We had been at the hospital for forty-eight hours when a nurse stopped me in the hall. "Kim," he said, "Can I talk to you?" I was returning from the vending machine having taken a moment away from the crib side. One of my first moments away.
I immediately assumed the worse. "No, the baby is fine," he said. "I'm the charge nurse on the floor tonight and I wanted to share an idea with you."
Our baby had been admitted for twenty-four hour observation from the emergency room after his respiratory distress on our first night. It was twenty-two hours in before I changed out of my thrown-on-in-the-dark sweats. The hours counted down quickly. The entire time there was someone at the crib talking, asking questions, making plans for discharge. At the end of the twenty-four hours it was determined plan A was crumbling. The private duty nursing agency contracted by the previous foster family now said they couldn't staff our son's case.
Doctors fought with the insurance company arguing that without nursing support, we didn't have a safe discharge. It was humanly impossible to care for Nathaniel's medical needs around the clock with no support system identified, especially with his new family so fresh in our roles. The insurance company granted another twenty-four hours inpatient, but plan B crumbled when key people failed to return calls on a Friday afternoon.
It was Friday evening when the nurse stopped me in the hall; we were staying until Monday morning when plan C could be created.
"Kim..." he started again.
"We have been talking and have decided that everyone has been concerned and focusing their attention on Nathaniel and his needs, when actually we should be focusing on your family and your needs. You've just welcomed a new son into your lives and immediately faced a crises. We've been forcing meetings and training and lots of decisions on you. I can't imagine the strain and fear you must feel. Have you even held your baby for any length of time yet?"
Two nurses behind the counter of the nurse's station were listening in. They wiped tears. I hadn't held my baby yet. Not for any length of time. I hadn't dressed him. I hadn't smelled his sweet baby lotion neck after a bath. The outfits I had bought still had the tags on them in a bag in my living room.
I didn't wipe my tears, but let them drop big and heavy onto the grey sweatshirt I had slept in the last two nights.
"We want to take this weekend and take care of your family. We want to give your family time to bond with Nathaniel, to hold him, and to get a bit more familiar your new roles. Would that be ok?"
Words stuck in my throat. I nodded a yes. And for the next two days we became a family. We read stories. We held our baby. We text photos to our friends and his grandparents. Siblings met him for the first time. We sat in silence on the rooftop garden enjoying the warmth of the sun, the security of the hospital staff at our side, and our smiling baby boy. And for brief moments, he felt like he belonged with us.