To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.
A Long Way to Get- Bob Schneider
There is usually a parenting newspaper which is distributed weekly near the entrance intake desk at the children’s hospital. I usually pick it up and do the crossword and utilize the reading material on a slow visit. That day, I picked one up and read to Gracie an interesting article on chipmunks in an Alvin and the Chipmunks voice. Obviously, it was embarrassing, but I figured it could be justified in the name of stimulation. This was followed by an important piece on creating a 529 savings account for your children. I have no idea how Gracie will ever grow into a college student or a high school graduate, but we do know that one day we will eventually get there. At that moment, I will probably repeat the same cliché as millions of other parents do on graduation day along the lines of “kids grow too fast.” One interesting fact I learned from the article was that it costs around 220,000 dollars to raise a child for seventeen years not including the cost of college; this equates to about 13,000 dollars a year. The ironic thing is that before Gracie leaves the NICU, the seventeen year figure amount will already be surpassed in medical bills. As most people already know, the NICU isn’t an Econo Lodge. thankfully, we have been blessed with great health insurance and TENNCARE. Being an indirect recipient of this experience has made me ask the difficult question of how disjointed and out of touch we are as a civilization when we decide to take away safety nets at the expense of political propaganda.
Luckily, Gracie has a father who is an extreme coupon clipper and has been saving up for Gracie’s first year while researching and utilizing every coupon database, email marketing list and online resource to minimize costs. While her mother was looking at colors, decorations, furniture, clothes and toys, daddy was calculating and controlling weekly costs to feed and diaper his child as those were going to be the constants. New parents should also know that children actually cost less in their first years than their following years. This is because as they grow older their desires and needs become more expensive. It is never too early to stock up on essentials and network with other new parents to share clothes, resources, information and time. A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to maximizing dollar yield for your child.
I start on my crossword puzzle and I read aloud the clues and asked Gracie what her opinion is on my answers. She usually responds with some kind of body gesture. Halfway through the crossword puzzle I realize today wasn’t going to be a slow day because the chief NICU doctor was making his rounds and the initial impression is he looks like a typical college professor, which he is because this facility is home to a medical school. He prefers to wear white New Balances, jeans and an untucked button up casual shirt. As he made his way to Gracie, he pointed out to us something we were completely unaware of and that was Gracie has suffered from some grade two hemorrhaging. He felt that the bleed was well monitored and that most of the bleed had been reabsorbed. Bleeds usually lead to developmental delays and we have emotionally prepared ourselves for a daughter with special needs. However, he did issue us good news that her retinopathy seemed to be healing on its own which was extremely encouraging considering the circumstances. He recommended that Gracie receive an MRI before she is discharged to evaluate the bleeding. He also seemed gravely concerned that Gracie wasn’t able to master the art of breathing and eating without aspirations or complete exhaustion at this stage in her development. The daily question on how much longer this path of recovery will take continues to elude us. What shape will she be in when she departs from the NICU?
As we approach closer to discharge, a grave reality sets in that Gracie will be handed over to us with aspirations, bad reflux and potentially horrifying O2 drops during feedings. How would we react when the painful refluxes begin to battle against her hunger and lack of oxygen at home without the digital equipment and sensors? What do we do when she is at home without nurse supervision? Will instinct naturally take over? Our confidence is beginning to crumble as we near discharge.
Gracie has achieved small gains in growth, but the landscape of parenthood remains a blur. The concepts of parenthood are easy to read and understand, but completely impossible to imbibe.