Thursday, January 30, 2014


I freeze up when people say how terrible the last month of pregnancy is.

Or how they wish they'd just have the baby early.

Or how swollen their feet are.

Or how they can't sleep.

Or how huge their baby is--or feels like he is.

Two pregnancies, two preemies, and many months later, and I still freeze up. I sincerely don't know what to say.

Because what's in my head--about how I wish I knew exactly what they meant, about how I wish I'd had big babies, about how I wish I had gone full term with just one of my babies, about how I'll never have any more babies, no matter how I wish I could change those circumstances. All those thoughts swirl in my head. I know I can't say any of them, and I am sorry to hear people are miserable.

It's just that having your baby early spares you none of the pain. It brings so many painful, hurtful, awful things instead.

I'm sure no one would suggest they'd rather have two pound babies. That's not what they mean. That's just where my head goes. And I know it's not fair to lay my experiences on them.

So, I say nothing. I try to offer a sympathetic smile. But, I'm sure my face, as it usually does, betrays me. I am an open book.

I'm afraid I just look frozen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Portrait of a NICU Father

Today has been a disappointing day for my husband, for professional reasons, and it brings to the surface something that I've had on my mind lately.

This blog is usually about me and my babies and our struggles. But, that's a lie. It's been unintentional, because my writing is from my perspective. But, to even give the illusion that this journey has been anything less than a partnership is to give the wrong impression. The idea that I am somehow a fighter with all my pumping and sleepless nights is wrong, because I was never in it alone. I wasn't alone in the  hospital. I wasn't alone during all those high-risk appointments. I wasn't alone in the NICU. I was never alone, because my husband was always present, even when he wasn't physically there. He was always supportive, always positive, and always encouraging. He was always my friend. Even when the stress of the situation tore at us, I never doubted his loyalty to our cause.

It makes me angry when the world treats him as anything less than a hero. Furious, really. Because they do not know him as I do.

He is the extraordinarily gifted athlete who never brags. He is the faithful employee who demands little praise. He is honest, except when he thinks he will hurt someone's feelings. He is more than nice; he is kind. I use my husband as a marker for my own impressions of people because he likes nearly everyone, and if he dislikes someone, I know to steer clear.

My husband is the man who built an entire deck, fence, and pergola from scratch with only occasional help from his father and his father-in-law. He designed it, and he made it happen, while our son was in the NICU and during his first stressful months home. How did he find the time and where did he find the willpower? That is the man he is. If he starts something, he will finish it, and not only will the final product be functional but it will be beautiful too. Sometimes, it's a shame his job requires so much of his mind and little of his handiwork, because he is gifted at much more than just finance.

My husband is so smart, but he will never tell you so. He is handsome, but he doesn't see it. He is talented, but he's always looking to improve himself. He is fiercely competitive and yet compassionate too.

But, the most amazing thing about him is that he is the sweetest father. His son worships him, and it's by no accident. His daughter squeals when she sees him. They adore him, because kids are smarter than adults. They know a treasure when they see one.

How did my husband handle the burden of working in one place with babies in the hospital in another town? I won't sugarcoat it because it was terrible. But, he managed the balancing act better than I could have ever imagined. During this last year, he performed incredibly at work, even with a toddler at home and a baby in the NICU. Do the people at his company even know that he succeeded beyond all expectations while his home life was in crisis? I expected so much out of him--too much, some might say--but he never buckled. He always kept moving forward, because that's the kind of man he is. He doesn't complain, and he doesn't pat himself on the back; he just gets the job done.

I don't know about other NICU fathers, but I am quite sure I've underrepresented his role here. And I am sorry. In sorting through my own emotions and struggling through some of the baggage the NICU left me, I failed to write about how I fell in love with my husband all over again. We don't have many date nights, and sometimes we hardly have time to talk. I hope it won't always be this way, but how can you not admire a man who will reach fearlessly into an isolette to change a tiny baby with his fingertips? Because here's the truth: my husband was better at the NICU than I was. When I shuddered to touch the baby, when I faltered, when I could not find the strength to go on, who was there to encourage me? My husband. He was the one who never declined a chance to touch or hold his baby. He was all-in, from the very beginning. He taught me how to touch J during my first visit to the NICU. He taught me how to change those terrifyingly tiny diapers. He told me not to be afraid to love that baby. He was brave and tender, all at the same time.

During moments of crisis, how was I strong? Because I had the support of a lovely man.

How the world judges him, I can't change. But, I hope he knows his value when he's home with us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding Forgiveness

I'm over a Preemie Babies 101 today with a post about the anger I harbored toward myself after J's early birth. Check it out, if you're interested.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Breastfeeding: A Plea For Kindness

I support breastfeeding. I really do. I thought I'd breastfeed my children until they were a year old.

I was wrong.

Very, very wrong.

And I can't help but get a lump in my throat when I see campaigns to encourage breastfeeding. I know breastfeeding advocates have their hearts in the right place. I know the moms who like pictures of breastfeeding groups on Facebook have the best intentions.

But what does it make me?

I could not have tried harder. I pumped 50 ounces of milk a day for the five months my babies were in the NICU. And I paid dearly for all that pumping with terrible knots that formed scar tissue, pushing me to the brink of mastitis again and again.

When moms complain about breastfeeding, I keep these thoughts to myself, because we all have our crosses to bear. Just because I couldn't nurse doesn't mean I should fail to be sympathetic to a mother who says she can't get any sleep because the baby wakes every two hours to breastfeed. Or because she can't go anywhere without her baby who is very literally attached to her. Or because she can't eat or drink anything without thinking of her little one. I know breastfeeding can be terribly inconvenient. And I do care. I would never want someone to keep those thoughts from me because I might have deep-seated sadness about so many things that were out of my control.

It's just that breastfeeding is an incredibly painful topic because it represents all that wasn't. My babies weren't born big enough to breastfeed…for months. I couldn't hold them and nurse them in the comfort of my home. We didn't bond over nursing. For us, nursing was challenging, precious minutes spent trying to get it all right before the baby got too hungry, or had a spell, or fell asleep. For us, nursing was a public activity done in busy NICU rooms behind a thin curtain with plenty of people to witness our failures.

I lived to breastfeed at home. I told myself that if I just kept at it, one day I would nurse my babies. I pumped, day and night. I cried many, many tears. I was in pain. I met with lactation consultants. I took herbs. I watched everything I ate, not just for its nutrient value but for any chance that it would discourage my production or irritate tiny bowels. I know I did everything in my power to ensure my babies could nurse at home.

With J, the stress of bringing him home after a 3-month NICU stay was just too much. He lost weight his first week at home, and his pediatrician discouraged us from nursing so that we could monitor each milliliter he ingested. Finally, after a month of me pumping around the clock, feeding a baby out of a bottle, and then washing all of the equipment involved, just to do the double set of work all over again two hours later…finally, we were cleared to breastfeed. And what happened? The woman who had been a Bessie cow producing huge volumes of milk…I dried up. My body quit on me. (Again.) I believe it just couldn't handle any more stress.

I try to encourage other NICU moms to forgive themselves when they have trouble pumping. It's so unnatural, and our bodies are already under so much stress. You just do the best you can, and then try to forgive yourself for the rest.

But, I know my advice is a bitter pill to swallow because I'm still choking on it.

Unlike J, M was a great eater, and the nurses said she would be our breastfeeder. She latched on the very first time we tried, when she weighed less than four pounds. She was tiny and amazing, and I will always cherish that moment. It wasn't long after we'd established a routine of me nursing her once a day in the hospital that she started having terrible diarrhea that caused an awful diaper rash. This continued for two weeks before we removed the high-calorie fortifier used to give my breast milk additional calories. After that, all dairy products became irritants. During her first days home, we were still battling the diarrhea, and her resulting weight loss, until I removed all dairy from my diet too. When she remained sick, we learned that soy allergies often accompany dairy allergies, and I was taking soy lecithin to loosen all of my blockages. I simply could not remove it from my diet too. I cried and cried because it seemed so unfair.

Over the course of three weeks, I let my supply drop until I had no more milk. It was a bitter time because I'd already received advice from my doctor to have no more biological children, thus no more chances at breastfeeding.

Both babies did get a substantial amount of breast milk during their first year. J actually got a mix of high-calorie formula and frozen breast milk until his first birthday. I know in my head that I must make peace with the way my children were fed. But, still nearly a year after I breastfed M for the last time, I am terribly sad about it.

I've decided that maybe more time will bring more perspective, but I can't help feeling that it will always be a sore subject. So, when I see people bashing moms who use bottles or rely on formula, I want to remind them not to be so judgmental. Truly, moms are lucky to be the ones to feed their babies. It is another amazing feat of the female body. But, you never know someone else's experiences. There are some of us who can't breastfeed--despite our best efforts. We can't. We cannot feed our own babies, and it is a failure of our bodies that we take very personally. And we don't need anyone to remind us to be disappointed.

Being unable to breastfeed doesn't make me less of a mother. It doesn't make me less of a woman. Really, it doesn't. But, try telling me that. Try telling all of us, all the Preemie Mamas, that. We already feel so much guilt over how we had our babies. We are already so angry with ourselves for failing to carry our babies full term. We see those tiny, skinny, fragile babies when we close our eyes at night. And breastfeeding? It's another reminder of all that we couldn't do for our children.

Breastfeeding Mamas, we just ask that you be kind to us. Please be kind.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why the Design of a NICU Matters

When M was in the NICU, a nurse told us that the hospital was planning a new building to house a joint children's hospital and NICU. I was surprised because our NICU underwent a renovation not that many years ago. It's beautiful, cheerful, and functional. I was also a little sad to think that I won't always be able to take the kids back to their first home. I know that sounds ridiculous--of course the building won't stay the same! After J was born, I wasn't sure I could ever visit the NICU again, and then after we spent another two months there with M, I was sure I'd never be able to really leave it behind. It was the physical space where I celebrated so many firsts with the kids: first bath, first diaper change, first time to hold them. It's where I learned to breastfeed. It's where I spent hours upon hours sitting beside their glass boxes, waiting for them to grow and come home to me.

Our NICU was fantastic. Not perfect, but fantastic. I have so many glowing opinions of the doctors and nurses, of their capabilities, of all the wonderful work they do there. However, the more I learn about other NICUs, the more I realize that a serious weakness in ours was in how its space is used. It is a city hospital meant to house many babies. The space is maximized to handle babies from across the region. Our babies had bedsides in almost every nook and cranny of the NICU, so I can offer commentary on the upsides and downsides of just about every spot. M moved so many times I lost count.

I've heard of other hospitals where the bedsides are private. Where parents can spend the night on cots next to their baby. Where mothers can breastfeed and sing to their babies without ten other sets of parents in the room overhearing. I wonder how that would have changed our NICU journey. I had a terrible time bonding with J, and for a while, I thought it was me. Only after my experience with M, did I forgive myself a little. How can a mother bond with her baby when she's never alone? Many days, in order to hold my baby skin-to-skin, I had to call ahead to warn the nurse that I was on my way to visit and wanted to do kangaroo care. Assuming all went as planned and we were present at a time when the nurse could get our baby out of the isolette for us, she still had to find and set up curtains--which sometimes were unavailable because they were needed at other bedsides. Even with the curtains for privacy, I could still hear people shuffling around, doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists and other parents. I could hear beeping and dinging from bedsides all around. There was very little privacy and even less peace.

That is no way to spend your first months with your baby.

There was one spot in particular in the NICU that we hated. We had been basking in the relative peace and quiet of a spot we enjoyed on one side of the hallway, when we showed up one day, and our baby wasn't there. M had been moved, and no one had told us. Again. So, we asked a nurse, and she directed us across the hall. And there in a spot barely big enough to accommodate an isolette was M. There wasn't room for both my husband and me to sit next to her bedside. When I did kangaroo care, we had to put the curtains up into the walkway so that people tripped on them every time they tried to squeeze past. We heard every conversation from all of the other five bedsides shoved into the corner with us. We couldn't help it. My husband and I grumbled and complained to each other. We must have had such sour expressions on our faces that the neonatologist who had been present at M's delivery laughed and asked if we were enjoying our new spot. "Not at all," was the answer.

Another area we despised was intended for the babies in the weeks before they went home. Six babies were to a room. Busy nurses often bounced between the rooms, leaving it woefully understaffed in their absence. Sometimes well-baby nurses with the best intentions were sent to cover for a shortage of NICU nurses on that floor, but their care was never as skilled as the NICU nurses. Our babies were not "well babies" and still deserved specialized treatment. With six bassinets, the room wasn't overcrowded, but during times when the NICU was at capacity, babies in isolettes were moved into the room. During one of those times, we ended up in the middle of a row of them, and we were practically at other babies' bedsides. Talk about HIPPA violations! We couldn't help but know everything about our neighbors. And I'm sure they knew much more about us than I would have liked.

That's the spot where I breastfed M for the first time. (And where I shot milk across the room with J, another blog post unto itself). Not ideal at all.

Even though there was no privacy, it was so hard to meet other families in the NICU. We were all scared of HIPPA violations, so we tried to pretend we didn't hear and see everything that happened two feet from us. Thank goodness for the parents' meetings twice a month so that we could sometimes acquaint ourselves with some of these faces we passed everyday. How much better would it have been for us emotionally to have shared a small room with just one or two other families? How much quieter? How much more private? What would it have felt like to return to the same location day after day, week after week, month after month, instead of bouncing around the NICU? There was always a new place with a different set of nurses and a changing group of babies. It had an odd way of putting us on edge, just another way for us to feel out-of-sorts, confused, anxious during an already phenomenally stressful time.

So, as sad as it will be for me to one day say goodbye to the space that housed my babies, I think there must be a better way. I am sure that such a sophisticated NICU could divide its space to better accommodate families. And it does matter. I know a hospital must be designed to provide healthcare in the most efficient way to patients, but an intensive care built for babies must also feel peaceful, private, and comfortable too. Because it will be the place where mothers and fathers learn to care for their babies. A place where babies live for months on end without their parents. A place that will be a home for these babies as they wait for their day to leave.

I hope that whenever the new NICU is built these sorts of concerns are taken into consideration in the planning of it. I would be glad to know all those families coming behind us have a little more peace than we did.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homecoming Day

J was supposed to be born in October, a wonderful month to celebrate birthdays. Changing leaves. Cool, crisp air. Carving pumpkins and anticipating the coming holidays. What is not to love about October?

M was supposed to be born in March, another great birthday month. Where we live, it's the beginning of spring. The greenest of green leaves. The excitement of gardening. Everything fresh and new. And plenty of cool weather.

I always secretly felt sorry for kids with July birthdays (like my mom). And I wondered who has babies at Christmas?

I do.

(This is a lesson in judging others. Don't do it, even if they are just thoughts in your own head.)

J was born in the depths of a hot, humid summer. He won't have class parties. His friends will be on vacation. He'll have pool parties every year, because it's far too hot to do anything else.

M was born just 8 days after Christmas. I'm sure she's destined for joint Christmas presents. Poor thing. Who wants to party at the end of the holidays? Her birthday hits just after people have recommitted themselves to exercise and diets, to changing their lives, to getting back on whatever bandwagon they fell off of the year before. On M's birthday, people go back to work after the fun of celebrating the holidays. I am sure she'll feel overlooked.

Birthdays for preemies are hard days for their parents. I've decided they will always be bittersweet because I'll always return to that black hole when I thought I'd lose them. I can't help it. What I can help is that I make the day fun for them, that I keep my dark thoughts to myself. I don't want to spoil their day.

A day that is full of joy for me is the day we brought our babies home. We waited 91 days with Jay. 91. And with M, it was 59, which comes to an even 150 days. We traveled more than an hour roundtrip through downtown traffic more than 150 times just to see our baby. More than 150 times, we walked out the hospital doors without our baby. For more than 150 days, my husband tried to balance a demanding job with the stress of having his baby in a hospital. For more than 150 days, my job was to watch over our hospitalized baby. And I still stressed over everything I missed when I had to go home.

Can I put words to the feeling of walking out of the hospital with our babies? With J, it was such a long-time coming, so hard-fought, the pinnacle of an arduous mountain climb. With M, it was so hurried, a rush in the dark of night, such an exciting surprise.

Nope, that's the best I can do. All the words I know do nothing to touch the rush of emotions I felt actually pulling away from the hospital with our babies.

So, for me Homecoming Day is lovely. I see it in the faces of people who don't have NICU babies. They don't really understand what it means to me. It is untarnished by fear. It is a lovely day to celebrate all that is good about having babies. It is a true celebration, not just of the beginning of a life but of the resilience of a little body who defeated the odds.

Our Homecoming Days fall in October and March. Great months to celebrate. It's just that in my initial planning, I got the celebration wrong. I thought we'd have birthdays then, and I had never heard of Homecoming Day.

Homecoming Day will be our own special family tradition. I've decided it's another way to honor my kids, another way for us to celebrate all that is wonderful about preemies. When there is so much darkness surrounding their birth stories, I want them to see the light too.

And it begins with M in March.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Debt That Can't Be Paid

Yesterday marked a change in one of our routines that has become a fixture in our lives: physical therapy. For the last three years, the same physical therapist has come to our home weekly, and sometimes twice a week. Last month, she switched agencies, and in order to follow her, I've had to start taking M to therapy at a clinic.

It's easy. I like the clinic just fine. But, it felt weird to see our pt in a different place. I love the honesty of children because the change was written all over M's face when we first walked into the clinic. She furrowed her little brow, looked all around the room, and then stared right into our pt's face. She seemed to be asking, "What are you doing here?"

The change definitely makes our pt's life easier, and it won't take long for us to adjust. But, when so much of our lives have been upended, seeing K every week at our home was one constant. It's strange how important someone can become to you. Sure, she's helped our kids move, which for J was quite a feat, but it's so much more than that. She's anchored me during the rough waters of the last few years: J's LONG babyhood, my high-risk pregnancy with M, our second NICU stay, and now the adventures M provides. She has so much knowledge of my kids--their personalities, their tendencies, their strengths and weaknesses. I can tell her a story about them, and she gets it. No background needed. No details provided. K just gets it because she has been here with us through it all.

I've seen people complain on preemie websites about therapy. I've heard moms say it's not worth it, and I can't say one way or another for them. But, for my kids and for me, our weekly pt sessions have been a critical part of our NICU recovery, of working our way out of prematurity and into the world.

I know our time with K is winding down. On the way home yesterday I tried to think of how I'll thank K. What will I say? What can I do?

But, sometimes you just owe a debt to someone that you cannot repay. I'll just have to hope I can pay it forward to someone else.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy Day, Sunshine!

I am so glad for today.

The last few days my mind has been replaying all the events that led to M's early birth. But, today is M's day. Today, I woke up happy. Today, it doesn't really matter how M got here but just that we have her.

Before we had to take M out of Mother's Morning Out, the teachers called her their Ray of Sunshine, and they agreed to each take turns holding her because she made them so happy.

We feel that way too. J is kind, but he's not overly affectionate with anyone other than M. She is irresistible, squishable, and squeezable; we all dote on her. She's exuberant, both in her happiness and in her irritation.

She squeals and squawks. She grunts like a little piggy. She's always making some noise. Or kicking. She is in constant motion, unless she's asleep. M just learned to army crawl across the floor, dragging her right leg behind her. It's not graceful at all, but it gets her where she needs to go, which is apparently everywhere. She's a quick learner. I watched her, in less than 10 seconds, figure out how to open a cabinet door and let it slam to make noise. In just a few minutes, we taught her to wave, and a few days later she'd added "Hey!" to it. (I think it's telling about her personality that hey is her first word.) I swear she said, "Ball!" today, as one rolled past her. It's like once she's made her mind up to try something, nothing will stop her, and I see that as an awesome trait--unless she's made her mind up to pull on the Christmas tree or put pieces of grass from the floor in her mouth or yank a bowl full of cereal off the table. I feel like she will give me so much joy and many gray hairs, but hopefully much more joy than gray hairs.

M does not see obstacles.

She's so determined...

She just keeps going until she gets where she wants!

She and J are polar opposites, and I love it. She is the warmth to his reserve; he is the regulator to her exuberance. She is willing to try anything, when he's hesitant to do anything new. She has no fear--throw her higher, flip her over, toss her around, and the louder she laughs. J has plenty of fear for the both of them. J is careful, thoughtful, and precise. I always thought he would slow her down until a friend pointed out that she might convince him to do all sorts of crazy things. What I love most are all the things both kids share. They are both so bright and so full of life and so energetic. They will keep me on my toes, that is for sure.

So, on M's special day, I am so glad we have her. I love that today is her day, and I celebrate what a unique, special, priceless, adorable, fun child she is. She lights us all up. She is definitely our ray of sunshine.

Happy 1st Birthday, M!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day 2013

New Year's Day will never be the same. Gone are lists of how I'll improve myself or what I'll do differently. Gone are lazy days of reading books I bought with Christmas money. Gone are all the other associations I have with a day that has always been a holiday for me.

For the rest of my life, it will be the day before M's birthday, the day we raced across three states from one hospital to another, outrunning the inevitability of preeclampsia. M would come early, and she would come soon. The question was only: how soon?

I have always been a spiritual person, and I have always believed in a higher being. It's a very personal part of my life, and I was raised to make my own decisions in the religion department and to only share them with others when invited to do so. I think very much about making purposeful decisions, ones that either make me a better person or give happiness to those around me. But, I don't pray much in a formal sense, and sometimes when I do, I feel a little guilty, like I'm daring to ask for more when I've already been given so much.

Throughout my life, I've had significant moments and amazing coincidences that were more than coincidences. I've had moments of clarity when I felt pushed forward in a direction, and I've felt consoled in dark times when I reached for something more profound than any person could give me. I've begged for my life, and I've begged for the lives of my children. I've sent request after request for the safe travel of friends and family, but I have only once in my life asked my God for a very specific request. I have only once asked my friends and family to pray for that one request.

And it was answered on New Year's Day 2013.

While on vacation in Texas last December, I took my blood pressure because I wasn't feeling well, and I knew as soon as I saw the results what it meant. The question was not whether M would come early, as J had, but how early. So, during the 36 hours I was hospitalized in Texas, I did not ask to carry M full-term. And I did not ask for my preeclampsia to be reversed because it didn't feel right asking for something I didn't feel could be changed.

My simple prayer request was that I somehow make it back to my hospital at home. The one 8 hours away. The one where J lived for 91 days. The one where we knew all the doctors and nurses who would care for M. The one where my high risk doctors had privileges. The one 30 minutes from our home. The one that would keep our family intact during M's NICU stay.

Reclined on my left side in the hospital, I marveled at the pickle I was in. How would I survive the stress of the NICU with my husband and son away from me? How would my husband work knowing M and I were several states away? How would my son manage without the mother who had been his sole caregiver for two years?

The obstetrician on call was so kind about our situation. He and the nurses had discussed my dilemma throughout the day, he told me. But, New Year's Eve was a stormy night, and my condition was no better. He simply could not let me go home. As he said the words, I knew he was right. He told me he'd schedule me for a C-section on January 2, assuming I was stable until then, so that the steroid shots for M's lungs had time to mature them for her premature delivery. Then, he told me goodbye and Happy New Year.

My husband and I were awake as one year rolled into the next, he on his cot and me in my hospital bed. I told him that I only had one request, other than a general one for my health and for M's: I just wanted to find some way to get home to a familiar NICU, to a hospital where things would be a little easier for us.

It didn't look good.

The next morning, as I was eating breakfast, the new doctor on call strolled in. He was handsome with dark hair, and he smiled brightly at me, as he pulled a chair to my beside. 

"How do you feel this morning, " he asked. Was this a trick question? 

"Pretty good, all things considered," I told him. 

"Do you feel like going home today," he asked. And then he smiled. I'm sure my expression must have been amusing, because I was in shock.

"You're stable. For today. I don't know when you'll have this baby, but it won't be today. You have a window to get home, and I'd like to see you go," the doctor told me.

Whether or not you're the praying kind. Whatever God you do or don't believe in. Sometimes life is miraculous, when you are handed just the one exact gift you've requested. Not more and not less. Just exactly, exactly what you've hoped for.

The doctor told me he'd woken up thinking about me, that he'd put himself in our shoes. He'd thought about what he would have wanted for his wife, for his family. He'd gone against conventional wisdom, against all logic, against all the norms about what you do with a pregnant woman suffering from severe preeclampsia who must have a C-section within a few days in order to save her life and her baby's life. He did exactly the opposite of what he was trained to do. He thought with his heart, and he did what felt right for our situation.

He let me go home. He released me, knowing that he was responsible for that decision. And with his decision, the prayer I had said over and over again--more forcefully and with more clarity than I have ever allowed myself to pray before--was answered. My one request honored.

My husband was stunned too. He was amazed, because like me, he hates to ask for help, even for help from above. We'll ask for help for others, but it feels greedy to do it for ourselves. But, we had begged for help, for ourselves and for our children. And we were in awe of the response we'd gotten.

We still are, really.

It was crazy what we did, leaving the hospital in a rush. I've never been discharged so quickly. We were off to the races, me reclined on my left side in the front seat of the car. Our toddler hardly asked a question, barely needed us to stop to feed him. Everyone was in cooperation to get home fast. Every time we stopped at a rest area for me to use the bathroom, I wondered at the world going on around us. Didn't they know we were in a mad rush home? Didn't they know I was very sick? Of course not. I didn't even look sick.

And when we pulled up to the hospital, to the entrance that had become so familiar during the months we were visiting my son, I was relieved. So relieved. Because I'd been given the chance to do it all over again with another tiny baby in a place where I was comfortable.

So, New Year's Day will never again be just a quiet day to welcome another year. My mind will always go to what we were doing during the first hours of 2013.