Your Baby is Going Home … Not!!!
Depending on the hospital, there are the benchmarks which need to be met, before you may bring your premature baby home from the hospital.
In our case, we worked our way through most of the list way ahead of schedule except the last item, which is done just before the baby goes home.
The Car Seat Test
The car seat test has a few functions:
- To verify that the parents have an acceptable car seat
- To verify that the parents know how to operate the car seat
- To verify that the baby can sit in the car seat for an hour without experiencing “desat” warnings, which means that the baby can maintain an acceptable blood oxygen saturation level
We were told by most of our nurses and doctors that Daniel was going to be in the NICU for at least another week. Heck, he was only at 35 weeks. (In the NICU, they use the baby’s prenatal age.)
We were also supposed to have a two or three-day warning and a couple of benchmarks to hit:
- He would have to be off the feeding tube for 48 hours before the doctors would consider sending him home
- He would have to sit in a car seat for at least an hour for two days
At least that is what we thought.
Here is the play-by-play for Daniel’s attempt to go home.
We arrived at the hospital at our normal time, around 11:00 am. Lynn went in with her middle son, so he could spend some time with his brother as I waited downstairs, for an old friend who also wanted to visit with Daniel.
Before long, the doctor stopped in and asked Lynn, “Are you guys ready for him at home?” To which Lynn replied, “Yes!” The doctor continued, “Okay, then let’s send him home!”
Lynn texted me with the news, which was a bit shocking for both of us.
Hitting the Benchmarks
Daniel’s feeding tube was still in place, but he had not used it for two days, so that was a benchmark met.
Another benchmark is the car seat inspection and car seat test. We had not brought the car seat, yet. So, this development was a little unexpected.
Furthermore, Daniel was still triggering blood oxygen saturation warnings during his feedings, so Lynn and I were concerned that this doctor was jumping the gun, and so was our nurse.
Ready or Not
However, by this point, Lynn and I had been at the hospital every day, for the last 29 days, (9 days before Daniel was born and 20 days after) so we were exhausted and ready for Daniel to come home.
I ran home to grab some clothes for Daniel, a few blankets for the ride, the car seat (that is a whole ‘nother Oprah) and of course, share the news with all of our family and friends via Facebook!!!
Who Knew I’d Need to Know How a Car Seat Works?
While I was at home, I tried to figure out how to work the car seat. That was completely foreign to me; I had never used a car seat before and to make things worse, I couldn’t find the directions.
My advice to you is that you put the car seat(s) into your car(s) early and that you practice using them. Trust me, you don’t want to try and figure out how to use a car seat while you are freaking out about your baby coming home before you are emotionally ready.
I finally took a deep breath and decided to just bring it with me and Lynn and I would figure it out before I took it upstairs.
I returned to the hospital and after we fed Daniel and put him down for a rest, we grabbed a very late lunch and then went down to the car to figure out the car seat.
This particular car seat has a base and easily snaps into the base, as well as the matching stroller. We arrived at the car, Lynn opened the back door and had the car seat figured out and in place in about 10 seconds. (I just had my MENSA card revoked!)
Okay, Let’s Give This a Shot
We returned to Daniel’s room and we were ready to start the car seat test, which at this point is the final milestone for Daniel to complete before he can come home.
We (that is code for Lynn) put Daniel into the car seat and his nurse marked the time. Daniel fell right to sleep. He started off great with his breathing and blood oxygen levels, registering well into the acceptable range.
At about the fifteen-minute mark, Lynn let me know that I have to practice feeding him and changing his diaper because I will be on my own with Daniel for about 8 hours on Tuesday (this was Sunday).
I began to hyperventilate (not really, well maybe in my mind). I was certain that I was not ready to watch Daniel by myself.
At the thirty-seven-minute mark, Daniel started to de-sat. He desatted four times in the next five minutes. Although he recovered immediately, he had failed the test. I think that our nurse was hoping for any excuse to fail him. Lynn joked that I stepped on the monitor wire to avoid my first babysitting assignment!
That was Close
Needless to say, the day was an emotional roller coaster. We were essentially stopping in for a visit, which turned into a mad scramble to get ready to take him home, only to return home with an empty car seat.
My advice is to be ready. You will never know when the hospital will be ready for you to take your baby home. You also have to be aware that your baby isn’t going home until you are walking out the door with your baby.
Finally, make sure your baby is ready. If you take your baby home too early, you will just be back in a few days. You have to be ready willing and able to fight for your baby. We were so ready for all of us to be home, we went along with the plan until Daniel shut it down.
By Bill Robertson