Dear Preemie Mom

Dear Preemie Mom

Dear Preemie Mom:

I see you. I see you, scared and confused, as you have to leave your baby behind in the hospital because he was early and he needs a lot of help. I see you taking notes as the doctor explains all the machines and sounds that surround your tiny, sweet baby. I see you trying your hardest to take it all in – all the medical jargon, all the dates and times and schedules – but your eyes keep wandering back to your baby in her isolette as you wonder when you will be able to hold her.

I see you driving to the hospital day after day, determined not to miss a second with your little one. I see your shoulders slump as you prepare yourself for another long day of visiting your baby and then leaving him behind once again.

I see you as you get to take your baby home – a time filled with such joy and excitement, and also a little bit of fear. You wonder if you will be able to take care of her like the doctors could. You wonder if you will be enough.

I see you a couple months down the line, rejoicing over having your baby with you at all times but becoming frustrated that your baby needs so much attention all the time. Doctors, specialists, therapists – it seems like your life now revolves around when the next appointment is and how long it will take you to get there. You try to remind yourself that you should be grateful, because your baby has had to fight harder than most to even make it this far. But that doesn’t always help your frustration. Sometimes it even adds to it. Why did your baby have to fight so hard? Why did this happen to your family? You ask yourself these questions every day but no answer seems right.

I see you at the birthday party for the child of a friend, a child who was born around the same time your own child was due, before they came so early. I see your smile, which is genuine, but it isn’t the same smile it used to be. Because while you are happy for your friend and her child, it hurts to see how behind your own child is, and what a long way he has to go.

I see you crying late at night, wracked with guilt and worry and anger. If only you had been able to keep your baby inside a little longer…if only you had insisted the doctors take a second look at the scan… if only you hadn’t had so much caffeine or sugar or whatever else you think could have contributed to your baby’s prematurity. I see you blaming yourself, wondering what you can do to right this terrible wrong.

I see you decline invitations to playgrounds, to lunch, to so many places that first year. You’re so afraid of your little boy getting sick. The doctors told you that this first winter was crucial, that you should not go out unless you absolutely had to. So you sit alone with your baby, knowing that it will all be worth it in the spring.

I see you carefully pack your diaper bag – yours isn’t always like other people’s diaper bags. You need a lot of hand sanitizer, extra oxygen tanks, some masks that keep germs away. You venture into the grocery store like a soldier approaching a battlefield – assessing risk, wondering how quickly you can finish your task, praying that when you leave, everyone will still be healthy.

I see you stammer and flounder when someone asks you how old your baby is. You know if you give the real answer that there will be so many questions, and you are tired of questions. But to you, giving any other answer feels like a disservice to your child, like you aren’t acknowledging all of the hard work she put into coming into this world. So you split the difference – sometimes you tell people the real age, and sometimes you don’t. It changes every time you are asked.

I see you wondering if you are the kind of mother your baby really needs. You think that someone else would be much better suited for all of this. All of the therapy and special arrangements that have to be made – you think you aren’t cut out for this. You don’t know how you will make it through. You look back to the life you had before – maybe you used to work and now you have to stay home. Maybe you want to stay home but you have to work. Either way, it is not the life you planned for yourself. It is not how you imagined having a baby would be.

I don’t have answers for you. I wish I did. I want answers for me, too. But I want you to know that I see you. I see you, and you are not alone.

Sincerely,

A Preemie Mom

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The Mommy Wars

The Mommy Wars

Before I became a mother, I had a vague idea of what parents did. Feed child, clothe child, try to keep child from beating up other children. It was one of those subjects that I was woefully but blissfully ignorant of – I really didn’t have much use for information like which brand of diapers was best or how you need to move like a frickin ninja to escape infant projectile vomit.

I am still far from an expert, but after I had kids, I crossed over to the Other Side. No, not Narnia. The Other Side of the gap that separates parents from non-parents. The side filled with tiny onesies and 800 sets of plastic keys (seriously, do they even work in the plastic cars? Then WHAT IS THE POINT) and dogs that whisper “Hug meeee” at four in the morning when you’re walking to the bathroom. You can look behind you and see the non-parent side for a little while. Then Dora the Explorer asks you to help her find her map and before you know it the non-parent side is nothing more than a distant memory.

The parent side has lots of surprises. You learn words like “Wubanub” and “cluster feeding” and, in our case, “hyerbilirubenimia.” But one of the most unexpected surprises I encountered was the Mommy Wars. If you’re not familiar, the Mommy Wars is an ongoing battle between mothers (and occasionally fathers) over various methods of parenting. For example: formula feeding vs. breastfeeding, strollers vs. babywearing, cloth diapers vs. disposables, velociraptor vs. t-rex, etc etc. I tend to bop through life in a cloud of glitter and Skittles and assume everyone does the same, so I was really surprised to see how often these issues popped up, not to mention the intensity of the arguments they caused. Articles are flung left and right; everyone from psychologists to school teachers to children’s birthday clowns seems to have a scientific opinion on whether letting your baby sleep in your bed will scar him for life. Sometimes people start snapping their fingers and singing and that’s when you know that it just got real.

As much as I love a good argument, I found myself avoiding these particular fights as I delved into research of my own (fine, as I copied every single thing my sister did). Not because I was offended. Not because I wanted to interview those birthday clowns for myself to see if their science was accurate. No, my avoidance was due to something much simpler. Something that I think has the potential to end these Mommy Wars forever. Are you ready for this incredible secret? Here you go:

Apathy.

Yes. Apathy. I do. not. care. I do not care if you feed your child formula. I do not care if you breastfeed your child. I do not care if your child only eats hot sauce. Not because I am a serene, peace-loving person who can rise above such petty conflicts as I practice yoga in my meditation garden. I am just too lazy to care. I am tired. I am busy. I am constantly losing one of my children. So at the end of the day, whether you strap your baby to your back in a pretty wrap or with several socks tied together, I’m cool with it. Just don’t drop the kid because that’s not cool. I mean, I probably wouldn’t turn you in or anything. Actually, just writing about it has pretty much sapped my energy so go ahead and drop little Timmy; I won’t tell.

This isn’t a humble brag where I toot my own lazy horn and show you how I win all the Mommy Wars due to my lack of judging others and indifference to others’ judgment of me. Despite the awkward, chaotic mess that is my daily interaction with people, I do care what other people think of me. I’m only human. But I am a lazy human, and while I have tried hard to get worked up over the fact that Sally Smith doesn’t believe in disposable diapers…eh. What do I care? Is Sally at my house, throwing away my diapers and forcing me to use cloth ones? Has she hired Tonya Harding to bash me in the knee so I can say a lot of embarrassing things on national television that will follow me forever? No? Then…eh. Sally can have her cloth diapers and I can have my disposable ones and somehow I think the world will keep turning.

So, parents and people everywhere – join me on the Other Other Side. The side where you always feel accomplished because your kids are alive at the end of the day and that’s really all you were going for. The side where all your decisions are right because no one was paying attention to them anyway. You don’t even have to put on real pants. Take the plunge. Cross over. Drop your cares and worries at the gate – your toddler or dog will probably eat them and then you won’t even have to step over them.

Apathy: The real future of parenting. I’d put that on a t-shirt, but…eh.

Clearly my parenting is superior to yours.

The Post That Almost Was

The Post That Almost Was

Ever since I started writing this blog, I have been trying to think of interesting and/or hilarious things to write about. It isn’t easy, you know. I have to work really hard not to do any laundry or dishes so I can concentrate on being funny for you people. It’s my sacrifice for you.

Inevitably, the best ideas for blog posts come when I am either in the shower or about to fall asleep. When I’m in the shower, I usually just give it up. I don’t have any paper. Daniel gets mad when I write in Sharpie on the walls. If I write it in soap it washes away and I get sad. So those have to go. I just convince myself that whatever idea I have isn’t funny. 
If I think of something to write about as I’m falling asleep, I desperately try to remember it. I’ll even write the post out in my head in an attempt to remember it. I will stay awake for an hour trying to think of as many details as possible so I don’t forget my idea. 
You’d think I would use all that time to go get a pen and write it down. But my bed is really comfy. 
A lot of times I remember the ideas I have right before I go to bed. Unfortunately, I am not the most coherent person when I am sleepy. I can’t even say words correctly. Ask BFF Jen. When I get tired I make as much sense as a drunken ferret with marbles in its mouth. So a lot of my ideas aren’t exactly blog-worthy. 
Last night’s idea was no exception. I am still wondering why I thought this was going to be a good idea – and a really good idea, at that. I was really excited. Way too excited. Wanna hear? Sure you do. 
I was going to write a post about my eyebrows. 
Yes. 
These bad boys right here:
See, I am very particular about my eyebrows. Actually, I am very particular about everyone’s eyebrows. I don’t really keep mine groomed in any special way. But I can. not. stand it. when eyebrow hair is brushed the wrong way. Or whatever you do to eyebrows to make them do this:
I can’t take it, people. Daniel – who, by the way, has magnificent eyebrows – likes to make his eyebrows look all crazy and follow me around until I am forced to fix them. We have a weird relationship. 
Anyway, as I was lying in bed last night, I turned my head to get more comfy and I felt an eyebrow hair pop out of place. Just one. It sprang out of line like it had been waiting for me to make just such a move so it could finally free itself from the oppressive regime of my forehead. I stand for no such mutiny and immediately smoothed it back in place. Better luck next time, eyebrow hair. 
And it was then that I thought, this would make an awesome blog post. 

I know. I’m just as confused as you are. Why on earth would that make a good post? What else was there to tell? That was literally the whole story, in that tiny paragraph above. Not a lot of plot points left. 
I guess I could have embellished a little. Like if a giant grizzly bear came and messed up my eyebrows and then,  when I woke up, tried to eat me. That would make a good post. Or if someone moved just one eyebrow hair to taunt me and left a note threatening to come back and do it again if I didn’t leave $1,000,000,000 in unmarked bills at the QT in 12 hours. That would also make a good post. Although if that happened, I assume one of the conditions would be that I couldn’t tell anyone about it so I couldn’t write the post at all. 
But none of those things happened. My eyebrow got fresh with me. I nipped that business in the bud. And then I spent the next half hour mentally writing a hilarious post about unruly eyebrows. 
I think the NICU broke me. But I like it. And so does my unicorn. He also has nice eyebrows. 
And then there were three

And then there were three

A month ago at this time I was recovering from the emergency C-section that brought Joshua into the world. They told me I couldn’t see him until the next day. We still hadn’t heard from the doctor. All we knew was that Joshua was here and he was very sick. I was begging the nurse to let me see him right then but I had to wait until my blood pressure came down. Good times.

I have been thinking about that day a lot recently. I never really had the chance to process everything. At the time it was also such a shock and felt so unreal. Then we were just watching and waiting and praying Josh would make it for the first few hours. And I just never thought about it. So I decided to write it down, to help me remember in the future and maybe help me process it. I have been having a lot of nightmares about the whole experience lately and I think this will help with that, too.

On Friday, February 22nd, I had my monthly check-up at my OB’s office. I was aggravated that I had to go because I would be late for work and I was trying to save up my extra hours for when the baby came. Although to be fair, I guess I did use those hours for the baby, after all. When I got to my OB’s office, the nurse took my blood pressure. I was already on meds for high blood pressure, which had only become an issue since I had gotten pregnant. The meds had been helping but I guess they weren’t helping anymore because my blood pressure was high. That combined with the swelling in my feet and legs, massive headache, and pain in my right side led the nurse-midwife to believe that I had developed pre-eclampsia. She didn’t want to wait for me to do my labs on Monday, so she said I had to go to Gwinnett Medical, where I was supposed to have Josh, for them to do tests.

I was even more annoyed then. I was going to miss a whole day of work. I texted Daniel and called my mom. I was fine for most of the drive to the hospital. Then when I called my sister-in-law to let her know what was going on, I started to cry. I felt like I had endangered Joshua with my high blood pressure and that broke my heart.

At Gwinnett Medical, Daniel and my mom both arrived just before they took me to a room. The nurse didn’t think they would even want to keep me overnight but they wanted to wait for an ultrasound before they let me leave. They did the ultrasound and noticed Josh wasn’t moving very much. He had a low heartbeat and nothing they did made him wake up. I realized then that I hadn’t felt him moving very much in the last few days. I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time. But that combined with his low activity level meant something wasn’t right.

The doctor came in and said we were to head to Northside Hospital immediately. There was a perinatalogist (which is fancy talk for a doctor that specializes in babies who are still cooking) that they wanted me to see. He was going to come to Gwinnett but he could get to Northside faster.

When we got to Northside, it finally dawned on me how sick Josh was when the doctor told me the perinatalogist was on his way from Monroe and was driving as fast as he could to get to the hospital. Until then I kind of thought they were overreacting. But the doctors and nurses were very concerned. There was a machine to monitor Josh’s heart rate and the nurse said it was the flattest strip she had ever seen, meaning his heart was barely beating.

The specialist arrived and did a special ultrasound. He said he was looking for how much Josh was moving, how fast his heartbeat was, and if he was getting enough nutrition from the placenta.

We were 0 for 3. He wasn’t moving, his heartbeat was slow, and he was only getting intermittent blood flow from the placenta, meaning he wasn’t getting enough nutrition. The specialist told me at the very least they would try to wait to deliver Joshua for a few more days. The only reason they would have to deliver him that night was if the blood flow from the placenta reversed, which would mean he was getting no nutrition.

I was trying to read the scan and I noticed there were some spots that were brighter than others. I asked if that was significant. He said he would explain it to me, and then, as he pointed to the screen, we all saw it. The blood flow had just reversed. If the doctor hadn’t been late, we wouldn’t have seen that happen. They told me later Joshua would have died by the next day.

The doctor told me we would be having the baby that night. He said it in the same tone you would use to order pizza. I guess he was trying to keep me calm. But I started to cry. I didn’t stop crying until we were in the operating room.

Daniel left for a minute to update everyone. My in-laws had already started the drive from Florida. Almost my entire family was there and I saw them a few minutes before they took me to the operating room.

The operating room was scary. Surgery didn’t scare me. But the idea that in about twenty minutes we would be parents was surreal and overwhelming. They told us at 6 that we would be having the baby. He was born at 7:08. That isn’t a lot of time to adjust.

Daniel was with me, dressed like a doctor and holding my hand. I was telling him knock-knock jokes and asking him to tell me stories. The nurses were talking to us, too. I think the doctor was telling a joke but I can’t remember for sure.

And then Joshua was there. They took him to go help him breathe and see how bad he was. He was in shock when he was born and his heart had almost stopped completely. When they brought him to me, all I could think was that he was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. I still couldn’t believe he was there. The doctor said I could give him a kiss, so I did. And then they took him upstairs.

The C-section was traumatic. I don’t want to be dramatic but the idea that they could just decide to take my baby from me while I could do absolutely nothing about it was terrifying. It was a nightmare. I hated it. It was like my mind thought that if I could just wait it all out, it would turn out to be a cruel joke. I would still be pregnant. My baby wouldn’t be in the NICU. But as hard as I wished for that to be true, it wasn’t. I was trapped. Our lives had done a complete 180 in fewer than 12 hours.

I felt so guilty. Everyone told me it wasn’t my fault. But it was. It was my pre-eclampsia that had caused the blood flow to reverse. Logically I know that isn’t true. But it felt true. It felt really true as the doctor explained to us that there was a 35% chance that Joshua would die. It felt even more true when she listed out all of the obstacles he had to overcome. It was hell.

You know the rest of the story. Joshua had some ups and downs but they saved him. And he’s doing well now.

So that, as they say, is that.