Do you remember those first moments with your newborn? Most of us likely experienced a mix of bliss paired with some nervous apprehension as we processed our enormous new love and responsibility. But what of the parents and new babies with all that same love, but medical challenges that rocket the apprehensions to new heights. In honor of February’s Heart Month, what of the warrior hearts?
You’ve been intensely monitored for months of your pregnancy, ever since that mid-term scan. The ultrasonographer seemed to take an extra-long time, tried to calm your rising anxiety with, “I’m sure it’s nothing. They’ll probably just do another test to confirm.” Then it wasn’t nothing, and you attempted to prepare yourself for a scary storm that would accompany your sweet one’s arrival. Inside you, he was growing and thriving, but on the other side loomed open-heart surgery. A thought you still couldn’t quite come to grips with when envisioning finally meeting your precious babe. And then . . .
Baby’s first cry enters the room and your soul knows a new level of elation.
Nerve shaking anticipation while he’s assessed by the doctors.
Your eyes meet his face with heart-bursting joy. Cold flush of sweat as a knowing wave of the waiting challenge washes over.
Happy overwhelmed tears peak from the corners of your eyes for those first touches . . . gripping tiny fingers, tracing round cheeks, soft kisses to the top of the head, the warm gentle weight of his little body against yours. Sharp IV pokes, the cool touch of stethoscopes and scans, the stick of cardiac monitors placed.
The dreamy love melting sounds of sweet coos, little cries, bitty lips adorably stretching and breathing out a soft yawn. Machines beeping, medical talk of surgical details and plans, the sound of your own heartbeat fast and suddenly audible in moments of overwhelmed worry.
The gut wrench and simultaneous thanksgiving of seeing your baby wheeled away for a heart-saving surgery. The waiting . . . in silence at times, zoning everything out. In hyper-awareness of each sound and sight the next moment. The constant buzz of your phone as loved ones check in for updates. An obsessive watch over your phone for a call from the surgical team providing you those updates. Trying to remain still while about to explode from a tornado of concerned energy over your baby that can’t be quieted. Acutely aware of each second, each minute, each hour. Tears . . . and then quickly pulling yourself together for fear that if you allow them full release, it might be a tide you can’t control.
A whole body sigh of relief as your baby is wheeled back toward you. Seeing straight through the tubes, cords, monitors, and equipment that drape and surround him to the sweet face that holds a direct connection to your soul.
A tireless vigil begins toward recovery. Away from his side for only short periods to sleep and shower, your mind and heart never leave. Deep appreciation and awe for the professionals that have worked such delicate life-saving expertise, matched with relentless monitoring and advocating. Tests and trials, then gifts of quiet in the room giving way to moments of peace and comfort. Dad reads to baby, and you allow yourself a “guard down” breath for just an instant.
A new strength has come over you both.
You’ve become the endurance athletes of new parents. Hands together and in awe of the might of soul and stamina you’ve witnessed grow in one another.
The long-awaited homecoming day brings relief and new challenges. You’ve learned a new language and dance of tube feedings, patience filled bottle attempts, counting cc’s, monitoring stats, and incision care. You see your baby start to relax a bit, finally home, away from fluorescent lights, noises and the ever-present pokes and prods of the hospital.
It may not have been the easy path, or what you envisioned and wished for your sweet one. But in every journey, especially the hard ones, there are blessings to be found along the way.
In this one, perhaps the greatest is the gift of the truest gratitude.
In the most trying of times, witnessing your fresh to the world tiny baby with a battle to fight, YOU were able to be his comfort. You brought a knowing light to his little eyes, and calm to his body in otherwise moments of distress. You were blessed to be with him always, to be his sense of peace and home, to be his ever-vigilant warrior fighting alongside.
Gratitude . . . and three hearts forever changed and bonded.
Written in honor of Heart Warrior Baby Milo, and his inspiring parents, Catherine and George.