Friday, March 15, 2013

Storytime Shift

If this entry seems out of place, it is.  It originated as a response to a question posed by an expectant CDH mama on Facebook, and my response was so gigantic and ridiculous that I had to move it here.  Perhaps it will be useful to other CDH mamas who are trying to plan it all out.  Maybe they will want to see my Psycho Mommy Binder full of childcare charts and freezer meal recipes!! :-)

Her situation sounds so similar to ours-- an older sibling at home (who would be out of school for the summer, mind you), within driving distance of the hospital, but not an ideal distance, and a general feeling of "HOW ON EARTH AM I GOING TO DO THIS???"

Here's how it worked for us, and only for us.  It it not a magic answer.  It is not the best thing for everyone.  It is not the prescribed method of How to Survive the NICU.  It is, however, something I would have loved to have seen before I lived it. I am a planner, and detailed plans make me happy.  So here it is:

Going into it, we were adamant about 2 things:
1) We would eat dinner together EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Unless there was an emergency.
2) There would not be a day that both Mike and I did not see both of our boys.

And we were able to do it for the entire 3 months.  I can count on 2 hands the days where one or both of those things did not happen.

How did we do it?  A glimpse into our lives during Parker's NICU stay:

Mike's Off Days:
7:30- wake up, place phone call to day nurse for update about Parker's night.
8:30- Parent A (it alternated) departs for hospital, Parent B stays home with Jeremiah
6 pm- Parent A arrives back home, dinner as a family
8:30 pm- Parent A puts Jeremiah to bed, Parent B departs for "Storytime Shift" at hospital, stopping at Starbucks on way (a necessity)
Midnight-ish- Parent B departs hospital after reading a story.  The story was a non-negotiable. **shout out to Egleston for having a lending library!!*
1am- Parent B collapses into bed.  Rinse and repeat.

Mike's Workdays
5 am- Mike leaves for work.
7:30 am- Abby wakes up, places phone call to day nurse to see how Parker had done overnight.
8:30 am- Abby departs home, drops Jeremiah off at whichever family member/friend is responsible for him that day 
4 pm-Abby leaves hospital (it was always at 4 because there were vital checks and blood gasses at that time) and picks up Jeremiah
7 pm- dinner at home, or meet Mike out for dinner somewhere between his work and the hospital.
8 pm- Abby does bedtime with Jeremiah, Mike goes to hospital for Storytime Shift.  Still in uniform, as seen below :-)
10pm- Mike leaves Storytime Shift fairly early if he has to be up the next day.  Otherwise, he stays 'til midnight.

A lot of people would look at this and think "You have to be kidding."  I look back on it and am not entirely sure how we pulled it off, but you do what you have to do for your kids and your own mental sanity.

It worked for us because we are late-night people.
It worked for us because there was a Starbucks at the hospital exit.
It worked for us because we had every confidence in the overnight hospital staff, knew they would call us in a heartbeat if we were needed, and that if it came down to it we could make it to the hospital quickly.
It worked  for us because Egleston welcomed us at all hours (except shift changes while on A side) and never made us feel weird for being there, reading to our unresponsive baby in the dead of night.  
It worked for us because I precooked 8 weeks worth of meals that could be reheated in less than 30 minutes.  All Hubby had to do if he was home was warm it up and make a side dish.
It worked for us because we have the absolute best friends and family with whom I never had a moments' worry about leaving Jeremiah.

-no sleep.  But seriously, it's not like you get any sleep the first three months of any child's life.
-very little time together as a family.  There's just no way around that one, but we did the best we could.
-insane amounts of time spent driving.  Gas money.  Road rage during rush hour.
-a chemical dependency on Starbucks that lingers to this day (it might have been there before.... moving on.)

-consistency for Jeremiah.
-traffic and parking hassles were non-existent on Storytime Shift.
-the NICU was silent at night.  COMPLETELY. SILENT. Peaceful.  No hustle and bustle that wasn't necessary.  Lots of good bonding time.
-those late night stories are some of my best memories with Parker.  And I know they paid off!  **last entry is proof!**
-it allowed us to stick to our two goals-- dinner time together and time with both boys every day.

Was it hard? HA! I don't think I have to answer that.  But it worked  for us.  It was a temporary season of life, and it was not my favorite for many reasons.  It was hard on our family, it was hard on our marriage, it was hard on our bodies, it was hard on our hearts.  But we did our best.  And that's all anybody can do!


  1. My boys are now 17, 17 & 18. To do this day we still make a point to have dinner together several times a week. Now on Friday nights I cook for all the girlfriends. Last night I cooked enough jambalaya for 10.

    Dr. James Dodson once said, "A family that prays together, eats together, stay together."

  2. Abby....
    Wait, What?! Your husband is a police officer?! I did not know that....!! I love a man in uniform, by the way!! I always have.... ;-D
    I do not know how you two did it. But, then again. Being the second born in our family, a CDH survivor myself, plus born with craniosynostosis, I do not know how Mom and Dad did it, either.... ;)
    "A chemical dependency on Starbucks that lingers to this day (it might have been there before.... moving on.).". Crack. Me. Up!! ;-D

  3. I just wanted to say thank you so much for posting this for me. It's been a huge help to read what other people did. I really like your schedule, I am just overwhelmed thinking of how we will manage, but I know we will make it through. I am a planner as well, so I am struggling with not being able to plan this out. I have started looking into freezing meals, so I laughed when I read that part. I would love any recipes you could share. I am so happy Parker (love his name) is doing well. Take care and thanks again! Brooke

    1. Google "Once a Month Mom", then sit back and be amazed. She outlines EVERYTHING- shopping lists, step-by-step cooking and freezing instructions... the whole shebang! Total lifesaver.

    2. Ummmmm apparently they no longer offer their entire site for free. Hmph. It looks like they still give links to all the menus/recipes with step-by-step instructions, they just don't compile it for you. Alas! Still a fabulous resource, as I never did an entire month's worth of recipes-- I picked and chose from several months and compiled what I knew would be easy to fix best for our tastes.

  4. You are such a good mom!