In which Emily comes to realize she cannot give all the children all they need all the time

            My blood type is O positive.  My husband is B positive.  To most of you, this information probably seems unremarkable, sort of like if I were to tell you how many fillings each of us has had.  Some of you – perhaps those with medical training or maybe with the same blood type combination – already know where I am going with this.

            Apparently, if a mother is O positive and her baby is B positive, there is a high probability that the baby will develop severe jaundice.  I already know all about jaundice because Zachary had it due to a subdural hematoma, which is fancy talk for the big bump he had on his head as a result of his futile attempts to force his way out through my pelvis.  As his body broke down that big bump, his bilirubin count became elevated.  Despite what I first thought, bilirubin is not a Jewish baseball player from Cleveland.  It is something yucky in the blood that babies’ little livers are not equipped to handle.  Hence, the jaundice.

            The treatment is light therapy.  The babies are stripped to their diapers and put in these little light boxes.  Only when the bilirubin count falls are they permitted to leave their tanning beds and go home.  To determine how high the count is, the hospital sends in lab technicians every six to twelve hours to stab the child in the heel and collect a blood sample.

            Somehow, we dodged the blood-type bullet with both of our boys.  This little girl, however, was hit.  After a day in the hospital, she started to resemble a carrot.  The doctors ran a blood test, determined that she was jaundiced, and started light therapy.  They also suggested we start supplementing with formula to make her poop, but that is a subject for another post.

            The problem with the light therapy was that, willing though she was to lie under the lights during the day, at night she would wake up three minutes after we put her down and start screaming.  And screaming some more.  I would pick her up, nurse her, and she’d go to sleep.  Gently, I would lay her down under the lights, only to have the process begin all over again.

            It’s not that I have any objections to Ferberizing, but two days old seems a little young to start.

            By Friday, her count was still too high to come home.  They took her off the lights and retested six hours later.  Her heels were starting to look like jullianed carrots. But, the Friday afternoon test indicated her bilirubin levels had flatlined, and we were discharged from the hospital.  I like to think that decision was made for medical reasons only, and not because there was a line of women up in labor and delivery being told to hold those babies in because the maternity ward was all filled up.

            I was relieved to head home because, by all accounts, Benjamin was having a rough time with my absence, as evidenced by the bite marks on one of his classmates.  He was delighted to see me, Zach was happy to have us home, and we spent the weekend bonding as the new family unit we had become.

            Until her Monday morning pediatrician appointment.  The doctor took one look at her and sent us right in for another blood test.  As I waited for the results at the medical center, J was home supervising Zachary’s playdate that it had been too late to cancel.  I sat there, fretting over reports that the playdate was off to a rocky start but glad we had been able to give Zachary what he needed despite the chaos.  And we would be able to give the baby the help she needed. 

            And then I started to cry, because it occurred to me that – not even a week into having three kids – the middle child’s needs were already being squeezed to the margins.  I cried because I was tense and tired, but I also cried for my bewildered two-year-old who would have no idea why Mommy had disappeared yet again.

           Of course, when the results came back, her bilirubin levels had skyrocketed.  And we were readmitted to the hospital, the baby plus me as her food supply.  The doctor insisted that the levels were too high for at-home light therapy, seeming skeptical about my reports that the child will not abide the light box.

          Through trial and error, we discovered that the only way she will remain asleep in the box is if I keep my hand on her.  So here we sit: her in her protective sunglasses under the lights, me typing with one hand while the other remains on the baby.  Across the room is my phone, and soon I will need to take a chance and go retrieve it, because a few miles down the road is a two-year-old in need of some reassurance that Mommy will be home soon.

32 responses to “In which Emily comes to realize she cannot give all the children all they need all the time

  1. I’m so sorry you were readmitted. Its a terrible feeling. I was readmitted with my second, and I felt just like you, completely torn between kids.
    When I was with one, I missed the other terribly . ..

    Hope the little Missy turns a nice shade of pink soon, so that you can return to your complete family. 🙂

  2. Emily…i missed the whole birth post and am late to say congrats….but the big thing i wanted to say was that with Posey two weeks ago we had the same issues…light bed plus an inability to remain in it, particularly if not comforted by the presence of a hand. she was pretty knocked out by prematurity and jaundice but as soon as we got her home we realized, shit, she has reflux. zantac and a tilted bed have made all the difference. get the docs to check your girl…the two sound eerily similar.

    and love and sympathy on the whole shebang…i’m just learning to manage two and realizing, damn, it’s hard.

  3. Oh goodness! My older child had some jaundice issues but nothing so bad that parking him in the sun when he was napping was sufficient to take care of it. The biggest drawback was in the eyes of our dog who considered the sun spot prime real estate!

    I’m sorry you are all going through this, but I am glad it is just this once.

    My husband is A+ and I am B-. I am glad that neither of my children got the negative RH factor. It isn’t a huge deal, but still… Marley hit the blood type jackpot. She is AB+ which means she is the universal recipient.

    Hang in there!

  4. Oh, dear. Things will be all right. My sister (also the middle of 3) ended up being a published writer – she claims it was because of all the time she spent alone! Ha! (She lies, just FYI. That child always had a whole NEIGHBORHOOD around her.)

    Hang in there, and know we’re thinking of you!

  5. oh, Emily. how rough.

    hugs all around

  6. Oh, sweet baby girl. Sending good thoughts and hopes for you both to be back home before you know it, healthy and happy.

  7. Oh why do these things have to be so difficult! As if you didn’t have enough to deal with. I’m so sorry you’ve had to be readmitted and do hope baby girl responds swiftly to the treatment. Does it have to be your hand? Would a soft blindfold of a light blanket or something similar be possible? Bon courage, I’m thinking of you.

  8. I’m so sorry you two were readmitted. Doesn’t she know yet that pink is the family color, not orange?? Sending prayers and good thoughts your way as you navigate new territory.

  9. I’m so sorry, for you and for Ben and for your baby girl. I hope you’re back home soon.

  10. oof. it IS hard, no doubt about it.

    hang in there, you.

    and the rest of your family as well.

  11. long, tight hugs and pats on the back.

    this is a tough stretch even when everything goes textbook perfectly. as if!

    I hope you two get home quickly.

  12. My youngest had to spend a lot of time under the lights. It broke my hear because the only lights they had were in the NICU, so I could only be with him when it was time to eat. Not a great arrangement.

    SO hard. I hope the lights work quickly. But, some days you just have to realize that you can’t do it all. Your family will adjust. Hope you are home again soon.

  13. Oof. Hope she clears up soon.

    Interesting about the subdural hematoma – my kid had one of those, and jaundice, but I was never told that there was a connection.

  14. I’m so sorry. And I’ve been there with the three very young children and the worry about getting them all what they need. I still juggle, but those needs switch from child to child and they all recognize that when it’s their moment I’ll be there. Thoughts are with you and the little ones.

  15. All but the readmitting part, I understand completely. My 2nd child had this and boy was it hard to see him being stuck so much and having three appointment in his first week out of the hospital. It will all be better. Soon.

  16. Oh Emily, I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine. Hugs to you and that baby girl. I hope they send her home for good soon.

  17. ugh. So hard, on top of it already being hard by virtue of “being.” I’m sorry.

  18. Sorry to hear you guys are back in the hospital.

    Hoping she returns to a lovely shade of pink, soon.

  19. Oh gosh – I’m so sorry about all this! Try not to worry though. He’ll be fine because you are aware! And you’ll do your best, which is all any of us can do.

    I hope you get to bring her home soon!

  20. Hang in there. Hope things get better real soon!

  21. This is the tough part, I assure you. It does get easier. All your kids will be fine. They know you love them. And when you are home again they will see it too. They will be fine.
    Prayers headed your way!

  22. Oh, that sounds hard. I hope that the jaundice clears up quickly. And I hope you get some good cuddling time with Ben soon. (And with Zack, too, if he’ll let you.)

  23. Yes, three is hard. And even though 2 of mine are only a minute apart … the middle child still seems to get the shaft. Babe boy is much more mellow and patient than babe girl, thus he is often stuck waiting.

    Hoping your readmit is short and she clears all that bili soon. Hang in there fellow mom-of-three!

  24. Oh, Em. It’s so hard sometimes. I know I’ll be struggling mightily when my new one comes in January.

    Holler if you need me.

  25. I am so sorry about having to be readmitted to the hospital! I hope your precious baby girl is doing ok and will soon be able to go home with you.

  26. Hugs to all three sweet kiddies from us. We’re thinking of you.

  27. Sorry to hear it. We have the same blood type combo but did not go through with that. Now, give yourself a break. You just gave birth and had major surgery, remember?

  28. Good luck, Emily & crew. I was a babe that spent time under the lights.

    When I have those guilty moments about not being able to answer the needs of one of my three little fellas because I’m responding to another’s, I try to remember that there is always give-and-take along the way, and the by having siblings, my boys are developing life skills about compromise, taking turns, recognizing others’ needs, etc. Sometimes I even believe myself.

    HANG IN.

  29. Oh dear, Emily! I am so sorry for all of you- little sister for having to be poked so often :(, for the boys for not having their rock to steady them, for J. for not having his other half with him, and to you for having to try to be Elastigirl. Soon, the Rosenbaum family will find its way, I am sure. Be strong, each day will get easier. Thinking of you! Hugs, Caroline

  30. Oh, it sounds like you are all having a tough time. We had a few medical issues with our first, and I remember those tears. Even though I knew everything would be okay eventually, there is no stopping them in that hormonal state. I just hung on for the rollercoaster ride, until things became easier. It will get better, you will be able to give all your children love, attention and care, and they will be just fine. You will be fine too. Just hold on.

  31. ah, seems I’ve missed this and you’re home safe and sound now. Monkey was extremely jaundiced too (though they didn’t know why) and she screamed in the box. I was in tears and freaking out. So the nurses let her lie on my belly w/ the heating blanket and pulled the lights over the both of us. She went right to sleep and all was peaceful.

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