Wednesday, August 28, 2013


There is one thing a NICU parent wants to hear above all else. One phrase. One set of words that means everything.

"Your baby will be fine."

And it is the one thing that alludes you when you're in the NICU. No one can say which baby will need therapy, which one will need oxygen, which baby will go home in a few weeks and which baby will stay for six months. They can guess and speculate. But, the awesome and yet tragic part of tiny babies is that sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason for why one baby succeeds where another struggles.

Sure, a baby born after 28 weeks generally has a different journey than a 26-weeker. A baby at 24 or 25 weeks has a long road ahead, but so can a 32-weeker. One baby who weighs less than 2 pounds can be out of the NICU before the baby born at 5 pounds.

As a NICU parent, you want to look around at the babies going home, and you want to know one day soon that baby will be yours. But, comparing is a double-edged sword. With J, I got so frustrated about how long everything was taking him. He stayed in the NICU for an extra three weeks because he was a slow and distracted eater who could not master the NICU's feeding schedule. (He is still a slow and distracted eater...) Now, looking back, why was I so hard on him? He could breathe. He could eat. He could maintain his temperature. He had no brain bleeds. He had no illnesses. He was small, developmentally-delayed, and fantastically healthy.

I just didn't have perspective. I was still comparing him to what I had always dreamed. I'd be a champ at labor and delivery. I'd have a big, healthy baby. I'd nurse him right after he was born. Those were reflections on me and my limitations, not on J.

I think I wasted so much of J's first year grieving all my dreams. I feel so selfish, but I also realize that working through those emotions and then letting them go was probably healthier than stewing on them.

What is normal? What is fine? A NICU parent often doesn't want to hear about all the jobs they'll have after the NICU. Just the hospital stay is overwhelming enough. They are broken, and they can't imagine where they'll find the strength for any more giving. But, then those babies come home, and we find ourselves giving more than we knew we had. Therapies and doctors appointments become a new normal. The routine changes, and it is sometimes very hard. But, it doesn't mean our babies aren't worth the extra effort.

The truth is that most of our babies will be stories of miraculous achievements, of stats broken and odds defied. Most of them will amaze us with their resilience and their resolve. They will grow up to be beautiful.

They will be fine. It's just that "fine" means something different to us all, and sometimes "fine" isn't what it used to be before you had tiny babies.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Tomorrow will be my first day training as a NICU volunteer. Tomorrow, I will go back to the place where my tiny babies spent their collective first five months.

I've thought about the logistics of how I'll get one kid to preschool 30 minutes south of us, of how I'll get the baby to Mother's Morning Out near our house, and of how I'll get myself in a completely different direction to a hospital downtown--all by 10 a.m.

I've thought about the friends I'll see at the NICU. I adored so many of the doctors, nurses, and therapists there. I'm excited to see some of them again.

In a weird way, the NICU is like another home, the one where my babies had all of their firsts. I know, isn't that bizarre, to think of a hospital like a home?

But, I hadn't stopped to think how it would feel to be there again.

I felt all of it wash over me: fear, depression, anger, defeat, frustration. I heard the dings and beeps that make up the rhythm of the NICU. The smell, that hospital smell. I could almost taste it, and what does it even smell of? Strong antiseptic?

I felt queasy.

And the parents? Only God knows what they need to hear! Some of them are lost, some of them are desperate, and nearly all of them are downtrodden. I know how they feel. But, can I give them comfort? Can I find the right words? I don't look like one of them anymore. My eyes don't betray a sadness. I don't walk with the weight of the world on my back. I'm one of the lucky ones with babies at home. A fat, squishy baby and a toddler who races around the house.

But, I am one of them. I have walked in their shoes, and I want to help. I just want to help.

That's the thing about helping, though. You can't fix it. You can't make it right because you can't give them the one thing they want most of all: their baby home. All you can do is offer encouragement, support, and love, and you have to hope that is enough.

Do I have the emotional reserves to give to someone else yet? Helping is healing. I already know that. So, maybe I'm ready.

I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Missing Milk

The day the NICU lost all my frozen breast milk with M was a bad day for the nurses.

The day I discovered the NICU had lost all my milk was an awful day for me.

One day I hope I'm able to offer constructive criticism to the NICU because I'd like to tell them that accidents happen because we are human. But, more accidents happen when the nurses are overloaded. Accidents can be deadly, but they are most egregious when they're preventable and they happen to babies.

Losing breast milk wasn't necessarily deadly to M, but it called into question her care.

This is what happened:

The highest floor in the NICU is for the healthiest babies. Occasionally, nurses trained as well-baby nurses for full-term babies were called to serve on that floor. I realize that adequately staffing for dozens and dozens of babies, all coming and going at their own pace, must be a nightmare. But, our experience was that no matter how well-intentioned and otherwise skilled well-baby nurses were, they were no replacement for NICU nurses. For one, the equipment was a challenge for them. M's nurse one day didn't know how to operate the temperature on her isolette. I walked in to an agitated, red, overheated baby. This was the same baby we were only allowed to handle for short times because we had to fear overstimulating her. I'm pretty sure overheating her did nothing for her. I was by myself at the NICU that day, and I called my husband, crying, "The nurse is frying her!"

I tried to help the nurse with the bed. I had spent hours by M's bedside, but I was no expert on how to program an isolette. My baby's nurse should have been. M had just moved to that floor, and the NICU was at its highest capacity. Ever. As in, they didn't have enough bed spaces for babies. My baby was still tender enough to be in an isolette, and I believe she deserved a nurse who understood how to operate her bed. Nothing like that ever happened with J.

When we moved to the new floor, I carried a plastic hospital bag full of frozen breast milk with me. This milk was from M's earliest days. Bottles and bottles of beautiful, golden colostrum, which my tiny baby desperately needed when we were trying everything to facilitate her growth. So, I carried the milk up myself, but a few minutes later we had to leave the NICU to beat rush hour home. The last time I saw the milk, it was lying on a table waiting for a nurse to put it in the freezer.

The next day I asked M's nurse why bottles of formula were on the table beside her isolette. "Just in case," she said. As she walked off, I called, "Just in case of what?" I was producing more than 40 ounces of milk a day. Every time I was at the hospital, I left a day's worth of milk, and a whole bucket full of frozen milk was in the freezer.

The next day when I arrived at the NICU, the nurse was feeding M a bottle of formula. After all the nights I lost sleep while I was pumping. After all the hours I spent each day attached to that infernal machine. After all the time I listened to that stupid whirring pump, like I was some cow. My eyes felt like they might pop out of my head. Or I might start crying uncontrollably right there. Instead, I tried to solve the problem. "Why are you feeding her formula?" The nurse looked like a deer caught in headlights. "Because she ran out of milk this morning." I felt like crying again. "Why didn't someone tell me?!" She apologized, but I was completely confused. I stumbled on, trying to piece it together. "But, I don't understand. I leave milk everyday. She only eats a few ounces a day, and I produce more than 40. There is milk in the freezer. There's no reason to feed her formula." That's when she told me there wasn't any milk in the freezer. I was incredulous. "Two days ago, when M moved up here, I brought all the bottles of milk up here myself." She checked the freezer again. Another nurse checked the freezer. A nurse checked the freezer downstairs. The charge nurse checked the freezer.

There was no milk. I think my milk sat out, thawed, and was thrown away. I think someone knew it. A whole bag full of labeled bottles doesn't just disappear. I'm sure it was an accident, and I forgave that. What really shook my confidence was that no one told me. All it would have taken was one phone call to identify the problem, and no one had the time to call me.

What if the mistake had involved medicine? Or what if the mistake had been over oxygen? What if she'd had a reaction to the formula? Would someone have told me?

I wasn't so sure anymore. And leaving a baby behind day after day after day requires trust.

During those weeks, there were times when we called the NICU to check on M. No one answered the phone. No one had time to answer the phone. For hours, we'd call, and no one answered. Do you know what that will do to a mother who has to leave her baby behind?

The worst days where when the nurses had four babies. Four preemies with a range of challenges and complications. FOUR. There were six babies in the room. When the nurses had three babies, two nurses were present in the room. When they had four babies, the dynamic totally changed. One nurse was split between two rooms, so when both nurses were preparing bottles or getting supplies or out of the room for some other reason, we'd look up and realize we were in a room with six preemies and no nurse. That's unacceptable. As a parent, that instills no confidence whatsoever. As a nurse, I cannot imagine what that 12-hour shift must be like. It's not fair for anyone.

We spoke with a head nurse who assured us that these problems wouldn't happen again. We did it in a calm and respectful way, but we were adamant. And things did get better. I'm not in healthcare, so I don't know what the answer is. I just know that nurses having four babies in a NICU is awful for everyone involved.

And the missing milk? We never heard from it again. Every time I open our deep freezer and pull out a bag of milk for M, I lament that golden colostrum that probably spoiled in a trash can.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I finally got up the courage a month or two ago to open J's journal that documents his NICU stay. It wasn't as painful as I'd expected, so now I've gotten the courage to sift through my posts on my personal blog. It is actually much harder than I anticipated. The posts are usually short, but the emotion in them cuts through my heart. Looking back, I know how awful some days were, but it's hard to remember exactly what I was thinking at that moment in time, without any perspective on how things would turn out.

One post that affected me was about PTSD. Here's what I said two months into J's NICU stay:

Not to belabor how difficult this journey has been, but apparently NICU parents can have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to a NY Times article. I try to focus on how fortunate we've been, but staying positive is becoming increasingly difficult. I can feel myself starting to pull away. Does my own son even know me? I feel helpless to comfort him. It's not right for a little one to have such a rough start, with all the poking and prodding and needles and tubes. And I have no privacy with my own baby, even when trying to learn the art of breastfeeding with a very sleepy preemie. Every word spoken to him can be overheard. Now, I can't even touch him, skin to skin. The MRSA outbreak means that for his own safety I have to don rubber gloves and a Hazmat gown just to hold him. The entire situation is so artificial.

I know, I know. It's necessary. It's temporary. It won't always be this way.

But, with each passing day, I shut down a little more. I can't help it. Otherwise, it just hurts too much to leave your baby with strangers day after day.

Our experience has been nothing compared to some parents, so I can totally believe the whole PTSD thing. I just hope we get out soon--preferably before RSV season starts, which is fodder for another worried blog post for another day.

I am struck by my fear over my connection with J, which, as it turns out, was legitimate. I had a hard time bonding with J when he came home. I went through each day sacrificing everything I had to give him, but it was out of a sense of responsibility and duty. I owed it to him to be a good mother. The confidence I now have as his mom and the playful relationship we've developed took more than a year.

I'm also touched by the topic, that PTSD can haunt parents long after the NICU. Even in the middle of our first NICU stay, I was trying to balance complex emotions: fear, loss, joy, anger, despair, anticipation. Some days I just put one foot in front of the other other and shuffled through the day. On good days, we laughed and cried at the beauty of J's little life. But, it was a terrifying time, and even as I write this, it takes nothing for me to feel the despair wash over me again.

What happens when you start your parental journey with such trauma? Are you a better or a worse parent for it? Are you different from other parents? Do you have more of a relaxed approach, because the sting of the NICU puts life's challenges into perspective, or do you have a focused approach, because life is so tenuous? Even though our kids won't remember their beginning, does it affect them? Somewhere in their being, do they know the road they've traveled?

I don't know. But, I do know that the NICU puts a brand on you; it's a mark that will never come off. We are still in the middle of it all, too close for much perspective. But, I am aware of all the ways it has shaped my husband and me. Do I still feel the trauma? Yes, every, single day. But, I also feel so much joy that comes from rising out of a dark place. In that way, we are fortunate. The most fortunate. It's too bad I can't go back in time and tell myself that the shock waves would pass and a peace would follow.

But, it's probably a good thing that I can't go back and tell that poor, tired mama that she was only halfway through the first NICU stay.

I'm sure she'd say, "Wait, what?! We'll do this all over again??!!"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kangaroo Care

Before my babies, I didn't put much thought into how and when I would hold my babies. I figured after they were born, someone would hand me my baby, and that would be the beginning of our lives together. But, my babies came out the size of bullfrogs, and J was so early that just our touch stressed him out. In his first four days, there was no holding at all.

When I first heard the words kangaroo care, I thought it sounded so exotic, when really it is the most natural of all treatments. All it meant was me holding J on my chest, his skin against mine. Sometimes I tucked him into a tank-top, and sometimes I snuggled him under a hospital gown. Sometimes we had a blanket over us. Sometimes we reclined, and sometimes we slept. Sometimes I'd look down, straining my eyeballs to focus on the baby under my chin, and I'd see his little eyeballs rolling around. He could smell me, hear me, and sense me. Sometimes this was our only peace in an entire day, the only moments when I truly relaxed. And then the monitors would ding or a nurse would say our time was up, and just like that, the spell was broken.

What did it feel like to hold a two-pound baby? Like snuggling a skinny, hairless kitten. Warm, smooth, bony, and fragile. With cords running every which way. It could also be stressful. For months, J would have an apnea spell and forget to breathe. We learned how to massage his back and talk to him, or how to prod him if he took too long to come back to us. We learned how to doze while literally keeping one eye cracked to watch the monitor with his stats. But, only once was he stressed on us; nearly every moment of kangaroo care, his numbers told us he was blissfully happy. High oxygen saturation, low heart rate. Our essence as humans makes us need that human touch, the warmth and comfort of a caretaker; yet, preemies as early as J have nervous systems that cannot handle the very touch they crave. So, kangaroo care is the simplest of all solutions: put a warm body with a steady, beating heart against the fragile body of a preemie and watch the preemie relax.

One of my frustrations was that kangaroo care was work for the nurses, and a few--just a few--of them let you know it. Some of them even discouraged it. They had to get the baby out and keep an eye on the baby's stats and put the baby back. That's all harder than if the parent just sat by the baby's bedside and asked nothing of a nurse. There was actually one spot in the NICU where doing kangaroo care was virtually impossible because there wasn't room for a chair. Discouraging kangaroo care for its inconvenience always put me in a foul mood.

I remember the last time I did kangaroo care with M. I knew it would be the end because she was just beginning to bottle-feed once a day. The nurses didn't want to overwhelm her, so we cut out kangaroo care and made bottle-feeding the only time a day that we handled her. I was holding her on my chest with one hand underneath her tiny, chopsticks for legs. My palm was on her diapered bottom, which easily fit in my hand. I lightly touched the reddish down she had for hair on her head with my fingertip, and I twisted my neck so I could look into her face. Her eyes were the size of my pinkie fingernail; her nostrils were dots. I memorized her and the feeling of her on me. It was dreamlike, because who can imagine she will ever hold such a baby? "I will remember this moment forever," I told my husband.

The value of kangaroo care simply cannot be understated. For the baby or the mama.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Celebration

My husband came home last night and said a coworker's wife had their first baby, a healthy, 7-lb girl. His boss sent the new parents flowers from the company, which is such a nice gesture. When you celebrate a joyous occasion, don't you want to know you have support from every corner of your life? But, my husband's question to me was, "Why didn't the company do that for us?" And we both know the answer. When you have a preemie, people don't send flowers and cards and balloons and presents. They feel sorry for you. I had to cancel my baby shower because it was the week after J was born. I didn't even bother to plan a baby shower with M, and it's a good thing. We would have missed it too. You don't leave the hospital with a cart full of gifts from well-wishers. I saw those people, and they didn't have preemies.

I want to be clear that it's not about the actual gifts; it's about the gesture.

My husband's comment about having preemies made us both a little sad. "There's no celebration." Why isn't there a celebration? They are still babies, we were still new parents, and bringing them home was still a joyous occasion--it's just that it took us longer to bring our babies home.

Babies are special. Preemies are just extra-special babies, and they deserve a celebration too.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Coming Changes

J's state-funded intervention has been phenomenal and aggressive. Physical therapy twice a week for a year and once a week for an additional 18 months. Speech therapy twice a week for a year. Placement in a school that specializes in developmental delays for nearly two years. His intervention has been impressive. In fact, I'd put it up against any other state. I really don't think J could have had more help in catching up with his peers.

Studies show that the earlier a child can get intervention, the better the child will do longterm. But, here's the problem: All this intervention doesn't come cheap. Insurance companies and state governments pay a pretty penny for it. I am conscious of the fact that J's therapy came at a great cost when there isn't much extra money lying around in state budgets.

I have just learned that M's experience may be totally different from J's. She's already receiving physical therapy, so hopefully she's guaranteed that service until she begins to catch up with her peers. She's seven months old, and she doesn't roll over from back to front, much less sit up or crawl. She needs help that I am unable to give her. But, the state is encouraging a less expensive approach: send a teacher into the home to talk to the parent. My response: about what? I have had this service with both J and M, and I can vouch for its limitations. Someone can look at her and give me suggestions, but what about when she's on the verge of walking and clings to every piece of furniture in the room for months without letting go, like J did? Or what about when she struggles to say any words at all at age two, not even calling me "Mama," just like J did? She was less premature, she's a girl, and she seems like a natural extrovert, so maybe she won't need all the services J had. But, I can promise you, I am no substitute for trained teachers and therapists, no matter how much you talk to me. I can try, but I am her mother, not her coach. And J needed lots of coaches.

It doesn't matter? One day all kids will catch up? Not necessarily. And at what cost? My friend with quads has all of her kids in a public preschool. They didn't get the therapy J got because the philosophy in her state is different; less therapy up front in the hopes most kids won't need services later. Wrong! Now, the state is paying teachers full-time to teach her children. J didn't qualify for state preschool, but he would have qualified had he not had all of the intervention. Of that I am sure.

There is the argument that when we were kids, such services didn't exist, and we turned out just fine. My response: there are more preemies now who survive. J wouldn't have lived a few decades ago, so how can we even make that comparison? And delays are being diagnosed earlier. Does that mean we should ignore diagnoses until children are school-aged? And I'm not just talking about my preemies. I'm talking about kids with autism, Down's syndrome, and cerebral palsy. I believe in being proactive, because I see the happy, healthy child that J is. Without all the enrichment he's received from his skilled team, what would he be?

My philosophy is you can pay now, or you can pay later. I'd rather, as a society, that we put the effort into our tiny babies. We don't have the money for that? Then, our priorities are all wrong.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Summer

I have been on a journey. I went away tired and ready for a vacation, but I found so much more than what I was expecting.

Growing up, I had a strong sense of self, and defending myself came easily. I found a bookmark from my elementary years that has a note in my handwriting on the back that says, "Don't you ever, EVER touch my things again." It was public school, and I had attitude.

My little sister had a birthmark as a baby, and I remember being on the playground with her, silently challenging anyone to say a word to her, my eyes meeting other kids' eyes head-on. If they had hurt her, I probably would have knocked them between the eyes. I had swagger.

In high school, I was Student Body President two years in a row. The seniors were less than thrilled that a junior would speak for them at their graduation. I was unapologetic and unafraid. In fact, I discovered that I loved public speaking.

Peer pressure. What peer pressure? I did a move like my dog does, stiffening my whole body. If I didn't want to do something, I refused. Solidly. Stuck in place. Stubborn was what I was.

As a teenager, I was dissatisfied with our youth group at church. We didn't talk about anything spiritual, and I needed more. So, I went to our priest and asked for more. He kindly demurred. I left church for a while. My parents raised me to make my own decisions for my own reasons, and I did.

I loved the freedom of college. I chose my own courses. I met fascinating people. I studied French for a summer in Paris for goodness sakes. Whatever problems I thought I had, I didn't have problems. Life was vibrant and beautiful and self-centered. I was young and naive and ready for a challenge.

My first job was a giant catastrophe. My husband and I were just beginning our lives together, and we were clueless and broke and in a city where we didn't belong. We moved home with our tails between our legs. We had a series of stops and starts, missteps along the way. I found myself losing my voice, my swagger, my confidence.

I went back to graduate school, and I dreamed big. I was accepted to one of the best programs in the country, and I felt wholly undeserving. Looking back, I shouldn't have sold myself so short. What happened to my sense of self? I let people judge me because I look younger than I am, and for the very first time that I can remember, I allowed people to talk to me as a child. Ask my parents. As a child, I rankled when people changed their tone to talk to me. "Why are they talking to me like I'm a kid?" to which my mom replied, "Well, because you are a kid." Even then, I wanted respect, and I expected the respect one human being should show another. And yet, I lost that sense of self. I was so worried about politics and pleasing the right people and not saying the wrong thing to the wrong person that I said little. All my ideas, my hopes, my opinions, I squelched them, just at the time when I had the luxury of being in classes designed to plumb the depths of my thoughts.

I came to hate public speaking.

I lamented to those closest to me that I'd lost something along the way, and I didn't know how to find her.

I had a baby while I was writing my dissertation. In a new city. Six weeks after we'd moved. He weighed 2.5 lbs. It was a shock, and there was no time to think about myself. I was struggling with guilt and exhaustion and fear. And a baby in the hospital.

When my son was 9 months old, I defended my dissertation. I became a doctor of philosophy. I was really proud that I hadn't given up on myself. It was the culmination of a hard-as-hell year for me. I went to an academic conference, and everyone else was newly employed. I felt out-of-place because my world was therapy and developmental milestones. There was no room for anything else, least of all my professional ambition. I pushed pause, taught a few classes part-time when I could make my schedule coordinate with my son's, and resolved to table my ambition for a while.

Nothing will humble you like motherhood. Nothing.

Then, I had another preemie, and again there was no time to think of myself. I delved into the care of my children. There was no choice to be made. I was doing what was right for my family.

But, all those hospital experiences, the determination it takes to parent a special needs child, and my newfound gratefulness at the simple things in life, they were working on me.

Last week, I attended the annual academic conference again. It had been two years since I'd seen most of my friends from graduate school. I also had a chance to see two friends from college and my childhood best friend. It was the first time I was away from my kids in two years. I expected to giggle and chit-chat and have nerdy discussions. I knew taking some time would reinvigorate me and give me a fresh perspective. But, I was wholly unprepared for what I received. The love. The acceptance. The kindness. The warmth. The encouragement. The support. It was absolutely overwhelming. I wasn't the mother or the wife or the health advocate or even the teacher. I was Just Summer. And then the strangest thing happened.

For the first time in a decade, at a place in life where I sometimes look around and marvel at where this journey has taken me, I found what I was missing. I know the exact moment when it happened. I heard myself tell the truth and give some attitude while doing it, and I was amazed. After spending my twenties trying to find a balance between kindness and permissiveness, there she was, feisty, full of sass and a zeal for life.

I wanted to scream, "Where the heck have you been?!"

It was a relief, after all this time. But, it's clear to me. To become this woman, I needed two tiny babies. I needed the career diversions. I needed these challenges, and I am so thankful for it all. On the surface, I am a part-time teacher and a full-time mother. But, underneath, I am Just Summer.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bellies After Birth

I just read a post on the Huffington Post about body image in the months after pregnancy. Here it is if you're interested:

Kate Middleton and the Mom in the Mirror

I definitely agree with most of what the author says, especially about how unrealistic it is for any of us to believe we'll ever look like we did at 15...particularly in the months after having a baby. One of my pet peeves is celebrities acting like they didn't have trainers and cooks and housekeepers and nannies to help them have the time and energy to lose post-pregnancy weight in a matter of weeks. Besides, it's their job to look good, as superficial as that sounds. Most of them need to get back into shape so they can act or perform or whatever it is that they do in the public eye. Most of us don't have that kind of help and shouldn't have that kind of pressure. But, in response to Kate Middleton's small post-baby bump, the Weekend Today Show meteorologist said that she never knew women's bellies didn't just shrink after having the baby. That is what we're dealing with here.

[Insert a major eye-roll.]

How in the world can a woman spend 40 weeks growing a baby and then 24 hours later look like it never happened?! It's illogical, idiotic, and insulting. Especially for a woman to say such a thing about another woman!

In the weeks and months after I had my babies, I had people tell me that I looked like I had never been pregnant, and it didn't feel like a compliment. I knew that's how it was intended, but here's the reality: if I had carried my babies full-term, I wouldn't have looked that way. I only gained 15 pounds with my son, because I had him 14 weeks early. I hadn't even gotten to the point in pregnancy yet when you actually start gaining a pound a week. When people commented on how slim I was, as I trudged in and out of the NICU, it actually made me feel guilty. When well-meaning moms said, "What's your secret?" I wanted to respond with, "Skipping the whole third trimester."

And so here's my point. If the only way you can lose all your baby weight in a month or two is either to have an army of people helping you or have your baby three months early, then I think such a goal is totally unrealistic. We should be more focused on the cute baby and less focused on the remaining belly. And at least give a mom the same amount of time to lose the belly as it took growing the baby in it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Photo I Hate

You know how sometimes you remember exactly what you were thinking when a photo was taken? I was organizing some photos yesterday, and I came across this one. It was taken just a few days after M's birth, the first time I was able to hold her. 

I didn't want my mom to take the picture because I was about to cry. I was looking into M's starved, skinny, sunken little face, and I was thinking, "I have failed. I have failed you!" This should have been a special moment, the first time I had M in my arms. But, when I see it, I feel a crush of sadness. I can see the pain I was trying to hide. It is right there, on my face.

This photo breaks my heart.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Face of Preeclampsia

This is what severe preeclampsia looks like. I thought I was just 29 weeks pregnant. Apparently, I was 29 weeks pregnant and carrying about 15 pounds of water weight. This is a few hours before I was hospitalized. When I see the photo of someone who looks just fine on the outside, I still can't believe it. I had stroke-level high blood pressure, and I wasn't even flushed! Seven months later, it is still bizarre.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Preemie Mama Thoughts

How does a Preemie Mama think?

The other day I noticed that M recognized her brother's name. I said it over and over, and she searched the room with her eyes until they settled on him. And because she's got the sweetest disposition, she smiled every, single time she recognized him. I was surprised that she already knows his name, and she's known her own name for a while. So, I started testing her. Did she know Mama and Papa? And she did. Each time she searched the room until she found the person. Of course, all parents are excited to see their child learning, but here's the difference. I am a Preemie Mama surrounded by statistics about all the ways my children will be different, abnormal, delayed. I am thrilled every time I see J run or laugh or talk. I am overjoyed at how smart he is--far more intelligent than my husband or me. It is just another way he has overcome the odds.

So, what was my first thought at realizing M is learning names? Relief. Because it means that she's already overcome some of the statistics.

And that's how a Preemie Mama thinks.