Monday, October 13, 2008

"My Story..." Monday, Heading "Home"

During one of my first visits to see my new baby girl, one of the nurses in the NICU asked if we were on the waiting list for the Ronald McDonald House yet. And, you see, this is why it's good that there were knowledgeable, helpful people around me. It's not that I couldn't have figured out that we'd need to make some kind of housing arrangements... it's just that my brain hadn't quite gotten there yet. It was such an intense and overwhelming time in my life, practicalities like that seemed to easily slip through the cracks.

Having heard that we lived two hours away from the hospital where our daughter would be staying for, presumably, at least another four months, she took the initiative and and called the RMH for us. We were informed that there is always a waiting list, but my "status" as a nursing, C-section mom should bump us pretty high on the list. And, so, we put that out of our minds and focused on visiting little C. as much as we could.

Our daughter was born on Christmas Eve, which was a Saturday that year. With Christmas falling on Sunday, that Monday became the "holiday" and my husband was off from work that day. Tuesday the 27th, however, he had to head back to the office. His job at the time offered no sick time, no vacation, nothing. (Contrast that to the paternity leave he had when our son was born!) I was still hosptitalized that day, but I was scheduled to be released that evening. Luckily for us, we received a phone call on Monday the 26th telling us they had a room for us at the Ronald McDonald House. It was to become our new home indefinitely...

When my husband finished work on Tuesday, he picked me up from the hospital and I was formally discharged. I was still on all kinds of crazy restrictions- no stairs, no driving, no lifting over ten pounds (translation= no way I could hold my son)- and was told these would not change for at least six weeks. While I give all the credit in the world to the OB who did my C-section- he did a marvelous job minimizing my scar from the outside- inside, it was a massive surgery with me being cut both horizontally and vertically. I wasn't moving particularly fast, but I was moving!

I had no idea what to expect when we arrived that evening. My husband had been there briefly the day before and he'd done a good job describing the overall set-up. But I still didn't really know what it would be like.

When I walked in the front door, I was immediately struck by the warmth and welcome. We entered into an open space peppered with comfortable seating and a colorful fish tank. In addition, the House was still decorated for Christmas and soaring trees filled the space, their sparkling lights and glistening ornaments reflecting like thousands of candles. It was, quite simply, lovely. And homey. And exactly what I needed after spending Christmas in the OB/ICU.

We headed up to our room on the second floor and I got to see where we'd be living for the next several months. It was just one medium-sized room, but it would be ours. In it we found one full-size bed, one twin-size bed, a pack & play, two rocking chairs, a dresser, a nightstand, a sink, and a mini refrigerator. We had a phone and a clock-radio, but no computer or TV. It would remain that way for the duration.

Just around the corner from our room was a bathroom we shared with one other family. That family would change innumerable times during our stay, but we never had any issues with sharing. In fact, I can't even remember one instance when I wanted to get in there and it was occupied...

All the way down the hall was a laundry room we were free to use and down the steps and to the right was a large kitchen space that was always open and available to us. Not only did the House provide refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, pots, pans, dishes, and utensils, there was also a fully stocked pantry off the kitchen that was free to any of the houseguests. This proved invaluable to us as it enabled us to prepare quick breakfasts and lunches as a family before heading out to the hospital.

That first night we didn't have time to do much more than just settle in. For some reason, my elevator key was not working and the only room avaible had been on the second floor. And so I broke one of my rules right away. But that was OK. My husband made up the full-size bed and we went to sleep, just the two of us because our son was still staying with his aunt. I was simply in no condition to care for a 30-lb eleven-month old. I'll write more about that another time. It still breaks my heart and I can hardly talk about it without breaking down.

And so, we were "home". You'll learn more, both good and bad, about the House in coming "My Story..." posts because, well, it was our home base. But the most important thing about this amazing place was that we were able to live less than two blocks from where our daughter was. Though we couldn't be by her side every single moment, we always knew we could be there at a moment's notice. There was great comfort in that.

Next Monday, I'll tell you about Bama's (my mom's) arrival and my son's return to us! I'll tell you a little about what little C's grandma though when she first saw her too...

As always, thanks so much for reading my story...


Tara aka "Mama Koala" said...

Your story is so touching. Thanks for sharing it.

Ryann said...

Glad the RMH is available as a home away from home. We were blessed to live 15 minutes from Riley so we didn't need to stay at RMH, but we know other families who also experienced living there.