Happy Birthday, Baby. October 16 2014, 3 Comments

My kid's birthdays are a big deal…to me.  I know that's not earth shattering.  I don't think there is anyone a birthday is more special to than that person's Mom.  I typically begin reminiscing a few days before.  I become overly sentimental and emotional, lingering longer in their doorway after tucking them in noticing how big and yet how little they still look in their bed.  I bring out the pictures and now we enjoy looking at them together…I journal about the birthday girl or boy gushing my love for them and how much they have changed…what new characteristics I see in them or new things they are saying.  What they seem passionate about.  I make every attempt to capture and bottle-up these moments in time for safe keeping.  I read journal entries from years prior and just sit in rememberance.  In all the reliving and recalling, I somehow am able to recapture my heart from that day and just bask in the joy of each moment. It's like an extra layer of thankfulness comes to tuck me in on those birthday eves...coupled with a kiss goodnight of heart-break about how fast life is moving. Sigh. I love my kid's birthdays.  

Tomorrow, Bryer would be 2 and I am feeling a little stuck. My remembering rituals don't quite apply to my forever baby do they?  Here we are on year 2 of birthday's without him and I still haven't settled in on a good Bryer's birthday ritual.  I remember alright.  But, I fight the woulda, coulda, shoulda's….Why didn't I think to put some cake icing on just one of his paci dips?  Sigh.  I wish I would have done that.  

I had made it to 37 weeks.  The previous 16 I had been monitored 2-3 times per week by ultra-sound and stress tests.  As soon as baby was showing signs it would be better off out than in, they were going to induce me.  Essentially, I had to "pass" each visit.  Baby wasn't growing on target….they thought I had placental insufficiency and there was the possibility it would just give out and that's when baby would need to be born.  So, at my 37 week appointment, Dr. Lang said it was time and I would need to be induced that night.  I remember sitting in the waiting room after the appointment …tears of JOY and THANKSGIVING streaming down my face.  We had made it to 37 weeks and I was going to meet my baby!  The expectation was that baby would be small, but thrive.

"It's a boy!" and she held him up so I could see, but he was blue.  I did not get a pink, wiggly crying baby on my chest.  They whisked him away and began to work.  It was so quiet.  My mom shrank away to the corner in prayer.  Justin went by his side, but then also stepped back.  My Dr. was finishing up with me…I remember her looking at me, but she didn't have any information.  She called out, "Can someone please tell us what's happening?" I don't recall their response.  It seemed like forever, I'm not sure how long exactly.  But I finally heard a weak cry.  "Praise you, Jesus." I whispered. They brought him to me with oxygen on…took the mask off for just a moment so I could see his face and kiss his cheek.  Then he was off to the nicu, Justin following behind.

I hardly remember the first day.  I know after recovery, I went to the nicu to see him for the first time.  I could not hold him.  I just looked at him and touched his hands and feet.  I was so exhausted.  It completely undid me.  Little did I know that the tiny IV that completely devastated me, would be the first of many nightmares with those sticks.  I do remember going back to my room in a wheel chair, not sure who pushed me.  But Aaron, Kari and Mom were in the room.  Upon entering, I just broke down sobbing.  I am so glad they were there.  Those 2-ish days at St. Ann's were so…seemingly dim-lit, dark…empty.  I was in my room a lot by myself.  Pumping.  I had some visitors and great nurses, but I felt empty because Bryer was not with me at all times.  Justin was home with Remy and Sander.  It just wasn't happy and cheery like Remy and Sander's births.  I was pumping…not breastfeeding.  I wanted my baby, but couldn't hold him as I pleased.  Such is the beginning of any nicu Mama's journey, but it was all. so. foreign. 

I was discharged and left Bryer in the nicu for the very first night by himself on October 19.  What a dreadful feeling that was.  So unnatural.  I was broken and sad as I left. It was late.  I was planning to stay an extra night just because, well,  mom works there and they were going to let me keep my room. But they were getting full and there was another family in the nicu who's baby was much more critical and we thought they could use the room more than I.  So, it was all decided around 10pm that I would leave.  The unit, usually bustling, was quiet.  Mom was there.  She walked with me to the elevator.  I was exhausted to the core.  Eyes swollen and feeling heavy.  But I wasn't crying.  I leaned up against the back of the elevator.  Another woman joined us.  The doors close and she looks at me and sweetly says, "My you look tired, Mama." It was as if I was a house of cards buckling from just the weight of her breath.  I burst into tears…sobbing.  I couldn't respond. My mom put her arm around me and said to the lady, "She's leaving her baby in the nicu for his first night." The lady said, "Oh I am so sorry, dear."  I mustered a small smile and apologized for my outburst.  By that time, we had reached the 1st floor and within moments we pushed our way through the double doors. The cold and damp October night whipped us in the face.  And just like that, we were on our way home.  No baby in my arms, no balloons, no pictures, no smiles.  It was dark.  I was chilled.  I needed to pump. The first of many many nights that I would leave him.  

I walked into the house, the kids and Justin in bed.  My mom left.  Again everything was quiet.  I was exhausted, but it was time to pump.  I was also hungry, so I fixed myself a plate of something wonderful a sweet soul had dropped off and I sat at the kitchen table…I ate and pumped and pondered what was happening.  At this point, I only had one set of pump parts.  So, after I was done, I got up stored my milk and washed and dried the parts.  From start to finish my routine for pumping took about 50 minutes.  I got in bed and set my alarm to do it again in 2 hrs.  It's what I could do.

The next morning began the new normal, but i didn't know it as such - this seemingly lose-lose situation of always leaving someone.  Oh the storm that would rage within me over this scenario played out over and over as time went on.  I felt like a crazed mama bear who desperately needed to get to her wounded cub and bring him back with the others.  Wild, instinctual, stirred, compelled… I must get there now!  This day, October 20, 2012, is when they told me he would be transferred to Nationwide Children's Hospital in order to be close to surgeons due to a possible bowel obstruction.  And so it began.  

I remember talking with one of the NNP's when Bryer was maybe 2 days old.  I said, "How long do you think we will be here?" And she said, "Could be 1 week to as much as 4 weeks?"  "What?!  There is no way I could do this for that long!"  

But here is some truth that my heart would come to rely on.

"But those who hope in The Lord, will renew their strength.  They will rise up on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint." Isaiah 40:31

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil 4:13

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." Isaiah 43:2

Tomorrow there will be a little birthday tune on our lips, balloons in hand, cupcake-stuffed cheeks and as much icing as Remy and Sander want.  And I will find that place…that feeling of what his tiny bottom felt like tucked into the center of my bra as I held him for the first time skin to skin.  I will reclaim that moment and every ounce (4 #10 oz to be exact) of joy it brought.  

Happy Birthday, baby.