Preemie Christmas Part 12

It’s finally here,  albeit a little off schedule. 
On the 12th day of Christmas, the NICU gave to me: 12 feeds to freedom, 11 silver linings, 10 specialists a-knocking, 9 dads kangaroo-ing, 8 moms a – pumping, 7 monitors chiming, 6 nurses charting, 5 needle sticks, 4 brain surgeries, 3 minute scrubs, 2 blood transfusions, and a micro preemie in an isolette. 
In the NICU, we never said “when is Little Miss Minion going to have her next bottle?” It was always “her next feed is in an hour.” Nicu jargon seeped into our lives so much, people actually thought I had medical training, with my talk of vents and shunts and tpn and csf. 
When things were starting to look like she would be coming home soon, the nurses talked to us about what she would need to be able to do in order to leave the nicu. The easy parts, the parts that she would either do or not do, included passing her car seat test (90 minutes in her car seat without setting off her monitors), a hearing test, going a week without setting off her monitors, and maintaining her body temperature without the help of the isolette. The big one was that she had to drink all of her milk by herself for about three days. 
From the time she started getting milk, she took it via a thin, flexible tube that went from her nose to her stomach. When she started taking bottles, it was very tiring for her, so they would give her a little bit from a bottle and “gavage” the rest through the tube. As she got better at drinking from the bottle and her mouth muscles got stronger, she took more and more at each feed. 
In order to leave, she would have to drink all her milk by herself for 24 hours. At that point, they would pull the tube. If she could keep it up for two additional days, or 12 feeds, she would be out the door. 
About a week before she was actually discharged, when we were playing a game of “so close, but not enough,” she pulled the tube out herself. The nurses decided to leave it out and see if she still needed it, which she did, but for those 2 hours, we could see her face without nasal cannula, without tubes, without duoderm tape on her cheeks. We had seen her face without some of these things when they would redo the tubes and tape, but never all at the same time. She looked like any other baby, even though she was almost 3 months old and only 5 pounds. We could really see her face, her expression. It was wonderful.  

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