My first lesson learned as a new mom, nothing goes as planned; even if you outline and laminated the plan. It’s not going to happen. Your best bet is to scribble down a few ideas on a napkin, use it to wipe your child’s face, and throw it away.
It started out peaceful; a warm May morning. I was cleaning out the flowerbeds – content and completely unaware of what was about to happen. My husband came out and asked if I wanted to take a walk. I stood up and everything gushed out. I looked helplessly up at him.
“I think your water broke!” he said white as a ghost.
“No, it’s too soon!” I gasped. I’d just hit day one of week thirty-one. My baby was only the size of coconut. He’s supposed to be the size of a watermelon when this happens. We hadn’t even taken our birthing classes yet. “It just can’t be!” I was in denial and then I placed my hand where his head had been resting for the past month and realized it wasn’t there.
An hour later I was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was told this was home now and the new plan, to hold the baby in as many days, weeks, cross your fingers another month, as possible.
A NICU doctor explained the horrible “what ifs.” I said nothing, but inside…
I was screaming at God. How could you give me a baby I didn’t plan for, let me fall in love and then threaten to take him?
That night I laid there, while my husband tossed and turned on a cot, terrified by the “what if’s” and upset as how far off course my birthing plan sailed. This was supposed to be a happy time and instead I was haunted by the thought of this ending in the morgue.
Needless to say my son didn’t care about the new plan.
The next morning in spite of all being done to stop labor, I dilated to ten and pushed his feet out. I was rushed down to the ER. My husband left standing in the hallway. There was no time for the “what ifs” this time around. I was put under and an amazing team of doctors delivered him.
So began our journey in the NICU.
While other parents on our floor got to take their babies home, we had to leave ours behind in an incubator, tangled in wires. My husband and I settled into the Ronald McDonald house, as close as we could possibly be to our son.
As we waited, I watched pregnant women come and a few days later go with their babies. That was supposed to be me. Instead I was still waiting to hold mine. I was forced to set an alarm and bond with my breast pump at two in the morning instead of my son. It was hard to accept as I hashed over every detail, wondering what I had done wrong, while the alarms that announced his oxygen levels were dropping, played with my emotions.
Next were the baby steps to home and I’m not kidding when I say baby steps. He ate in millimeters instead of ounces. We started out holding his hand and then finally that wonderful moment they placed him in my arms. First it was ten minutes, then twenty, and then one day we were told not today, and those baby steps started going backwards. There were times I wanted to stick him in my purse (he was that small) and run out of there. Other times we’d make it down the road and I’d burst into tears and my husband would offer to bring me back.
Finally came the days where they begin to move some of the wires and the best day when they moved him to a crib. I no longer had to ask permission to hold my son. It was down to one simple task learning to suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time.
It came to an end at twenty-eight days, weighing in at six pounds. It was finally our turn to go home.
The NICU is the best place I hope you never have to go to. The doctors and nurses there are Earth’s angels, but I hope you never have to meet them. However, things rarely go as we plan and while you think something like this would never be God’s plan it clearly was in our case. For all you mothers who sit behind those curtains, I know how you ache. It is an ache only God can comfort. What weighs least in our arms will weigh the heaviest in our heart. I pray for all you mothers that you may find peace with the outcome of your time spent in the NICU.
You may also want to read: Dear Nicu Nurse, Thank You For Being Our Miracle Worker