May 30th

May 30th

Every day for the last three months I have had some version of the following conversation with someone:

Them: How’s Josh?
Me:
Them: Great! Any idea when he’s coming home?
Me: Hopefully somewhere around his due date!
Them: If not before!
(And then we would high five each other.)
But when May came along, that conversation changed. My answer was no longer so confident. We knew Josh most likely wouldn’t be home by his due date. No one could say for sure but it was fairly obvious.
And just like that, May 30th didn’t matter to me anymore. I still counted how many weeks Josh was and the doctors used that to set goals for him. But May 30th, a day I had been waiting for since September, wasn’t important. It was just another day. 
So today when I woke up and remembered the date, I was surprised to realize how sad I was. I didn’t expect to be sad. I’ve known for weeks that May 30th didn’t mean anything anymore. But I guess a part of me still held out a little hope. I thought maybe I would arrive at the NICU and the nurses would tell me that a miracle had happened and Josh was totally ready to leave. That is so ridiculous that I’m embarrassed I even thought it. But I couldn’t help it.
When Josh was born and the doctor was telling us the game plan, I kept thinking, “We just have to make it to the end of May.” I counted out the days – 97. 97 days and we could pretend this never happened. Now May 30th is here, and Joshua is definitely not going home, and I’m kind of at a loss. What do I hope for now? Do I keep counting days? How much longer will I sit in that NICU day after day after day, waiting to hear the doctors say when we can leave?
A lot of people want to remind me how far Josh has come. Do me a favor and don’t. I don’t want to be rude and I sincerely appreciate all of the encouragement; I truly do. I know how far he’s come. I of all people have seen the immense progress and the incredible steps my little micro-preemie has taken and I am so proud of him. He’s done an amazing job.
But I just want him home.
I have been wearing my “I’m a Mom!” button every day for 97 days. If I leave my button at home my mistake, I get another one at the NICU. I wear it because I like it and I am proud to be a mom. But I also know that if I don’t wear it, no one will know I’m a mom. I don’t have a baby with me; I’m not carrying a car seat or pushing a stroller; I don’t even have baby things in my diaper bag yet. No one would know I’m a mom without talking to me. That makes me sad. Josh has never even seen his room. He’s never seen all the toys I have for him or the funny frog towel my sister gave him. I know he will. I just don’t know when. 
May 30th is a bittersweet day for me. I’m so proud of Joshua and all that he has accomplished. And it breaks my heart every single day when I have to leave him behind. So I guess I’ll just wait for today to be over and see how May 31st goes.

Cowboy Debbie rides again

Cowboy Debbie rides again

I smashed two spiders the other day.

And then I got a tissue and flushed their lifeless little bodies down the toilet. Muahahahaaaa.
If you’re wondering why this is a big deal, let me describe my usual routine when I find a spider:
1. Scream
2. Scream again
3. Find a giant cup
4. Approach evil spider with the same caution one would use to approach an atomic bomb or Britney Spears
5. Pray that Daniel will spontaneously arrive home from work even though it’s only 10 in the morning
6. Call all of my friends
7. Try to convince my friends that this spider has a gun and a knife and a “I Heart Violence” t-shirt
8. While screaming to an empty room, quickly place cup over spider
9. Run like the wind
10. Tell Daniel about the spider the instant he walks through the door and hide while he takes care of it
It’s a system that’s served me well for years. When Daniel and I were dating and he hadn’t been to my house for a couple of days, he would come over to find several cups strewn throughout the apartment, waiting for his swift and merciless hand of justice. I just bought disposable cups, and he got an early glimpse of what our marriage would be like. Win-win.
But the other day, as I was folding laundry – fine, watching reruns of Friends – and that brazen little arachnid strolled so confidently across the carpet, I thought, after all we’ve been through this year, I can’t even summon up the courage to squish a tiny (HUGE), harmless (it had eight fangs) spider? That’s silly. So I got my shoe and took care of business. 
As I was trying to stop hyperventilating from the traumatic events I had just endured, ANOTHER spider walked into the room, all “She’ll never kill two of us.”
Wrong, evil spider. He got smashed, too, and joined his friend on the Great Porcelain Ride to the sky.
It’s a little thing, to kill a spider. Not exactly life-saving or heroic. But I realized that the spider massacres were just an example of the strength that I’ve found in myself recently.
I was blessed with a very capable and loving husband. He’s patient, helps me with everything, and fixes countless things for me. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even try to fix something myself – Daniel was right there, so what was the point? Don’t get me wrong; I’m very grateful to have a wonderfully reliable husband. But I rely on him a lot. For everything. He doesn’t mind. But I did. 
I am not the same person I was on February 21st. The moment I heard the doctor give Joshua’s time of birth, I was different. I was a mom. And while at first I continued to rely on Daniel as I always have, I slowly found myself becoming more independent, more willing to see what I was capable of.
Don’t get me wrong – I need Daniel. A lot. Like, a lot. But now the playing field has been evened a little. As much as Daniel helps me, I want to be able to help him. That used to scare me. I’m not a go-getter. I’m not the ladder-climber. I’m content to stay behind the scenes and let other people direct me.
Or at least I was. But things are different now. Now I have someone else who is relying on me to direct him. Joshua only has Daniel and me to speak for him at the hospital and for the rest of his life (and of course his family. Don’t be mad, Mom). So am I going to let someone else tell me how to speak for my son, or am I going to figure it out for myself, with Daniel instead of just waiting for him to tell me? 
My friend Laura told me that a few weeks ago, she was praying for Daniel and Joshua and me. She said she asked God why He had allowed this to happen. She didn’t expect an answer right then. But she got one. 
She told me that God told her that He allowed everything to happen because He thought I could handle it. That floored me. God would certainly know that I’m not a strong person. Why would He think I could handle anything like this? I can’t even pick out shoes by myself. People told me I was strong and I never believed them. 
But now I do. At least a little bit. I have changed. I can be strong. I can be a mom. And I’m starting to see that maybe that was God’s plan all along. He knew I had strength in me. I just needed a reason to use it. It’s not easy and certainly not what I would have chosen myself. But I suppose I can add that to the long list of reasons that I am not God.
If nothing else, I am at least a lean, mean, spider-killing machine. 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s 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.

The In Between

The In Between

I’m stuck.

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.