See Prologue for disclaimer.
I am working diligently on getting the rest done. Real life stepped in and kind of threw my days all out of whack.
Chapter 10 – The Long Wait
Visiting Aria was difficult in that, there was an extra flourish of activity around Aria’s unit; like Buffy and Giles had seen around the really sick little ones in the NICU. Buffy’s heart leapt to her throat when the machine that monitored Aria’s apnea kept sounding but the nurses were right there to check Aria’s breathing, heart rate, and color. If the she was fine, they would check the monitor to assure the connections were still correct.
If it went off because Aria was having apnea or bradycardia, then the nurse would watch to see if she would restart breathing on her own. This was hard for Buffy to go through; she felt they should be doing something to help her daughter. She soon learned the nurses didn’t let the apnea go for long and if her breathing did not restart, then the nurse would gently rub or stimulate her to breathe. For Aria this seemed to do the trick nicely.
Buffy longed to hold her daughter again. But they were limited to tending to her needs, i.e. diaper changes, and when she didn’t show signs of stress, the occasional touch through the access doors of the isolette. Unfortunately there were only two rooms available for families to stay in through the night and both were occupied by parents of preemies who were in critical condition. Leaving Aria, at night, was not easy and Buffy would put it off until the last possible second.
A week later as Buffy and Giles were scrubbing at the wash station nurse Cheryl came over to them. “Good morning Buffy, Giles.”
Buffy continued to watch her hands as she scrubbed. Giles stepped up beside her, “Good morning Cheryl. You must excuse Buffy, she had a rough night, last night.”
“I understand and I think I know what may help. How would you like to hold Aria today?”
Buffy’s head snapped up. “I can hold her.”
Cheryl didn’t see the dark circles she was expecting. What she saw was more alarming but she hid her expression well, “Yes, the doctor said she could now be held for brief periods.”
While Buffy held her daughter close; Cheryl went to get a second opinion about the condition she saw Buffy in. Cheryl’s suspicions were confirmed and they put security on stand-by.
After lying Aria back in the isolette Buffy looked toward Giles and immediately felt guilty for not allowing him some time with her. “Sorry, I didn’t let you hold her.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for. Buffy she’s your daughter and it has been a long time since you last had the chance to hold her. Don’t ever feel guilty for doing what your natural inclination is telling you to do.”
“Yeah but Giles you wanted to hold her too.”
“Yes and there will be opportunities for me to do that later.”
The two nurses approached the ‘couple’. “Buffy what happened?” Cheryl asked as the other nurse watched Giles’ reactions.
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“Your eye ...” Cheryl continued.
“Oh that,” It never occurred to Giles or Buffy to discuss how they would handle questions if she still had bruises from a night of slayage. She blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Giles and I were fighting …”
Giles knew instantly what these two ladies would think; running his left hand through his hair he quickly interjected, “B-Buffy perhaps you should tell them we were s-sparring not f-fighting.”
She gave a quizzical look then read what he was trying to say to her. “Oh yeah, Giles is my Miyagi. He’s has like a bazillion black belts in different styles and … and yesterday during training I zigged when I should have zagged and well, let me tell you, don’t let that happen.”
They woman gave her a dubious look. In all the times Buffy and Giles had been to the NICU all they had ever witnessed was his loving kindness toward her. But they also knew, all too well, the stress of having an infant in the NICU could put on a relationship. They vowed to keep a close eye on the man and to record any inappropriate behavior he may exhibit.
When they left for lunch Giles and Buffy talked over what had transpired at the hospital. “Buffy I don’t want to jeopardize your ability to bring Aria home.”
“Giles we explained what happened. It’s all good.”
“And if they decide to investigate further? Perhaps to bring in Child Protective Services. What then?”
“We show them the workout room in the Magic Box and we bring Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya in as fellow students of yours.”
It sounded like a good idea and if he truly did work with the Scoobies at least they would be better able to protect themselves.
A couple of days later Buffy remembered something that had been told to her earlier. Buffy was getting ready to go out on patrol when she approached Giles, “I want you to do something for Aria but it would mean not coming with me tonight.”
“You have a great voice and I’ve noticed how Aria responds when you sing to her. Would you mind making a recording of different songs? The nurses can play the recording when we’re not there; remember Nurse Cheryl mentioned it.”
“I remember and I will if … you will make a recording of some of those ‘dreadful’ Dr. Seuss books.” He grinned as she glared at the word ‘dreadful’. The other day, he caught her reading aloud to Aria from one of the books. She even used different voices for the whimsical characters. She agreed with Giles that a CD from both of them would be good.
While she fought the undead he made arrangements to use the universities recording room. Here he had access to some great sound equipment and a piano. With guitar in hand he began to play on old Scottish lullaby he had heard long ago. Buffy came in, after patrol, and Giles helped her make the recording of her reading several books.
They gave the sound files to Willow who surprised them both the next day. She handed them two CD’s. One was titled “Mommy Reads to Aria” the other was, “Giles’ Sleepy Time Mix” She even used her printer to put professional grade photos on the CD’s. Willow was the recipient of two very thankful hugs and a gentle chaste kiss to her temple, from Giles.
As the weeks passed, Xander and his crew put the finish carpentry touches to Aria’s nursery including sanding and buffing the hard wood floor. Buffy had opted for a light tan room except for the wall where the crib would be. The lower half of the wall was tan while the upper half was a sky blue. Tara hand painted a cherry blossom branch design that stretched the length of the blue wall. The baseboard was white and there was white crown molding. Willow and Tara found some material that would work well as curtains. It was a paler blue with sprigs of cherry blossoms printed on it. After making the curtains, they had enough material left over to make a small comforter for the crib. Now the nursery was complete and awaiting the day when Buffy could bring her daughter home.
Buffy and Giles had fallen into a daily routine. They were up at six; Buffy would use the breast pump then met him in the kitchen. They would share the breakfast Giles made then after the morning dishes were done they would head to the hospital. Giles would stay and visit Aria for an hour. Buffy would give him this time to hold her. When he left for work, Buffy would stay and read or tend to Aria’s needs. When Aria had rested, Buffy would take her turn to hold her daughter.
Buffy would show up at the Magic Box, a little after one and during lunch she would give Giles an update on how Aria’s morning went. By three they were training in the back room. Most days Giles taught her relaxation and focusing skills but when she needed a some stress relief; it was hand to hand or weapon drills.
After dinner they would go to the hospital together and spend a couple of hours sharing in Aria’s care. Buffy was nervous the first time she was allowed to bathed her. The nurses were very helpful in guiding her on what to do. This was an area Giles still felt uncomfortable with. Though he was not adverse to diaper changing; he firmly believed the bathing should be left up to Buffy.
Fourteen days after being diagnosed with NEC the doctors okayed Aria for her first milk feeding. Both Giles and Buffy were apprehensive asking more than once if they were sure Aria was ready. It took going over her daily progress charts and reports with Giles to convince them. While Buffy held her daughter, the nurse went over the feeding procedures with Giles.
When Aria completed her feeding they waited and waited and waited. Every little gurgle had Buffy asking the nurse to check her stomach for bloating. Every small cry took Giles’ immediate attention as he tried to discern whether it was pain or just testing out her vocal cords.
During the two hours, before her next feeding, she had a wet diaper and a thoroughly messy one. The evidence of her working bowels had the adults celebrating with happiness. At Aria’s next feeding, Buffy let Giles hold her while she learned the details of the feeding system. All in all, it was a bright day after so many weeks of uncertainty.
Over the next three weeks, Aria steadily gained weight and her episodes of apnea and bradycardia became fewer and farther apart. Both Giles and Buffy became proficient and therefore comfortable with feeding Aria. Buffy knew these were all good signs for bringing Aria home. One important event the doctors wanted to see was her ability to feed; either, through bottle feeding or nursing.
Buffy met with the lactation specialist to learn what the signs were that would let her know Aria may be ready to nurse. “If during feedings Aria has bursts of more than one suck per second on a pacifier. If she turns her head toward your breast when it is time to feed, with licking and sucking movements. These are all signs that she may be ready.”
The next time Buffy held Aria it was in the usual manner, skin to skin. Aria was more wiggly then usual and she began to lick the nipple of Buffy’s left breast. At one point Aria actually latched on for a couple of seconds then she went back to licking at it.
“Giles, did you see that?” Buffy was so excited and wanted to share this milestone with him.
Giles watched in awe as this person, suckled for a few short seconds; taking nourishment from her mother for the first time. He gently ran his fingers through Buffy’s hair tucking back, the strands that had fallen forward. His voice broke with emotion as he spoke. “Buffy, seeing you and her together in this way … it is the most beautiful thing in the world.” He put his index finger into Aria’s hand for her to grasp. “And you little one, have overcome one more obstacle to your road home.”
When Buffy had told everyone that Aria would be coming home soon the gang wanted to throw a party. Both Buffy and Giles thanked them but asked to let them have the first couple of days to themselves. Everyone was disappointed; Willow especially but Tara helped her to understand that all the sights and sounds were going to be so new for Aria and to add more wouldn’t be fair to her.
Finally the day arrived. Aria’s weight now was four pounds two ounces. She and Buffy had mastered the knack of nursing, diapering, bathing and though Aria still had occasional As and Bs the neonatologist deemed her ready to go home but with a monitoring device.
Buffy and Giles were shown how to set up the home apnea monitor and how to set Aria into the car-seat and still be safe. Aria was monitored for a little while just to assure she could tolerate being upright in the seat. Then the staff and doctors all said their farewells to their little patient. Buffy was given words of encouragement and told to call if she needed anything. Buffy in turn gave the group a thank you card with a picture of her, Giles and Aria in it.
Nurse Cheryl followed them out to the parking lot where Giles had parked the jeep. She watched as Giles locked the car seat into its base; located in the center of the back seat. After checking to assure proper positioning; Cheryl gave them both a hug good-bye.
To be continued in Adjustments