Earlier this week my sister-in-law brought home her son, Alex born at 32 weeks. Two babies were born into our family this year and both of them were preemies delivered eight weeks before their due date. Crazy right? I’m thinking these babies must have FOMO like their Mama’s.
Watching them in the NICU hold their 4lb baby boy was all to familiar to me. We spent the first 31 days of Charlie’s life in the hospital. It brought back many tender emotions. It was just a few months ago that we were staring into Charlie’s isolette praying she’d come home with us.
I believe most women at some point in their pregnancy think [please let this baby come early.] With the combination of swelling, backaches, feeling like you can’t breathe, sleeplessness, and just overall can I have my body back and not be the size of a whale, it’s no wonder why we think this. Pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. That is for certain. However, when women think this, they don’t think two months early. They think like two weeks early.
When our daughter was born at 32 weeks I didn’t know that I would learn a new language. NICU, NG tube, gavage, MLs and isolette would be part of my daily dialogue. If you don’t know what any of those words or abbreviations mean consider yourself lucky. This language is only learned by those working in the hospital or by anxious parents of preemies.
Having a preemie has taught me more that just medical jargon. Below are the lessons I learned from our 31 days in the NICU.
Life doesn’t follow your plan.
I started to really understand this during our days of trying to conceive. Everybody has a vision chiseled out of when big life milestones are going to take place. Here are a few of mine.
- Get married by 28.
- Have children by 30.
- Retire by age 62 or earlier. Way, way earlier.
Sometimes you have a setback. We couldn’t get pregnant without medical help. We lost a twin. We thought Charlie might be born with a heart defect. Setbacks was the name of the game these past twelve months. So when Charlie came early it was all the more blindingly apparent that life is totally unpredictable.
Plan, what plan?
I watched my maternity leave dwindle down at the hospital. Those precious hours I should have been nursing and rocking my sweet girl to sleep at home were instead spent sitting in a hospital chair, watching her grow through her isolette. Yet as I watched her get stronger everyday I came to appreciate some things take time and are worth the wait.
Moral of the story, be flexible because life almost always doesn’t work out the way you plan.
Wait patiently or wait angrily. The choice is yours!
Eight days before Charlotte was released from baby jail / the NICU, Matthew and I were sure she was going to come home. A nurse had got us all excited that her release was just hours away. Our escape hinged on her successfully finishing her bottles for a 48 hour period. Which to our delight she had accomplished. This sounds simple, right? Not for a preemie. When you’re technically supposed to still reside in the womb, fed via the umbilical cord, suck – swallow – breathe is a really big deal. Let’s be honest, when I’m sucking down really good pizza even I have trouble with this.
After two good days of taking all her food from the bottle versus the NG tube, she was exhausted and sleepiness ensued. I was mad! I was sad! I was sick of this. I wanted my daughter under my roof. You’d think after waiting so long to get pregnant I could handle a few extra days waiting for her to come home. After all I had a daughter.
Oh yeah I have a daughter! How awesome!
And with that perspective we decided to make the most of our time.
We got projects done around the house. We slept (a lot). We went on dates. We cruised Woodward and got ice cream after leaving the hospital.
Within days we had our girl home.
You won’t be able to look at Kangaroo’s the same.
Kangaroo care was my favorite time during those weeks waiting for Charlie to come home.
Relationships will change.
When you’re in a pinch I’ve found the people who truly love you will have your back. Tough times are the gardening of friendships: the so-so friendships will be weeded out. People will surprise you for good and bad. Matthew and I just kept reminding each other how could anyone who hasn’t walked this road know how to respond. It’s always a choice to choose to be or not be offended.
Life goes on without you.
Target didn’t miss me. Outback didn’t close their doors. Hilary and Donald are still campaigning. Life kept going, business as usual. An obvious but humbling revelation.
God is ALWAYS good and He loves us FIERCELY.
For the first few weeks of Charlotte’s life I didn’t get to hold her a lot. I couldn’t breastfeed her as much as I wanted to. She didn’t live at home with us. I had to drive 30 minutes, one way to visit her but all of these inconveniences meant one thing – I had a daughter! Praise the Lord. Hallelujah!!! I hoped and prayed for this child and God answered.
If I ever doubted God before, I can’t anymore. The love that I feel for this child is not of me. Not of this world. My Mom always used to tell me that she couldn’t describe how much she loved me and my brother but I would understand once I had my own children.
Becoming a Mom gave me a miniscule glimpse into how much God loves us, his kiddos. Infinitely. Forever. Unconditionally. Patiently. Joyfully. Gloriously.
It is so good to be a child of God and it is a blessing from heaven to be Charlie’s Mom.