Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Motherhood, Part Two: The Beginning

Late that first day, when I was still groggy but not as much as I'd been earlier and after having been visited by what felt like 50 relatives and friends, I noticed that one particular thought kept flashing in my already-throbbing brain: the very thing I'd prayed would not happen, happened. I was fascinated and scared by this, by the way that, for the first time in my life, I'd prayed for one specific thing not to happen and it happened anyway.

I did not enter into a crisis of faith - I didn't have the strength to get all deep and existential about it. I just marveled at the realization over and over again, my brain, I now realize, addled by morphine and magnesium sulfate. But I could do nothing with it, nothing more than think, well shit, look at that. What this said about God or the universe, I couldn't fathom. And honestly, I didn't really care.

It would be another day before I realized the truth: I had NOT actually prayed for this specifically to not happen. What I'd actually prayed for was this: please don't let me go into early labor and lose the baby. And that had NOT happened. Instead, I'd gotten suddenly sick, very sick, and the only way to save my life and the baby's was to get him out. An emergency c-section later, my son was in the NICU, tiny and fragile and critical, but alive. Not lost or dead - alive.

I probably spent a few more hours obsessing over that - over the discrepancy and the way that my prayer had been honored, but barely so. I recall these thoughts, but fuzzily. Five weeks after my son entered this world, details of those first couple of days are already kinda blurry. I credit the drugs and intensely terrifying and overwhelming nature of his first 48 hours for that.

This new chapter of my life begins here: in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit, where we practically lived for five weeks, waiting for our son to grow strong enough to come home, a miracle we accomplished this weekend. 

Born seven weeks early, he has been stable and subject only to "typical preemie stuff," as nurses and doctors have repeatedly told us. I don't know how true that is, if any of the issues that have come up were downplayed to spare themselves hysterical parents (I don't say that as a criticism; these folks must deal with all kinds of parental craziness all the time). Perhaps if anything had become truly critical, that would have been the time to be straight with us. I don't know; I've just had take each day as it comes, trusting the NICU staff and working with them to help my son.

My son. Oh, he is divine. He is tiny and sweet and looks a lot like his father, with a splash of his big brother for good measure. He's got a temper on him, wailing when his diaper is changed and when he's hungry. Barring that, he is calm, his vitals perfect when he spends hours in my or my husband's arms. Once he was feeding well on the tube, without spit up, they let me put him on my breast and he's been a total champ. The highlight of my day is watching him latch on and chug away. It makes all these long, long weeks of near-constant pumping (and the exhaustion, soreness and obsessing about having enough MLs for each of his feeds that comes with it) worth it.

But this is not the beginning I imagined, and part of being a new mother all over again has been accepting the unnaturalness of his premature birth. I couldn't see him the day I gave birth to him. I couldn't hold him for another two days after that. It was almost three weeks before I could nurse him. My life became contained within a hospital room - actually, to the chair next to his crib where I could hold and nurse him in full view of the security camera. There was nothing else for five weeks, nothing but the exhausting routine of getting Max off to school, driving 25 miles to the hospital, spending all day there and making it back home in time to do homework, dinner and the nighttime routine with Max. Ah, Max. There was also all the time I took from Max, especially on weekends, because he could not be with us in the NICU and I had to make the best choice possible as far as figuring out which son to be with, and when, and for how long.

There's no point in dwelling too much on these things, but they have been difficult to live through. I am grateful for the care he received but nearly went insane with the long weeks of waiting and fearing the worst. I spent too many nights worrying the phone might ring in the middle of the night and too many days feeling dread every time his monitor would go off. It's been impossible to feel relief every time he makes it to another day when no one can tell me the one thing - "Your son is going to survive" - that I need to hear the most. It's been better since we've been home, where we can be comfortable as we settle into a new routine, but the fear lingers - it's like I've got NICU PTSD.

It'll wear off, I suppose, one day. It helps greatly that we are home and that he is healthy. I think every day that it could have been so much worse, that all things considered, we got off easy. He avoided major crises and was generally stable, and has been steadily growing and thriving. We made it home with this sweet, darling little bug that's completely won us over. We are settling into a new routine, the three of us hunkering down as a team to take care of the baby while staying afloat above the exhaustion.

And so, I begin again. 

Say hello to Santiago:




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Posted by Tere @ 2/13/2013   | |

10 Comments

  • Blogger CJ posted at 2/13/2013 10:40 AM  
    He is absolutely beautiful. As a VERY long time reader, I cannot tell you enough how very, very happy I am for you!
  • Anonymous C e l i n a posted at 2/13/2013 10:43 AM  
    Mazel Tov Tere!
  • Blogger Mary Gilmour posted at 2/13/2013 11:47 AM  
    So glad to hear that you are this far safely. and so glad to meet your beautiful second son.
    all my best wishes that all contine well.
    Hugs!!
    Hope you are giving and getting a lot of the.
  • Blogger Freckle Face Girl posted at 2/13/2013 11:52 AM  
    Simply amazing! You've been through a lot to get that handsome little guy. Congrats!
  • Blogger AmandaDufau posted at 2/13/2013 3:15 PM  
    So nice to meet you, little Santiago! Can't wait to see you in person.

    The NICU PTSD will wear off before you know it.

    Besitos!!
  • Blogger Maria de los Angeles posted at 2/15/2013 3:28 PM  
    Sorry you had to go through that Tere but sending you lots of best wishes! He's beautiful! Congratulations!
  • Blogger Dayngr posted at 2/17/2013 4:11 PM  
    Congratulations! Hope baby Santiago is doing well.
  • Anonymous Psychologists Sydney posted at 2/18/2013 12:23 PM  
    It was simply amazing! Glad you had gone through all of that safely. Your little Santiago is beautiful. Congratulations!!!
  • Anonymous Zee posted at 2/21/2013 11:34 PM  
    Congratulations Tere! As a long time reader, I am so very happy for you! Your little boy is beautiful!
  • Blogger Tere posted at 2/28/2013 5:06 PM  
    Thank you all for your good wishes!
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