It's a sudden thing, pre-term labor. At least for me it is. I'd spent eleven long weeks on bedrest in 2010 for preterm labor only to be induced 5 weeks after that because I didn't actually go into active labor! I'd had a few contractions this second time around and I even went to the hospital once, but the day she put me on bedrest (at 30 weeks), I expected to be...
Even in my wildest dreams (even the hormone induced pregnancy kind - ifyouknowwhatImean) I never thought within a matter of hours we would be racing to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning only to find out that our son was indeed on the way and there was nothing we could do about it. Nothing, except push his tiny life into the world and face this unexpected and shocking reality.
Pre-term labor and NICU life is a beast, friends. You want to be happy that your son is alive and stable but the grief of a pregnancy ended too soon, a 3.5 pound child dependent on machines to care for him, and your body unable to keep giving him what he needed most is overwhelming. The dreams of your seconds old son being laid on your chest, nursing him immediately, and the normalcy of simply "rooming in" quickly disappear. What's left is you, alone, pumping every three hours wondering if you would get the call in time if something did go wrong upstairs and what exactly went wrong to get you there in the first place? I didn't sleep for two days straight - the adrenaline was just too powerful. So there was lots of time to think. Too much, in fact.
"Why is there a stranger changing my baby's diapers? It should be me."
I wasn't there for his first bath or when his cord stump fell off.
We couldn't hold him and barely could touch him for fear of overstimulation.
Babies should be held and kissed. Their impossibly soft hands and feet caressed. Their newborn scent drank in deeply. But for us, there was nothing. Nothing except my wheezy Medela. My baby should've still been kicking inside me but instead his tiny lungs were working so hard to do what they shouldn't have had to.
It was the hot middle of summer. He wasn't due until fall.
(See Part 2 here.)