There’s no template for creating a child. A stay of 84 days in the NICU is as uncharted as the moment of leaving hospital for the first time.
That day arrived. A chilly winter’s day, with no hint of the autumn leaves. Kate and I walked in for the last time, arms wrapped around warm baking, our attempt at wrapping gratitude in white boxes for nurses so full of love and care for our family.
I’m sure Zac had no idea the excitement bubbling in Kate and I, as we chatted and shared with those around us. We fed and bathed and listened intently then walked and cried and paused and hugged. Zac wrapped and strapped ready for the short trip home.
Zac’s first breaths of outside air were brisk and chilly. First quick blinks would have revealed a grey day, with hints of blue, had his eyes had capacity to see that much. Instead, it was the strange blue handles above and Dad’s hand. The final nursing advice, confirmation Zac’s seat was secure.
The trip home was uneventful, exciting, delightful and wrapped in a sense of relief. Tears flowed from the big humans, the littlest one was relaxed, snorting, breathing.
Home and then the weight of responsibility, the vacuum of medical support missing. We were finally new parents. Oh except for the small feeding tube running into Zac’s nose and beyond, resting in his stomach. That bit wasn’t quite as a term baby would have.
Zac has been discharged as part of the Gavage tube feeding program, allowing this momentous trip to happen earlier than usual. Kate and I were trained on inserting and securing the tube, which is replaced weekly. Although Zac was nearly 3 kilos on discharge, he doesn’t have the energy to suck all his eight feeds throughout the day. Hence we push 1 in every 3 feeds via his tube.
The days since this momentous day have been filled with the roller coaster new parents often describe yet can seldom share adequately. Love flowing, nappies filling, milk in all sorts of vessels and the feeling even the simple things are no longer easy. Kate’s sister Caros arrived on day 5 to guide and interpret and cook and admire.
Zac’s early journey draws close and we embark on the new one, just days before he was originally due.