(My apologies for the scattered feel of this post…I have kept it in my drafts folder for a long time but don’t really know how to smooth it out so here you go.)

In France you stay in the hospital a loooong time after your baby is born, like 5 days or so. They wait until the baby has started gaining weight back to release you. Asher was born on a Sunday and we went home Thursday morning.

But before that happy moment, on Wednesday morning my cute little boy was tentatively diagnosed with jaundice. I say “tentatively” because they decided to treat him before they got the test results back, so he may not have even needed treatment immediately. I didn’t disagree with the diagnosis; my blood type and Jake’s blood type tend to produce jaundice-prone babies so it wasn’t at all surprising. Plus, he was kinda orange. The pediatrician took my baby to have blood taken. I asked if Jake could go with him and the doctor said that would be fine, as long as he wasn’t going to be emotional about it. Jake confirmed he would be fine and went down the hall with the doctor and our son, only to return shortly sans baby. He said the blood-takers wouldn’t let him in even though the doctor tried 3 times to convince them it was ok. I was furious…especially when I heard my baby screaming from all the way down the hall.

The pediatrician returned in the late morning or early afternoon to say Asher needed to go under the blue light, even though they didn’t have test results back yet. I just wanted them to let me try sitting with him in the good ol’ natural sunlight before putting him under a UV lamp. However, French doctors are accustomed to being considered omniscient and don’t take kindly to being questioned about alternatives to their suggestions, so to the UV lamp he went. Keep in mind that we hadn’t been apart AT ALL yet in his young life (he stayed in the room with us) so I was apprehensive about him being in an incubator all afternoon. It’s for his good, I kept telling myself. I carried him down to the nursery and placed him in the incubator, after asking if I could stay with him and maybe even touch him now and then. The nurse – this was by far the BEST nurse/midwife we had the whole time, she was so nice to us – placed the little sunglasses on his head…and all hell broke loose. He had, more or less, been asleep since he was born (another jaundice symptom) so everything had been pretty calm, except for baths and when they took blood. However, he hated having those little sunglasses on his head, and he let us know. Kicking…screaming…flailing…screaming…it was horrible to witness. The nurse left us with him and I burst into tears.

Now, I do not, as a general rule, cry. A few tears every few years or so is about it. But seeing my tiny baby (well, he wasn’t really tiny, but he looked it in that incubator) so utterly miserable just broke my heart. Alarmed, Jake asked me if I was ok. It only took about 10 seconds for me to start laughing at myself but I was still crying too so it went something like this:

Jake (alarmed): Are you ok? Do you need a hug?
me (wailing; great, racking sobs): Y-y-yes!! (sob, sob, sniffle, sniffle) I kn-know jaundice isn’t (sniff) serious, and I kn-know is isn’t a big deal (sniff), but he just looks so miserable in there. (sniff, sniff)
me (laughing and crying simultaneously): This is ridiculous! They aren’t kidding about these postpartum hormones.

I stayed with Asher most of the afternoon, during which they informed me that, instead of spending the afternoon under the blue light like they originally said, he would need to stay all night. “We’ll bring him to you to eat,” the nice nurse said. I could tell she felt really bad for me. She asked me if I was lonely, living in a foreign country. I was so sad he had to stay in the nursery but knew he needed the treatment.

Back up: Asher never really calmed down from being so upset at being placed in the incubator. Two reasons: one, the sunglasses; and two, it was REALLY hot in there, and he is hot-natured to begin with. I am not exaggerating – he started sweating shortly after birth, and the incubator was set at about 102 degrees. The baby nurses said they wanted to give him water to calm him down. All the breastfeeding experts say “DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW HOSPITAL PERSONNEL TO GIVE YOUR BABY WATER” so I didn’t want them to give him water. I asked how on earth water was supposed to calm him down. They said it would make him fuller, or something, I couldn’t really understand. I refused the water “treatment.” I said if they had something for gas they could give that to him, in case that was part of the problem, so she found some sort of “medicine.” It sounded similar to gripe water so I said that was fine. She gave him some of that and he calmed down at first but then went right back to screaming. Another nurse came in and checked the temperature and said it was too hot for him, because he had a normal temperature in just a “body” (onesie). (They don’t consider onesies clothes. Onesies are like undershirts. “Where are his REAL clothes?” they kept asking me.) So she turned it down a bit. This nurse kept sneaking in during the afternoon and turning the temperature down bit by bit until it was more comfortable for him.

Meanwhile, various baby nurses kept coming to me and saying, “Your baby is very agitated. We need to give him water to calm him down.” Eventually he calmed down and slept. I kept trying to nurse him but he just slept and slept; nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could wake him up. 3 hours passed, then 4…at 6 hours the nurses said if he hadn’t eaten within an hour, they would HAVE to give him water so he wouldn’t dehydrate. Plus, the doctor and nurses had now switched to “Your baby needs to eat every 3 hours so he can pee and get rid of the jaundice.” (Later, Jake told me one of the nurses came and asked him to sign a waiver for some calming medicine they had already given Asher…apparently a few nurses had administered doses of this stuff without consulting each other so they had OD’ed him or something. He refused to sign it and she got very concerned.) I was near tears again, this time because my baby just would not wake up to eat and I knew he had to be hungry. I took him from the incubator back to our room. We turned on the lights and the air conditioning. I put a cold washcloth on him and turned on my workout playlist of peppy music. Jake lifted him up and down, up and down. Finally, he woke up a little, just a little, but it was enough to get him latched on. He ate for a mere 15 minutes before crashing again. The doctor came in as we were trying to wake him up again and insisted we return him to the blue light for his treatment.

That was at 10 or so at night. I set my alarm for 1am because both of my “how to breastfeed” books, and the doctor, said it was extremely important for jaundiced babies to eat at least every 3 hours and got a bit of sleep. At 1 my alarm went off and I marched down to the nursery, where I was met by a night nurse blocking the doorway. I smiled politely and informed her I was there to retrieve my baby for feeding.

mean nurse: He’s sleeping.
me: I know that. But he is supposed to eat every 3 hours, which is now.
mean nurse: Well he is sleeping. He needs his sleep.
me (deep breath): Yes, but he needs to eat every 3 hours. Which is now. I need to wake him up to feed him.
mean nurse: We’ll bring him to you when he wakes up.
me: he may not wake up to eat. Today he slept for almost 7 hours. The doctor told me to feed him every 3 hours.
mean nurse: Maybe another hour. If he’s not awake by then you can come get him.
me (getting furious that she is holding my child hostage, deep breaths to stay calm): No. The doctor told me it is VERY important for my baby to eat every 3 hours. I want my baby now.
mean nurse (falsely sweet smile): We are the night nurses, it is our job to bring you your baby when he wakes up. We will bring him to you in an hour.
mean nurse: No.

I had to exercise every ounce of self-restraint I have ever possessed to not punch her in the face. I seriously wanted to beat her. Another nurse came over and, after listening to my very patient explanation that Asher needed to eat every 3 hours, whether or not he was awake, said she would bring him to me after dropping off another baby to his/her mom. I triumphantly went back to my room, turned on the lights, and waited in the doorway. The nurse walked back down the hall and I just knew it would be any minute. 10 minutes passed, then 15. I peered down the hallway and was dismayed to see all the night baby nurses sitting down in their office, talking and laughing. I continued to wait in the doorway and glare angrily at any of them who happened to walk down the hall. The midwife assigned to take care of the moms walked past and asked what I was waiting on. I told her my baby was under the blue light, supposed to eat every 3 hours, and a long time ago a nurse said she would bring him to me but she didn’t. She said she would get him for me. I kept waiting. Finally, an hour after I had visited the nursery, the first nurse brought Asher to me. She held him out to me, gloating. “He woke up!” she said. I eyed my newborn, still 90% asleep, and knew she was lying and just wanted to lord her “authority” over me. In retaliation I kept him several extra minutes for some snuggling.

I didn’t set my alarm any more because I knew it would be useless. They brought him to me another time or 2 that night, each time looking like he was only partially awake because they woke him…and each time I kept him an extra few minutes. (A moment of genuine triumph: taking my baby down to the nursery and seeing the mean nurse asleep at her desk. I just stood there, holding my baby, waiting on her to wake up.) Finally, after his first “morning” feeding, I reluctantly returned him to the nursery (now with the nice day nurses) and they said I could keep him!!

That was the day we got to go home. Asher’s color was better and he had gained a tiny amount of weight (good thing I fed him right before the weigh-in…) so they said they were waiting on test results and if they were ok we could go home. No one, out of all the personnel who came to our room to check on various things, could tell us when those results would be ready. Jake went to the front desk and paid our bill and was told we were free to go…so, we packed up as quickly as we could and snuck out.