Monday, February 12, 2007

Hospital issues

Hester's been spending weekends with us in our hospital room, only going back to the nursery at night while we're asleep. During the night, her nurses call us to do her diapers and feedings. It's an unbelievable setup--she gets the nursing she needs to help her recover, and we get to parent her almost full-time. We couldn't be luckier with this situation.

Even better, Hester's daytime nurses absolutely love us. And why not? We're responsible for her care and they know we'll come to them with even the slightest question about her well-being (i.e., last night we inquired about the baby acne on her neck). The daytime nurses are content to let us do our thing as long as Hester's feeling well. In addition, they give us all sorts of nice compliments and generally work to strengthen our role as parents. They ask our opinion about her care (medicine before feeding or after?), give us room to make decisions on her behalf (yesterday she had lots of tummy time and a bath, for example), and trust that we know Hester better than they do. "After all," one nurse said, "You're her parents."

At night, however, everything's different.

When we turn in for the evening, we have to take Hester back to the NICU. This is hard for us for several reasons, but mostly because it's such a wake-up call: Our daughter is in the hospital, and however free we are to make decisions for her during the day, at night her nurses call the shots completely. It's really hard to give up parenting Hester and to allow her nurses to take control once again. In the beginning, it was fine: Hester was really sick and we didn't know jack about how to help her recover. Now that she's feeling so much better, however, we have some pretty strong ideas about how she should be treated.

Last night all of this stuff came to a head for me. Petunia and I went to bed at 9pm so that we could get a little shut-eye before Hester's next feeding. We switch off on feedings, and I agreed to take the 1st feeding last night. We expected Hester to eat around midnight; she's a pretty regular eater, and she needed some meds, vitals, and a weigh-in at midnight anyway. At 1:30am her nurse Betsie--someone we've never had before--came for me, saying that Hester was hungry and needed to eat. "Fine," I thought, "She slept through her meds and is awake a little later than usual. No big deal."

Well, it turned out that Hester had indeed woken up when Betsie gave her the meds, weighed her, and took her vitals. This had happened at midnight, as predicted. However, Betsie thought Hester needed sleep more than she needed food (this despite the fact that Hester lost weight overnight once again). Betsie tried to settle Hester for an hour, and for an hour Hester cried and her nurse got frustrated. Betsie gave up at 1:30am and called me to come feed Hester.

When I got down to the nursery, I soothed Hester before starting to feed her. When I heard how long she'd been awake, I was concerned that all the air in her tummy would make her vomit, something she's prone to doing in the best of circumstances. I was pissed that Hester had been upset for so long and that no one had called me, but I needed to focus on Hester's feeding. Fortunately for all involved, she ate well and kept it down. The poor kid was hungry, after all.

But after that ordeal, she was also Awake with a capital A. I didn't mind at all; I was already up, and I was happy to spend a little time with her out of dreamland. I didn't rile her up, though--I soothed her and tried to settle her, but she stayed awake for an hour and a half after her feeding. I sang quietly to her, rocked her, walked her, and pat her. We just looked at each other for over an hour. She fell asleep on her own time when she was ready, just before 3am. She'd only had one awake time during the day, so I figured she was due for another one anyway.

However, during Hester's awake period 2 different nurses stopped by her tiny room. One asked me if we held Hester all day during our weekends with her, and I said that we held her a lot. "You have to put her down more. You're not doing her any favors--she needs to get used to sleeping in her crib," she told me. I was really angry, but I told her politely that Hester spends a lot of time alone in her crib when we're not there with her. I also said that when we're there, our focus is on bonding with Hester. "You're not doing her any favors, " she repeated, and left the room.

The second nurse stopped by around 2:30am just after I'd changed Hester's [very wet] diaper. "Oh, I thought you finally got her to sleep," she said, sounding all disappointed. "I saw you standing over her crib and thought she'd finally gone down." I said, "No, she was wet. I thought she'd rest more comfortably with a fresh diaper." "Hmm," said that nurse, sounding suspicious.

When Hester fell asleep at 3am, I got her settled in her crib. I hooked her up to the monitor, kissed her goodnight, and gathered her laundry to bring home with me to wash. "Goodnight," I told her nurses. But that first nurse couldn't leave well enough alone. She said to me in a condescending and sarcastic way, "Do you have enough laundry there?" (She asked me once before in the same tone whether I did laundry every day for Hester and smiled smugly when I told her yes.) I was fed up, so I simply said, "I'm happy to do Hester's laundry. It helps me feel that I'm caring for her even when I can't be with her." Then I left the nursery and went back to our room, but not before telling Betsie to give us a holler if Hester needed anything. "Even if she wakes up and just needs to be soothed, please call us," I added.

I got up at 4:30am to shower and get ready for the drive back home. At 5am I stopped by the nursery to tell Betsie I was leaving. Hester was awake and crying, obviously hungry. I wasn't upset, though--Betsie was changing her diaper and checking her vitals, something we have to do before every feeding whether Hester likes it or not. Betsie looked upset when she saw me, though, and she said, "I wasn't going to call for you yet." I reassured her that I had to leave for work and that I was just stopping by to say goodbye to Hester. "Petunia's in our room," I told her, "Just give her a holler when Hester's ready to eat." Then I left for work, and I didn't think anything about it until Petunia called me at 10:30am to say that Betsie never woke her. According to Hester's day nurse, Betsie fed Hester by herself. Furthermore, Betsie told Hester's day nurse that Petunia and I left the hospital.

Now I'm seeing red.

I understand that Hester's night nurses have their own way of doing things. It's nighttime, after all, so they try to keep interactions with her to a minimum to train her to sleep at night. But the veiled accusations that either we're spoiling Hester or we don't know what we're doing really bother me. And the laundry thing just gets my goat, because really? Really it's the only thing I can do to parent my daughter while I'm at home raising other people's children. I've loved doing Hester's laundry every morning, and I take pride in the fact that she doesn't have to wear hospital clothes or use hospital linens. So suck it, Nurse 1. Laundry is my responsibility, not hers.

The question now is to decide what to do, if anything. Clearly, we will have a problem if someone feeds Hester again while one of us is asleep down the hall. We will also have a problem if Hester is left to cry again when she's hungry. But it's a fine balance because we don't want to get everyone riled up and lose our weekend privileges with Hester. She should be home in 3 weeks or so, and we're just trying to be patient and take it day by day.

Obviously, some days are easier than others.



Anonymous Jenny PP said...

That sucks! I love the nice nurses and I want to kick the teeth out of the others.

What, exactly, is their problem? Are they mad that they're the night nurses? Do they just enjoy upsetting people? Are they put on the night shift because they're rude and can't be trusted to deal with the more people that are around when everyone's awake during the day?

When my poor mom had me in the hospital she was traumatized because they ONLY let her hold me at feedings. And they didn't let my dad hold me at all. I was in the hospital for a week because I was jaundiced. The reason they didn't let people hold me more? Germs. My mom said it would break her heart because I'd lay in my crib and cry and nobody would pick me up unless it was time to be fed.

WTF for real? At least they're not ignoring her but I don't understand the not getting you when you're right there. Ridiculous.

Is there anyone who can be helpful in talking to them? Is there a nurse manager or someone like that? I know you don't want to make waves but also you are her parents and they should respect your choices as long as they don't interfere with her care.

Oh Hester Willa, don't let those bossy night nurses get to you. Your Mama and Mumzy love you lots!

3:45 PM  
Blogger Abigail said...

Oh man! I'm really pissed on your behalf with the night nurses. I was imagining myself in your situation- I would feel really upset and angry. That is your time to bond with your daughter- to care for her. Babies need contact- Hester needs you. It's SO important.

I'm very pleased for you and Hester with the day nurses though- that's just wonderful.

In trying to figure out why this is happening, I imagine it must be tough for the night nurses. Their reactions sound to me the actions of a person who needs control in a situation they are unhappy or dissatisfied in. Maybe they want to feel they have some power in the world- their work is the way they do that- by feeling they know better. They don't though. Hester needs your and Petunia touch- mommy touch.

I'm sorry this is happening. I wish you the best with your next night and weekend together.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous shirky said...

oh man
have I been there
i hope betsie will not be a regular nurse.
The thing is, they may teach all the medical stuff in nurse school, but whatever other stuff they're saying, is just their opinions, which differ.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Amelia's Mom said...

Since Hester is pretty predictable, could you set an alarm clock and just show up at the nursery and wait (if necessary) for the feeding? If the nurses are annoyed that you are waiting you could say something about the fact that since they hadn't come and gotten you on two separate occasions last weekend, you wanted to be sure that you didn't miss any feedings and that Hester could stay on her schedule. While nurses may be medical professionals, you are the parent and have every right to advocate on Hester's behalf. (And I really don't get the whole laundry thing ... are you tempted to just ask her what her issue is?) Good luck!

9:39 PM  
Blogger Canada said...

Ugh, there is nothing worse than a nurse who has attitude. I had one who was awful, mercifully only for a few days. The rest were amazing. It's really horrible that you have to deal with this for such an extended length of time, but remember, HW is YOUR daughter. As much as the nurses love all the tiny little babies that they care for, they are NOT the parents, and sometimes need to be reminded of that. There should be no power struggle over this, it's just the way it is. Good luck, sweetie.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Psycho Kitty said...

I would try polite but firm with the offending nurses: Let Betsie know you appreciate her wanting to let you both rest but that since you live out of town and can't spend as much time as you'd like with Hester, feeding her and being with her when you *can* be there, even if it means losing out on sleep, is really important to you. Assume the best about the person first; if that doesn't work, crank up the bitch a bit, and if that doesn't work, go over her head. I appreciate that nursing is difficult, but really, there's no excuse for that behavior. Hang in there honey--only a few more weeks.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous lola said...

This is hard stuff. Much harder than having a less than supportive mother in law around. You are in such a vulnerable position-trying to mother YOUR baby with others, not all, but one is enough, standing around judging you. THAT is not their job and you should perhaps talk with the head nurse and voice your concerns more in an 'upset and hurt' way than a mad way even if that's how you are feeling as it will probably work better. You don't have to put up with crap from a nurse-she is your daughter and one day you should just read her the riot act and shock her-something like, are you a mother? do you know what it's like,not only to take care of a baby with special needs but to mother one too?
You GO Girls!

9:09 AM  
Blogger frog said...


8:59 AM  

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