Little Sister, aka Joy Lynn, arrived three weeks early, weighing-in at four pounds, twelve ounces. I didn’t even get a glimpse before they whisked her away to the nursery. Although I labored long giving her birth, I could sit comfortably and walk down the hall as soon as they pulled the drapes on the nursery the next morning. And, I was strong enough to walk to there often and gaze through the glass window, admiring our beautiful daughter. I couldn’t see much of her, or touch her. Tiny as she was, she had eyebrows. Days passed before she could come out of the issolet long enough to nestle in my arms.
The hospital days merged together, and I don’t remember how old Joy Lynn was when I could finally hold her in my arms. My breast were engorged by the time she had an opportunity to nurse.
Teaching a preemie to nurse is an event. Preemies don’t wake up to eat. So, the nurse would put Joy Lynn in my arms, unwrap her feet and thump her soles. My mother-hen feathers ruffled long before my baby cried. Once the baby woke, the nurse left, and it was my job to keep her awake until her tummy was full. We repeated this routine every three hours.
It didn’t take much to fill her tiny tummy and a nursing session didn’t offer me much relief. My breast were blowing up like balloons and I felt like I was carrying two footballs every where I went. (People would stop me in the hall say, “You’re breast-feeding, aren’t you?”) Breast feeding wasn’t in back then. Most new mothers opted for an injection to dry up their milk. However, it soon became clear that we had made a good decision. There were six other preemies in the nursery and Joy Lynn thrived better than most. One little one wasn’t gaining and he stayed and stayed in the issolet. I watched his slow progress and wished they could bring him to me… don’t know how we would have managed that three-hour thing but I had enough milk to share.
Meanwhile, back at home, our neighbor Julia O’Haver, a true blessing, helped out with Timmy. It worked really good because he loved to go to Ju-u’s house. I called him when I could between the baby visits, an hour in the room at twelve, three, six, and nine, round the clock. Timmy was two and a half and I’d say, “Hello, Timmy. This is mommy. He’d say, “No. Mommy go get da baby.” This was our daily conversation. I missed him so much, just hearing his voice was good.
After a week in the hospital, when she tipped the scale at five pounds, we brought the fourth member of our family home. My mom and my four-year-old sister were there to help out.
It was January in Oklahoma and we had the baby bundled. Timmy greeted us with his arms lifted when we stepped through the door. “Let me carry dat baby!” He was so excited. And, suddenly he was soooo big! He’d been the baby when we left him with Julia on the way to the hospital, but now he was the big brother. Our family had changed but I later realized that his world had turned up-side-down.
After all the time spent waiting for HIS baby brother or sister. The day came, and he didn’t get her when she came home. And, remember that three-hour schedule, an hour to wake the preemie, time for a diaper change, and feeding. There wasn’t much time between feedings. Remember those footballs? They were inflated tight, and very sore. Big Brother couldn’t snuggle and rock a little bit when he needed to, as he had before she arrived. So, he spent his time fighting with his four-year-old aunt.
Our dear neighbor Julia, took Timmy to her house a little while each day to ease the chaos at ours.
And, then everyone wanted to see the tiny baby. Neighbors dropped in. My grandmother and aunt came. One couple arrived at two am, thinking they’d be there for the two o’clock feeding… but our early am feedings were twelve and three. When Dan’s parents arrived for their visit, I was in the bedroom with Joy Lynn in one arm, latched on; and the telephone in the other, calling Julia to bring Timmy home. When the in-laws burst into the bedroom, there I was… modest me, who didn’t even nurse my baby in front of my dad… exposed and unable to take cover. I turned my back but they couldn’t wait. They leaned around, and over my shoulder, to see the tiny baby. Not sure they saw much other than my bare football-sized breast.
The pace slowed eventually, and we lived through six weeks of the three-hour schedule. By then, Joy Lynn was chubby and the doctor approved feeding on demand.
The events of those ordinary days made them special and years later would provide ideas for the writer I would become. Who knew?