of chocolate and candy. “Here you go, have a truffle… my babies are Chris and Kate… remember that.”
They’ll be running the “other side” in no time. And while they are getting set up in the NICU, their recruits on the outside are laying the groundwork for their release. There’s Ava “The Siren” Condrey. One minute she’s whispering sweet nothings in your ear, the next she’s stealing your snackpack. She’s both adored and feared. Then there’s Easton “The Basher” Sessions, he’s the muscle. It’s been said he can knock a cat out with one blow of his left fist, that, or smash a pack of crackers. Luke Henderson is a hot head that is notorious for going off on unsuspecting victims. His middle name is Oliver, but around here people just call him “Terry the Mouth.” Finally, there’s Paul Richard Wyatt, but everyone just calls him King (I think he comes from nobility). He’s responsible for hob-nobbing with the power players. He’s already got the preschool staff on the take and working on the Schoolboard as we speak.
So the Little Fighting Irish are taking over. There’s no use resisting. The next two months are going to be interesting…