Well, assuming I’ve counted right, today was BabyBug’s Day # 101. It doesn’t really carry any significance except that there is now officially a Dalmation for every day she’s been alive, but hey – random milestones keep things interesting, right?
A few words about the PICU. You remember how I talked about the general feeling on the baby floor? The PICU brings this to a whole new level. Generally speaking, when the babies are born in the hospital (or relocated from another hospital), they go to the NICU and they stay there until they leave or until they get too big (usually about 10 lbs – Leah was moved more for logistical reasons). My understanding is that once the babies go home, if they have to be rehospitalized they go to the PICU. So as tense as the NICU can be, there is still a great deal of joy, because it’s full of new babies. Yes, we saw a family lose their baby in the first week we were there, and yes, there are babies there with very poor prognoses. But we have seen a lot of families go home – families who have been there for a few days or a few months – and we have been so happy for them.
The PICU doesn’t seem to house a lot of joy. We’ve only been there for a day and a half but here are my first impressions (we’ll see how accurate they turn out to be over time): The PICU is for kids aged 0 to 21, and it’s a critical care unit, not just a pediatric unit (that’s on a different section of the floor). As far as I can tell there are kids who have cancer, kids who have been injured in car crashes and other accidents, kids in really serious condition. There are rooms that are occupied one day and empty the next and we can’t say for sure whether the change is awesome or devastating. It’s more quiet. There is less laughter. There are more people crying at bedside. Walking down the hall you occasionally see a kid being wheeled on a gurney, with a terrified red-eyed parent trailing behind.
PICU is also more isolating. In the NICU you have five other sets of parents in the same room with you, and I’m not saying you become best friends with every other parent, but there is a sense of solidarity, at the very least. Every baby may have its own issue and prognosis, but on some level and to some extent the NICU parents still share a common experience. And parents do talk and compare notes and commiserate and get to know the personalities of each others’ babies. And we get to feel that joy for each other when someone takes their little one home. At first glance, that solidarity doesn’t seem to exist in the PICU. Everybody’s situation is so different that I’m not sure it could even if we weren’t all in private rooms.
There is also less opportunity to get to know the nurses, since they are situated behind the nurses’ station and not at the bedside of one baby or another. I’m hoping this will become less of an issue as we get more acclimated. I mean, we were in the NICU for three months – that’s a lot of time to get to know people, and a lot of time for people to get to know us. I felt like there were a lot of nurses who really cared how Leah was doing. Some of them would even stop by on their way from point A to point B just to say hello and comment on how much she had grown. For whatever issues we had, there were a lot of good people in there who took good care of our little Bug. I hope we can build a similar trust and rapport in the PICU as well. Don’t get me wrong – I have no complaints about the nurses so far. They have been nice and very willing to help – we just don’t see them quite as often. It’s just different.
Okay – 36-hour observations aside… the Baby Empress has been enjoying her new territory, and she seems happy about the extra time with Mamas. Leah loves to be held and rocked (and bounced and petted and patted and snuggled and sung to), and sometimes that is all that will calm her down when something is making her uncomfortable. In related news, neither of us got much sleep last night. But I hear that’s how it’s supposed to be when you have a new baby. 😉 So yeah – I’m not saying she’s smiling socially yet, but we got a lot of little corner-of-mouth twitches today. What a precious little Bug we have.
And now… pictures.