Every day for the last three months I have had some version of the following conversation with someone:
I smashed two spiders the other day.
When I first heard that Joshua’s due date was May 30th, I immediately ran through how old he would be for major holidays – seven months old at Christmas, six at Thanksgiving. He would probably even be in time for Father’s Day if he wasn’t very late. I had a gift for Daniel all planned. A small one, one that wouldn’t take a lot of time, because we’d be so busy with the new baby.
Funny how things change.
When I starting seeing the commercials for Mother’s Day gift ideas and saw all the special cards start to appear at the grocery store, I didn’t think twice about it. I knew my siblings and I would get together to figure out a gift for our mom (and by “siblings” and “get together,” I mean that my brother and I both assume our sister will take care of it and we’ll pay her back. Don’t worry; she likes it.) and we would have dinner together and probably play a game or something. It never occurred to me that I would be celebrating my first Mother’s Day, too.
One of the NICU nurses asked what our plans were to celebrate. It took me a second to figure out what she meant and when I did, I just kind of shrugged and said we didn’t have any plans for me. The nurse seemed surprised, but I was equally surprised that she would think we were celebrating. Technically, yes, I am a mother, but it’s not like I really take care of my child. The nurses do that and always have.
But as went through the week, it seemed that God was sending me sign after to sign to show me that I am, in fact, a mother, even if my baby isn’t at home with me. When Josh screams as loud as he can, he usually wants his pacifier. I know that by the sound of the cry. I also know that I can only let him have the pacifier until he falls asleep, because he’ll forget to breathe if he falls asleep with it in his mouth. I know that in a few more minutes he’ll wake up again, search for the pacifier, and cry again until I give it to him and he falls asleep. Every afternoon from 4:00 to 5:00, that’s what happens. He’s really cute so I don’t mind.
When he doesn’t want his pacifier, he probably needs a diaper change. Or sometimes his little hands get stuck inside his sleeves and he can’t get them out. Sometimes he hears Daniel’s voice and wants desperately to see his daddy, but he’s facing the wrong way and can’t turn over. Sometimes he just wants attention, like a finger to hold or a little kiss on the cheek. But I always figure it out.
I know that he wants to lay flat on his back when I hold him but he isn’t supposed to because of his acid reflux, so until he falls asleep I move him around every couple of minutes so he won’t get upset. I know that once he falls asleep, I cannot. move. a muscle. or he will immediately open his eyes and we’ll have to start all over again. I know that he doesn’t like his hands to be under his blanket, and if someone does cover his hands with his blanket, he will wiggle them free in about two seconds. I know that he doesn’t want you to touch his feet or ears under any circumstances whatsoever. Seriously. He’ll cut you.
I know all of these things because I am his mother. I have always been his mother. No one knows him like I do. Even if he lives at the hospital. Even if I’m not the one changing his diapers. Even if I don’t get to see him for a whole day. I am his mother and he is my baby.
So for the mothers who have big, healthy kids,
For the mothers who are waiting to meet their little one,
For the mothers whose children have moved away,
For the mothers who wish their kids would move away,
For the mothers whose babies are growing faster and faster each year,
For the mothers who have never lost hope for their child,
For the mothers who have seven kids and for the mothers who have one,
For the mothers who know what it is to fear for your baby,
For the mothers who don’t understand what to do next,
For the mothers whose greatest joy comes from watching your baby accomplish a goal,
For the mothers who only want the best lives for their children,
For the mothers who pray for their children each day,
For the mothers who are celebrating their first Mother’s Day and for the mothers who are celebrating their fortieth,
This is for you.
And to my fellow NICU moms – Julia, Mari, Dawn, Erica, Erica, Rosalie, Malika, Meredith, and Tanya – this is especially for you:
Happy Mother’s Day.
Not literally; don’t worry. I stopped trying to hide from thunderstorms under the couch last year so I haven’t been stuck like that in a while.
This is a different kind of stuck. The kind where you’re happy and sad at the same time, anxious and excited all day, tired and energized for hours.
Ever since Joshua was born, I had been waiting for May 1st. I wanted to be able to say that we were finally in the month where I could take him home. But he most likely won’t be home until June now. Which is fine. I mean, I’d prefer he be home right now, but June is okay.
But I’ve been waiting for May 1st for months. And it came and went and nothing changed. I was kind of disappointed but I also saw it coming.
Now I’m kind of at a loss as to what to look forward to. Not that there isn’t anything to look forward to. I just spent so much time waiting for May 1st. Now everything seems more uncertain. I don’t have a plan or goal in mind because I really don’t know when Josh will come home.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not upset. I mean, these days I’m always upset about something, but this news doesn’t especially depress me. It’s just like if you were waiting to receive a package in the mail, and it was supposed to arrive on March 8th, and on March 8th you sat next to your mailbox and waited for the post man, but when he got to your house he told you he had no packages for you. You know the package is on its way. It should be there any day. But you’re kind of stuck. Do you wait by the mailbox every day? Do you go to the mall to pass the time? Do you just try to enjoy your regular life in the mean time until your package arrives? Any of those answers could work, depending on who you are.
So I guess I just have to change my approach. Instead of setting a long-term goal, I need to go back to short-term ones. Josh has to grow. He has to breathe better. He has to start eating and battle acid reflux. These are things that could take days or weeks or months – there’s no way to know for sure. That’s the difficult part. For all I know I’ll arrive at his room today to see him breathing on his own and taking a bottle. Or he could need more breathing help than he did yesterday.
It’s a weird place to be. I’m excited for each step that he takes but I also know better than to get too attached to any progress because he could take steps backward anytime. I know that sounds pessimistic but it’s just the way life in the NICU goes. So I just wait. I wait for the doctors to tell me what the plan is. I wait for Joshua to get bigger and stronger. I wait for another goal to work for. And until then, I just kind of hang out in between.
And read lots and lots of books.