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back to the Twilight Zone

Having a newborn is a bit like entering the Twilight Zone. It’s not that one’s nights are completely sleepless, although that happens too. It’s more that sleep, when one is able to snatch some, is constantly interrupted, frequently during the deepest, most restorative portions. The accumulation of lost sleep wreaks havoc on one’s cognitive functions, which lends a surreal tinge to what is already an emotionally charged experience. The absence of variation in newborns’ eat-sleep-poop-cry routine completes the cognitive deconstruction. It only takes a couple of days to completely lose track of time, develop a tenuous, contentious relationship with one’s memory, and become so involved with the needs of one’s young child as to completely lose track of one’s own.

The peculiarities of hospitalization exacerbate this downward spiral. Hospital routine is a Twilight Zone of its own. Junebug was born a few minutes before midnight, but it was nearly 4am by the time we were transferred from the delivery room to the mother & child ward upstairs. “Now you can rest and enjoy,” said the delivery nurse after depositing us upstairs – a curiously optimistic assertion considering the carnival that followed.

There are no locks on hospital doors. They shut tight and each one is adorned with a sign warning would-be visitors to knock and enter cautiously, lest they disturb the rest & recuperation purportedly taking place inside. And knock-and-enter they do, rarely waiting for a response before opening the door and admitting themselves. Registered nurses and certified nursing assistants; pediatric doctors, phlebotomy technicians, and obstetricians; hospital administrators, cleaning staff, and maintenance technicians; lactation consultants – considering the frequency and variety of visitors, the doors might as well have revolving hinges.

The hospital protocol for monitoring the baby’s vital signs and providing aftercare for the mother do not align perfectly, so in practical terms this means that almost as soon as one is able to settle baby down and also close one’s own eyes someone in a lab coat comes in to draw blood, check the baby’s temperature, administer an IV, or perform any number of other necessary but ill-timed checks that render “rest and enjoyment” difficult to accomplish. There was also a Jewish chaplain and the hospital’s official baby photographer, as well as somebody who came to check the temperature in our refrigerator several times, somehow sadistically timing her visits to coincide with our attempts to soothe Junebug to sleep.

And yet, despite all the hassle, D successfully argued that we should delay our return home for one night. The hospital wanted to keep Junebug for 48 hours of observation. Her midnight delivery meant we theoretically could have pushed for an evening discharge on our second day. We ultimately decided to stay until the following morning because we figured the cumulative interruptions of hospital staff would still be easier to manage than Munchkin’s typical 3am routine. If our first night back home is any indication of what the immediate future holds, this proved a wise decision.

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