Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

They say that when you’re faced with a situation that scares you, you choose either fight or flight. I’m sure this is true for some people out there. Daniel, for instance. Don’t scare him. He will fight you. And he has a beard.

But I do neither. I add my own F-word in there: freeze.

Once my mom and I were out walking in the neighborhood. We passed a house that seemed innocent enough at first. Then we heard a rustle, a bark, and, weirdly, the sound of something being dragged across concrete. We looked up just in time to see the world’s largest dog, barking at us and running right for us.

Oh, and the dragging sound? He had been chained to a BRICK WALL, pulled the brick out, and was now trailing it behind him like some bizarre doggy fashion trend.

I could have run. I could have braced myself for a fight. What did I do? I grabbed my mom’s arm and hung on as hard as I could while Cujo ran at us. I swear he was holding a knife in his paw and wearing an “I Heart The Taliban” t-shirt. And I just stood there, staring at him and trying to use my mind control to convince him that we were not tasty.

My mom also stood there, except she shouted incomprehensible things at the dog, like “Guh! Gahhh! Gruuuuurrrrg!!” At least I come by my issues honestly.

We weren’t eaten that day. But we did make my dad walk with us the next day in case the dog was out again. You might be wondering why we didn’t walk down a different street. Lets just say we’re not known for our tactical genius.

Knowing that I don’t have the gumption to fight through a problem or the good sense to run from it like a chicken, I used to worry about what would happen when I had kids. What would happen if little Bambi or Enrique fell off the monkey bars and needed help? Would I just stand there, waiting for my mom to walk by and shout gibberish until someone got help?

I got the answer to this question sooner than I thought I would. The very first time I saw Joshua stop breathing and watched his heart rate fall, I just stood there. I didn’t call for help. I didn’t touch him. I just watched. Luckily, the nurse is not a freezer and she jumped in there to help.

The other day, I was holding Josh and checking Facebook at the same time. I heard the alarm go off, saw his heart rate drop, rubbed his back until it went back up…and went back to Facebook. It was like I had been interrupted by a mildly interesting show, decided it was boring, and went about my business. It wasn’t until I was telling Daniel about it that I’d even realized what I’d done.

So I guess for all the ridiculous shenanigans the NICU has put me through, it has also changed me for the better. I have more confidence. I’m not so scared all the time. I’m downright bold every once in a while. I don’t have to freeze. I can fight. And, most importantly, I can fight while checking Facebook.

Maybe I’m stronger than I thought.

Wow

Wow

I hadn’t checked my email in a few days. Sometimes I’m too busy…playing games and checking Facebook. At any rate, when I checked my email this morning, I received a pleasant surprise: several people had shared and commented on Joshua’s story. Complete strangers have passed it on and they have reached out to me and it’s awesome.

To those bloggers, moms, and fellow NICU veterans, thank you. Today I was feeling sorry for myself because I am so tired, and then I was reminded how many people are praying for Josh and want him to grow.

And to those who I’ve gotten to know through this, or who I knew before, or who have known me since I was a baby – thank you, too. We could not have made it this far without you.

And to the inventor of Diet Coke – I love you most of all.

The NICU

The NICU

Yesterday I met the grandmother of another baby in the NICU. We talked for a little while and she told me she couldn’t even imagine what it was like to be here so much. I gave my standard answer: it’s hard but we manage.

But her question made me think…how would I describe the NICU to someone if I really thought about it? There’s so much to say that it’s hard to sum up. I wanted to write it here so I won’t forget.

The NICU is the place that holds you and your emotions prisoner. It can make you the happiest you’ve ever been and then devastate you in the same moment.

The NICU is the place where you make friends without ever saying a word to someone. A smile in the hallway, a look exchanged when you’re waiting for the receptionist, a neighbor in the same pod as you. You have to stick together. These people get it. They’re in the same club as you.

The NICU is the place where you’re so tired but you’re too awake to sleep. Your eyes are burning with exhaustion but the moment you think about sleep an alarm goes off somewhere. It might not be yours but you have to check.

The NICU is the place where you learn to be a nurse and parent at the same time. You know at a moment’s glance that your child’s heart rate is too low or too high or just right. You memorize how much oxygen he needs, what his blood pressure is, how often he stops breathing.

The NICU is the place where you memorize the sounds of the rocking chairs as you sit every day, rocking back and forth, back and forth. After a while, the creak, creak, creak is more comforting than anything. It, at least, never changes.

The NICU is the place where your head aches from turning back and forth to read the monitor so often. You could move your chair but then you wouldn’t be able to see your baby.

The NICU is the place where you ask “Why?” so many times you lose count. You don’t even expect an answer after a while. Even if you got one, it wouldn’t be good enough. But you still wonder and so you still ask.

The NICU is the place where you wait. Wait for the doctors, for the nurses, wait for visitors, wait for the days to pass.

The NICU is the place where you celebrate milestones like two pounds, and then wonder if you would have ever thought two pounds was a milestone before this happened.

The NICU is the place where you can be surrounded by dozens of people but still feel all alone.

The NICU is the place where God works miracles.

That’s what the NICU is like.

The Blame Game

The Blame Game

What is the first question you ask when someone tells you they were in a car accident?

Fine, you probably ask if they’re okay. That’s the polite thing to do.

But the first thing you think, and probably the second thing you ask, is whose fault it was. It’s okay. I do it, too. I mean, if you’re texting me about your accident I assume you’re fine. I need details, people.

Seriously, though, why is that? Why is it so important to know who’s to blame? We always want to know whose fault it was and we want to know how the person at fault will pay for their crime. It doesn’t just apply to car accidents.

Like farting. Or princess air, if you like. No one made it through elementary school without hearing “He who denied it supplied it” or “He who smelt it dealt it” at least once. Is smelt a word? I feel like it was just made up for a hilarious farting rhyme. At any rate, we as a society are determined to place blame – or in some cases, blame the dog – for any and every bad thing that happens.

I think I know why. I’m no psychologist. But I think we immediately find out who’s to blame because it makes us feel better. If we can assign fault to someone or something, it helps us take control over the bad thing that has happened. We can take steps to make sure it never happens again. If someone gets hit by a drunk driver, the answer is easy – make drunk driving illegal. Done. If someone takes the life of his coworker, lock him in jail. Simple enough.

When I found out Joshua would be born 14 weeks early, I wanted something to blame. The doctors for not catching it earlier. Daniel for not helping me see it sooner. The nurse-midwife for not fixing it right away. Myself for not realizing something was wrong with my baby. God for letting it happen at all.

At first I thought it was because I was so angry about what happened. I thought I could take all my anger out on someone and it would make everything better. I tried it. I didn’t feel better. Joshua was still in the NICU. Nothing had changed except I just felt worse. But I still looked for someone, something, anything to blame. It was irrational and illogical and I knew that but I kept searching.

And after a while I had an epiphany. Not the cool kind. I didn’t suddenly figure out how to make millions of dollars from home or how to really win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. No, this epiphany was kind of depressing, actually.

I wanted it to be my fault.

I wanted to be responsible for Joshua coming so early. I wanted the doctor to open his chart, point at a number, and tell me I should have kept it lower or higher or anything. I wanted the nurse to say that I shouldn’t have eaten peanut butter or go hiking that one time or stay up so late at night. I wanted them to tell me that the next time I have a child, I need to make sure I avoid certain chemicals and places and habits, because those things were responsible for his early arrival.

I wanted it to be my fault because I’m scared.

People have asked us how many kids we’re going to have after this. On February 21st, I would have answered at least two, but who knows? Maybe more! Now, though, that question terrifies me. How can I do this again? How can we knowingly set ourselves up for this horrible, draining, ridiculous experience even one more time?

See, if I had something to blame, I could fix it. If they said caffeine caused this I would never drink a drop of caffeine again. If they said I could take a pill or eat special food or take a class, I would do it. I would do it all.

But nothing caused it. It was no one’s fault. Pre-eclampsia just happens. Sometimes it causes the blood flow to the baby to reverse. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes women with pre-e are fine and don’t even need bedrest. Sometimes they do.

It just happens.

I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. There are laws against drunk driving but it still kills people. Murderers are put in jail but people still kill. I’m not saying there’s no hope or that we’re all doomed. But as much as we want to place blame and point fingers so that we can reassure ourselves we’re safe from ever having to go through a terrible experience again, it won’t help. Blame won’t make us feel better. We think it will but at the end of the day it only fuels our anger and makes us sadder. Because as much as we think laying blame will fix the problem, it won’t. It can’t. Only God can.

And sometimes things just happen.

What I Like About You

What I Like About You

These last few days I’ve been feeling kind of down. There are a lot of changes happening and each one has felt harder and harder to deal with. Yesterday a jar that I don’t even like that much fell and shattered. I was surprised at how mad I was over it. I think these days I’m just so coo-coo that every little thing sets me off. Fear me.

No, no, I kid, don’t fear me.

But seriously.

Today, though, as I was snuggled up with Joshua in my arms, I realized there was one thing I had skipped right over during this entire thing – the overwhelming joy of knowing I have a beautiful baby boy.

When I first saw Josh, I was just so relieved that he was alive that I didn’t really take time to marvel over what a miracle he was. And each day after that brought new challenges and I just never took the time to think about how incredible it is that I have a son.

When I was holding him, it suddenly hit me: An overwhelming feeling of love and pride and joy for the tiny two-pound baby in my arms. My baby.

I love it when he’s awake and I can see his big, bright eyes. I love it when Daniel says something and Josh immediately looks for Daniel, and, when he finds him, stares at him forever. I love that he has my nose and lips – it’s so cool to see part of me in him. I love that when he sneezes he looks utterly confused and looks around like he might find whatever made that happen.

I love to hear him cry. He gets so mad and he cries and it’s just so incredible to hear. He’s so loud now they can hear him all the way at the main desk in his pod. And I love how his whole body turns red every time he gets mad. I probably shouldn’t laugh at that but he looks like a little tomato.

I love seeing his little personality develop. I know that while so many babies like to keep their hands tucked in, it makes Joshua mad when I move his from his face. When I hold him, he likes to drop his head straight back, mouth wide open, and sleep that way. His numbers are always better when he does that so it works for me. I know when he puts his hand up for a teeny high five that he is really telling me he needs to be cuddled and loved because he feels upset.

I love his little fingers and toes and knees and elbows. Everything is so tiny. He has tiny strawberry blond eyebrows (could be a red head, Papa Mike!) and tiny blond lashes and fuzzy hair all over his head. I think it’s dark but Daniel says it’s blond. Only time will tell :) I love that he can fit into doll’s clothes and that he wears the world’s tiniest diaper. I love that he is smaller than a beanie baby.

There is a lot that’s gone on these last few weeks. It’s been hard. But when I look at Joshua, it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is how very much I love him.