Her baby wasn't very sick, just premature enough to require an IV for a few days. I was speaking to her at the baby's bedside about two days after delivery, telling her that her baby was doing well and wouldn't need the IV for more than another day or two. The mother nodded and smiled, seemingly appreciatively. Then she said to me, "I'm going home today." She looked searchingly at me, until I figured out that she was really asking whether her baby could go home today, too. I told her that no, her baby still needed the IV and wasn't quite ready for discharge. She began crying.
I understand that women want to go home with their babies and that it's a hard thing to leave the hospital without your baby. I understand their disappointment and anticipate it, often saying to them "It's hard to go home without your baby, isn't it." But it's still a little puzzling when a baby is born several weeks prematurely, is in the NICU, and has an IV in place, why doesn't it even cross the mother's mind that her baby might not be ready to go home?
I don't think it had anything to do with her beard, which was pretty impressive. It wasn't so long, more like just a two or three day stubble, but it's distribution was so wide, on her cheeks and chin and neck and upper lip, as widely distributed as a man's beard. For some reason, I've seen a lot of facial hair on women the past few years, and it's usually just a moustache or some on the chin, often like sort of a bad goatee. Not so here; this woman was unfortunate enough to have a macho five o'clock shadow.
I don't say this to mock her. I know it can be a real problem, especially if a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome. But it can be pretty striking, and for better or for worse, was the most memorable thing about this mother.