"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Finally burying the hatchet.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. So I'm going to finally get this off my chest and I hope that I will be able to move on from here. For most parents, the birth of their child is one of the happiest in their lives. Not for me. My child is a blessing and a miracle and I never thought that I could be so in love with such a tiny little being. But when I think about his birth, I cry. I had a very hard time with it and I still do now, and I hope that now I can accept it for what it was and move on.

Aidan was born at 34 weeks, after my water broke suddenly one night. He was 4 pounds, 11 ounces. I didn't get to hold him after he was born and peer down at those little wondrous eyes and bond with him. Evan didn't get to cut the cord. We didn't have that loving, crying, hugging, wonderful, "Baby Story"-type beautiful new family moment after Aidan was born. I am bitter when I think about that. I can't help it. Aidan didn't sleep in the little baby bed in our hospital room and we didn't have a grandious happy homecoming. Instead, I remember a tiny, limp, purple body being whisked away to the corner of the room where a team of neo-natologists were standing by to help him take his first breaths, and I remember a subtle, but horrified look on my husband's face and I remember being so scared that my insides felt like they were ripping out of me and every time I think of it I cry. Still. That's why I want to set it free into the cosmic cyber void and let it go forever, and move on.

We were in the labor room for about 6 hours after Aidan was wheeled away and we were left to wonder what was happening. American Idol came on. Bucky was voted off. I slept through it. I was finally able to see Aidan for the "real" first time when the nurses wheeled me on the stretcher through the NICU when they were moving me to my new room. I didn't get to hold him yet. He was hooked up to all sorts of wires, and he was small. Very small. He was breathing on his own. His tiny hand grabbed my finger. I cried. They wheeled me away. The next day I finally got to hold him, wires and all. I cried. And for almost two weeks following, I needed permission to see my tiny son. Permission to feed him, permission to change him, permission to hold him. Many times permission was denied because the NICU was too busy. And I would wait. And then the one second that I would leave to go get a cup of coffee or pee, I would miss that small window to see him and I would have to wait some more and it was gut-wrenching. I cried some more. After I was discharged, I couldn't bear to leave the hospital and go home without our baby. So we paid each night for a hospitality room, which was a hospital room that wasn't being used that we could stay in, hoping every day it would be our day to go home. Each hour was the longest. I would pump every couple hours, even through the night, and afterward I would bring the milk to the NICU and sit with Aidan in hopes that I could feed him. I remember feverishly pumping, hoping my milk would come in sooner because I knew that it was the best thing for him and it would help him to get better sooner. Besides visiting him and staying at the hospital, that was the one way I could help him and I was obsessed. I didn't mind waking up in the middle of the night and schlepping down to the NICU in my pajamas. The nurses would tell Evan and I to go home or get some sleep. I didn't listen. I would open up one of the arm-holes to the incubator, put my face near it and whisper, "Hi baby boy, momma's here now, momma loves you" and I would rub his little arm and his body and I swear he would hear me and understand that he was okay and that it would all be okay. He would stop crying when he heard my voice. Sometimes the nurses would allow me to feed him, but not hold him that long because he would have to return to the incubator so he could sit under the lamps that were helping his jaundice. Each time that our time was up I felt like he was being taken away from me. The nurse would take him and he would cry. I could pick his cry out of a whole room full of babies. With my heart heavy and full of guilt, I would return to my room and wait, maybe sleep, until the alarm woke me up at the next 3 hour mark. Evan stayed too, and sometimes we would trade off visits in the middle of the night, but the long hours and no sleep would weigh on him. And even though I was exhausted, I knew I could only keep going by focusing on the task at hand.

I was sad because my little boy had to spend his first days being poked and prodded and examined and naked and alone in a bright, loud, alarm-filled unit with all these strangers and all these needles and all these wires. No mommy. I knew they were taking care of him, but still. I wanted to. That was my job. I was sad because what did I do wrong? I was on bed-rest because of my preeclampsia since 32 weeks, but did I do too much anyway? Why was he born so early? Should I not have been around the paint in the nursery? Did I weigh too much during my pregnancy? Was I too stupidly stressed out about the nursery and our house getting done? Why did this happen? How could I have prevented it? Was this my fault?

I would watch new mothers come into the NICU to see their babies. Some of them were even tinier than Aidan and had been there much longer. Others were full-term and there for observation, and they would get to go home soon after they arrived. I watched the moms come and go and I wished it were me. Us. And when it was my turn, I knew other mothers wished it were them. I hurt for them like I hurt for me and I wish they knew. And we were actually lucky, because it could have been months like other babies and it wasn't, but that doesn't comfort me for some reason and the memories still live heavy in my heart. I am scared for my next pregnancy, whenever that may be and though my doctors believe there's little chance I'll have preeclampsia in the next pregnancy, I am not so confident. I will place my faith in God's hands.

When we got home, it was just the three of us and our house swallowed us up. No one was there, but that was ok. We needed the time to let it sink in, to let us be home, to let us be us. No advice, no instructions, no permission. Just us. It was quiet and it was natural and it was like not a day had passed that we had not been in our home as a family. It was pure heaven.

I have a disconnect in my mind between Aidan then and Aidan now. I can't even picture him as the same baby. That fragile skinny little body with wrinkly skin that was almost transparent has long since caught up in life and he's meeting all the milestones that he's supposed to at his age and we're lucky for that. He's chubby and smiley and the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life and when I look at him I melt all over the floor. I could stare at him all day. And since this is also the month of Thanksgiving, I thank you God, for making my precious little guy healthy and happy and for helping us complete our family. I thank you, family, for standing by my side, especially you, Evan, who was there every difficult step of the way, and Mom, who picked me up when I needed it and even spent the night with me in the hospital when I was inconsolable. And I thank you, friends, for visiting and calling and for sending us so many warm thoughts and beautiful flowers. Goodnight, dear void. May God watch over all the tiny little early babies and their mommies and daddies, and may they soon be able to sleep in their own beds, in their own homes, with unlimited hugs and kisses. No permission needed.


Cece said...

That was a very beautiful and touching post. You have a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. And Adian is gorgeous.

Blond Girl said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes because I can relate so well. My daughter was not a preemie, just very very small and sick when she was first born. She spent 8 days in the NICU and I recognize many of the same emotions and experiences you wrote about. I think I may even tell my story one of these days just to remember and get it all down.

In the meantime, she is 6 now. From death's door to tearing around like a mad woman, that's my Sweet Girl. If you want to visit my blog, I've posted a picture of her there.

Thank you again for a wonderful moment.

janice said...

breaking my heart!!! I am so glad that you are all okay now. what a brutal time that must have been.

my son had health concerns and I spent most of my pregnancy and the first three weeks of his life in total fear and worry. add to that post-partum depression and that whole stage was a mess of tears and anxiety. the fear of it kept me from trying to get pregnant again until my son was three and the memories had faded enough. (but now I can't seem to get pregnant! I lost one baby last year and still no baby! good grief!)

Harry said...

Harry said...
I want to say thanks that there are many dedicated people who take care of our loved ones, the "Preemies" as we call them, not only was my Grandson,the precious little bundle of infinite joy who is doing well,
I have reflections of the time when my nephew was born not quite sure about his exact weight a mere 2 lbs or so. I can only say he cold fit in the palm of your hand. It was a frightening time for our family, especially my sister in law, wife and others who stormed the hospital to be there while they atempted to take care of him.
Today as another glorious miracle he's in his twenties, I won't go into the details,but I can surely say that there are miracles and those prayers along with the steadfast hardworking people who cared for him helped him develop into a nice young man. So... As the story goes, all is not lost when we think of our darkest moments and overwhleming concerns for those we love, stop and remember those who care and contribute much time and effort to those "Preemies", our children..

The men and woman in the health professions, nurses, doctors,etc.They are miracle workers for all of us.

9:17 PM

Jen said...

A very eloquent post. I can relate since I'm also a PE and NICU survivor.

I hope the hacket stays buried.

Jen, mom of Grace & Meghan

Sabrina said...

Me too a fellow PE survivor twice now. I was lucky, my babies were born at 35 &36 weeks. A lot of things that you said where you have to aske permission to do things, grrrrrr. But I loved your post. Sabrina