(Part I here)
He was tiny and beautiful when they pulled him away from me in the delivery room, but the first time I saw him in the NICU all I could do was sob and say I was sorry. And I was. From the deepest part of me, I was so sorry. My body had failed him and what should have been effortless to him in the next 8-10 weeks was now the fight of his life.
He was still beautiful. And surprisingly strong looking.
But so alone and vulnerable.
Come to find out, the percentage of water than makes up a baby's body in gestation gradually decreases by 40 weeks. So at 30 weeks there was water in his body to lose. In a matter of just a few hours I came back up to the NICU room to find my strong looking boy had shrunk to a preemie. He was even more impossibly tiny!
Over the next hours and days we became familiar with many new medical terms. CPAP, vent, desat, surfactant, PDA, apnea, brady, bili, brain bleed, residual, etc. At first it was overwhelming. Running on very little sleep does not help one's brain work any better. But after tons of questions and lots of patient answers we soon were experts.
For several days we couldn't see his face because of the CPAP machine and the mask protecting his eyes from the blue bili light. We were only supposed to touch him with firm but gentle pressure. No stroking his crazy soft skin or holding him.
Everything in me protested this. No matter how thankful I was for his life or for his care, it still felt so wrong.
Having your newborn in a plastic box hooked up to a million wires is so unnatural. It was impossible to be with him 24/7 so leaving him at all felt wrong. I climbed into the car to go home for the first time and burst out crying. Oddly enough, I didn't want him with us in his current state but he should've been safe and warm inside me not an incubator. Instead, I was empty.
Having his life decided and dictated by someone other than us as his parents was difficult to swallow. Strangers, albeit with knowledge and even care, were making major decisions for him. If we weren't there, we wouldn't be involved!
And one of the hardest parts was having another child at home. No matter what I did, I was away from one child. It's something no mother wants - to feel like you have to choose one child over another. My daughter is not clingy in general but we struggled so much those 9 weeks. Going from mommy home all the time to just a couple hours a day was very difficult for her. And for me! I wanted to be there for both of them and I just couldn't. It was an impossible task. And it was truly awful.
(Part 3 here)