Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Adoption Story: Part 5

Thursday was the big day! We were finally moving to Baltimore and Johns Hopkins. Francie was being taken by ambulance, and David and I were driving. When we arrived in Baltimore, we returned our rental car and then got a cab to the hospital. We immediately went to the NICU to see Francie. I'll be honest - it was really difficult for me emotionally when we first got to Hopkins. First of all, it's huge. It was just super overwhelming, and we had no idea where to go. Second, when we did get to the NICU, we realized that it was going to be a VERY different experience than the other hospital where we had been. At the other hospital, the NICU was a big room, and everyone was in there together. You saw other parents there visiting their babies, and you even got to know your "neighbors" a little bit. The people next to us would ask us about Francie, and we would ask about their baby too. You constantly saw nurses walking around and you could hear them chit chatting and visiting. There was just a lot going on, in a comforting way. It had sort of started to feel like a little community to us, as cheesy as that sounds. Well, when we got to Hopkins, it was just a completely different atmosphere. All of the patients in the NICU there have private rooms. I know that sounds really nice, and it did have its advantages. But you really never saw anyone other than your nurse. And ours wasn't friendly. At all. I don't know if she was just having a bad day or what, but I was not a fan. All of our other nurses the entire time we were there were super sweet, but it was just hard to be greeted at a new place by someone who was less than warm. Plus, the NICU at Hopkins was just so quiet. In a weird way. I felt like I needed to whisper. (We did eventually adapt, and overall we had a good experience in the NICU.) Oh, also: on our first night at Hopkins when we were leaving the NICU, David and I saw a fight in the waiting room. There was yelling, cussing, and much drama which resulted in security being called. At that point, I was thinking, "What the HECK are we doing here?"

Things started happening immediately after we got to Hopkins. A urology team swarmed the room and examined Francie, and they scheduled an MRI and hip x-ray for that day. It was a whirlwind. But we were thankful that things were happening! This was the hardest day for me emotionally up until that point, though, like I said. I just suddenly felt super homesick. I missed my house, my town, my support group, and most of all, my kids at home. David and I were able to get into the Ronald McDonald House that night, and when we arrived, I started feeling a little better. There was a home cooked meal for dinner, and the atmosphere was very friendly.

The next morning, Francie had an exam under anesthesia. This was when it was going to be determined if Francie's bladder was big enough to go ahead with the surgery or if we needed to wait until she was older to have the closure. David and I were really praying that we could go ahead with the surgery because we wanted to just get it over with, and mostly because there is a high success rate when this surgery is done early. David and I got to meet the doctor who would be performing Francie's surgery (he is the reason we were at Johns Hopkins in the first place - he's the best of the best for this surgery), and he immediately put us at ease. He said that he did believe that we could go forward with the surgery, and he said it would happen on Wednesday (this was on Friday). Then he said that there was no reason for Francie to stay in the NICU over the weekend and that they were going to work on getting her discharged!! This was a huge shock! David and I NEVER expected to have any time at "home" with Francie before the surgery. We didn't have any baby stuff with us and were completely unprepared. But really excited! Since Francie had been under anesthesia that morning and hadn't eaten since midnight the night before, she was going to need to stay in the hospital that afternoon and night, but they said that she would be discharged the next day.

That night, David and I took a cab to Target and bought some baby essentials. We didn't have so much as a onesie with us in Baltimore (remember that we left home really suddenly and earlier than we expected). Haha! The hospital was giving us bottles and diapers, so we bought formula, swaddlers, and some pajamas for Francie to wear. That was a surreal shopping trip! We spent that night at the Ronald McDonald House, too, and then next day we were moving to the Children's House. It's very similar to the Ronald McDonald House, but it's right across the street from the hospital instead of a cab ride away. They were going to provide a pack n play in our room for Francie to sleep in.

Saturday afternoon, Francie was discharged from the hospital and we were able to take her home for a few days. When I looked at our sweet little baby dressed in footie pajamas and wrapped in a hospital blanket, I had to laugh at how different this was than our other babies' home coming. It got even weirder when we walked out of the hospital and proceeded to cross a busy street and walk down the block trying to shield her from the rain and cold with our arms. We then took her inside of our "house" which was actually somewhere that I had never stepped foot into until that very minute. It was a pretty bittersweet moment. To be honest, I kept thinking about how I wished that we were actually taking Francie home where she would have a room full of baby stuff set up just for her and be greeted by her sisters and brother who I'm sure would be arguing over who was going to hold her first. We'd have grandparents popping in and friends dropping off meals and it would just be a completely different experience. I got a little sad thinking about everything Francie was missing out on. But my perspective changed that night. The Children's House has a "family meal" every night. Immediately two other moms came and introduced themselves to me and were just so warm and sweet. After chatting for a minute, we found out that their children have exstrophy just like Francie! We connected over that right away, and it felt so good to talk to people who have been in our shoes. As we sat around the table eating dinner that night talking to complete strangers, it hit me that Francie's "homecoming" was no less special than our other babies'. Of course I still wished that things were different for Francie's sake and that she wasn't facing major surgery, but this is Francie's story and it's a beautiful one. It occurred to me that night that even though Francie didn't get to come home to a house full of visitors and baby paraphernalia that she doesn't really need anyway, she was at least out of the hospital and with her parents who love her more than anything. It was just a neat experience because I felt like the Lord took something that could have been sad and redeemed it. He provided an atmosphere of home and community amongst complete strangers and He gave me an attitude of thankfulness when I was originally feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself.

We had two full, beautiful days with Francie at home. We didn't even venture outside the whole time we had her with us. Our days and nights were broken into 4 hour increments around her feedings. She ate well and slept great. We held her almost constantly. She became more alert during that time, and she would have pretty long periods of awake time. She was so sweet and laid back. She rarely cried, and when she did, she usually quit crying immediately when we would talk to her. We got to FaceTime with my mom and the kids, and they were able to see Francie out of the hospital and awake. Those were just really good, happy days, and I'm so thankful that we were able to have that time with her before her long hospitalization. We had to readmit her to the hospital the day before her surgery, so on Tuesday we got up, dressed her, gave her a bottle, and made the short walk over to the hospital for the LONG journey that awaited us.

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