Monday, October 20, 2008
Those first few days we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House are almost a blur to me. My then eleven-month old son was still staying with his aunt, uncle, and cousins about 40 minutes from us. My husband was working extremely long hours to avoid being penalized for taking the day off when I went into labor. I was the mother of two babies and neither one of them was living with me. It broke my heart and made me feel desperately helpless.
What I remember most about those first days was how I would wake up in the morning and my hand would fly to my (flat) belly and I would realize that I was no longer pregnant. It came as a shock to me... Every. Single. Day. My next realization would be that I needed to pump. And so I would sort of roll off the side of the bed (I couldn't sit up due to my C-section) and make it to my feet. I actually enjoyed pumping because it was the only thing that felt "normal". Like any newborn, my child would need nourishment and I was on a 3-4 hour pumping schedule that reminded me of how I would rise to care for my son when he was first born. Pumping is nowhere near as fun as feeding an infant, but it was something...
C. was doing really well that first week. They say that micropreemies often have a "honeymoon period". But here's the thing- when it's your baby, you don't want to think that's what it is. You really convince yourself that YOUR baby is different, stronger, luckier. Somehow you manage to believe that your tiny preemie is just going to breeze on through. Regardless, it was a nice time for us. I spent a lot of time crocheting by C's bedside and singing softly to her. I was encouraged by her progress and loved to hear the upbeat reports from the neonatologists on their rounds.
When C. turned a week old, it was a Saturday and it was New Year's Eve. My mom arrived from halfway across the country to help. This was a joyous occasion for so many reasons- she would get to meet her new granddaughter, I'd be able to have my son with me again, and I could unapologetically lean on somebody-- there's nobody who can fill that role like Mom.
My husband picked my mom up from the airport and, just as soon as they got back, we all headed over to the hospital to visit little C. My inlaws met us there to "hand over" A. so he could move in to the Ronald McDonald House with us. Now that Bama had arrived, we would be able to take care of him and keep him with us.
Being so far away for that first week must have been really hard for my mom. And, during that time, she had plenty of opportunities to anticipate what my new baby would look like. "I vividly recall saying to Dad that I had NO idea what to expect when I came out to see C. for the first time. After all, I had never seen a baby born that prematurely, so I had no real conception of how small she would be, if she would look like a "regular" baby, or anything. " Happily, any fears she had had were unfounded. Like me, she found C. to be beautiful and perfect. Yes, I know we're both related to her... but I think most people were shocked to see how much she looked like, well, a baby. "I was awed when I first saw C. She was so beautiful! Just a tiny little doll! I remember seeing the cast of her tiny hand and reading the inscription at the base and crying--at the beauty of the cast, the perfection of that little person whom we now called C."
With Bama there to help watch A, I was able to split my time between my babies. I would have breakfast with my mom and son and then zip over to the hospital to spend late morning and afternoon with C. I'd return before supper and, when my husband got back from work, he, Bama, A, and I would all eat dinner together. Once we got our son settled in for the night, hubby and I would head back to the hospital to visit C. It was a whirlwind, but we were so blessed to have help and support! We were so lucky to know my mom would be there for another couple of weeks too. We tried to let Bama visit our little girl any time we had a chance. I asked my mom what her best memories of that visit were. "I have many memories of the time I spent with all of you, but three things about C. stand out in my mind. First, I kept waiting for her eyes to open; I just wanted so badly to see her "beautiful blues". Then I remember thinking (rather foolishly) that surely we would be celebrating her two pound party while I was there! We did celebrate that milestone together--but it was a month later!!! And, finally, I will never forget my last day in the NICU (well, my last day on that visit). I had not been able to touch C. at all, and Deb (one of our most beloved NICU nurses) must have seen the look of desperation in my eyes on my last day there because she opened the isolette and said she thought C. needed a little loving from her Bama, and I was finally able to plant a kiss on her sweet little head. That was such a thrill, and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. Deb knew that I needed that kiss more than C... "
My husband, my mom, and I got into a groove and pattern that week and we looked forward to my brother's arrival with his family that next Saturday. I was so delighted to share my miraculous little girl with the rest of my family!
As it turns out, that Saturday in January was to be our very darkest day of the entire NICU stay. I'll tell you about that next week...
(**Special thanks to my mom for taking the time to remember those times along with me and provide her side of it all!**)