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12/29/2004

You were right. Whatever you said.

It turns out you were all absolutely right. Each and every one of you.

We decided to have Charlie taken by ambulance to the hospital closer to home. The biggest factor in this decision was our bone-deep terror of taking a 35-weeker — tiny and floppy — on a six-hour drive in a New England midwinter the very first time he's given into our care. (Either we'd leave straight from the hospital, or we'd have to bring him here to our hotel. And I don't even want to touch the bedspread, as long as we're discussing the perils of introducing a baby to exotic new flora. You think I want him licking it? And I'm not quibbling about a few semen stains between friends. No, I am reasonably certain this particular bedspread has served, in the past, as a makeshift shroud for someone who died of flesh-eating bacteria. Good thing the court ordered that exhumation, or this hotel would have been short a perfectly good bedspread.)

Other factors included logistical issues, like having absolutely nothing set up at home. (A quick glance at the registry Tertia and boulder set up for me, which many, many of you generously picked clean, soothed that anxiety — so much so that I'm leaking grateful snot all over the keyboard just thinking of it. I will post about that at very great length soon, and will include pictures of the Alpine mounds of largesse. I have not yet seen it but in my mind's eye it is a magnificent trove indeed, an Aladdin's cave of bountiful goodwill, a twnemfndos kleam id jne — wait, too much snot of gratitude. Fingers slipping. Moving on.)

Aaaaand, the temperature in the house is set to, you know, tundra. I have not yet met Charlie's pediatrician-to-be. And we do not have a car seat. And all I know about infant CPR is that you have to cover a baby's nose and mouth when inflating his lungs, because how can you help it when it's such a wee tiny face, with an infinitesimal button nose and a chin the size of, well, a slightly larger button, and an incomparably adorable mouth that firms up in an obstinate pucker when you try to shove a nipple in when he doesn't want it? And I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF A BABY, much less one who only a week ago had a snorkel on his face.

But aside from those minor concerns, we think that taking him home ourselves on Monday is a great idea. Good thing, because that's what we're doing.

A few weeks back, we thought Charlie would be going to the hospital near home. We did all the necessary legwork, talking to the doctors there, wheeling and dealing — because I am nothing if not a big-time silver-tongued cheap-suited wheeler-dealer, my friends, right here in River City — with the insurance company to get the cost of the transport (which hovers around $5000) covered.

As an aside, in case there is any doubt, I am feeling a little bit manic just now.

Anyway, the insurance company agreed that they would foot the bill. Charlie, however, opposed our plan to move closer to home, so emphatically that he required resnorkeling, so the earlier transport was scuttled.

Fast forward three weeks in the NICU, or several geologic ages, whichever feels longer. Include several phone calls to the insurance company to assure that Charlie is indeed covered, despite the fact that they haven't gotten around to actually processing the paperwork I sent in weeks ago; a trip to City Hall to acquire several impressive-looking copies of his birth certificate; and a few harried sessions laboring over the breast pump, just for comedy. I am told the transparent hooter cones are hilarious.

So so so so so (still manic, hang in there) our plan was to tell Charlie goodbye yesterday, then drive home in the evening. We'd meet him at the local hospital on his arrival. We'd packed the car, made arrangements to reassume pet care, and used up every last hotel towel in a shocking spree of profligacy. We drove to the hospital, sat to feed Charlie, and patiently awaited the next bombshell. By now we should have learned that when it comes to matters reproductive, there is always another bombshell.

In the movie of my life, the next scene would involve a doctor, a nurse, the hospital's social worker, Paul, Charlie, me, and a lactation consultant. While the doctor and the social worker soberly explain that the insurance company has refused to authorize the upcoming transport, the lactation consultant, the nurse, Charlie, and I are trying to breastfeed for the first time. Paul is staring in horror as my enormous rack threatens to engulf the tiny head of his heir. Music: something dark and Wagnerian, corresponding to close-up cuts of Charlie's flaring nostrils and my wobbling flesh encroaching ever closer with increasing menace. SFX: wailing of several other, lesser babies (billed in the credits as Crying Baby #1, Crying Baby #2, and Baby The Nurses Call "Irritable" But You Would Be Too If That Braying Jackass Were Your Mother).

And why would the movie of my life include such a zany scene? Because that is how it pretty much happened. Needless to say, the breastfeeding was not a success, though Charlie's cranium emerged battered but uncrushed; the transfer was cancelled outright; and Paul and I were once again knocked for a loop. Another plan that has fallen through, another abrupt reversal.

It seems that the insurance company won't pay for the ambulance unless the transfer is medically necessary (meaning Charlie's moving from a less sophisticated hospital to a more advanced facility) or unless the doctors can certify that Charlie will need to be hospitalized for at least another two weeks. Neither is the case. This is the kind of problem you want to have: our kid is too well to require the transfer. So here we stay until Monday, his expected date of discharge, when he will go straight home with us at 35 weeks' gestation.

I'll believe it when Charlie's bucked safely into his car seat and I am hyperventilating in panic as we appoach the highway entrance ramp. Not a single second sooner.

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