I’ve touched on this a little in a few blogs, but I’ve never dedicated a blog to the topic, not until now. Today. Six years later.
My memories are sketchy. They come and go like images from a long ago slide show. Some are starker than others, they play over and over, while others surface only every now and then. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday, other times like another life, another person, a story I read long ago.
I remember the day we got the test results back, a strong HCG reading. Very strong actually. And the follow-up test results, an HCG number that way more than doubled. A good sign…but also a possible indicator of twins, or more.
I remember stalling on scheduling the sonogram, because I was so terrified of what it might show. Eventually, my nurse called me asking me to come in…
I remember the relief of seeing only one baby, and one very strong heartbeat. I remember the daily injections, a blood thinner and progesterone.
I remember deciding with my husband not to tell anyone, not until we were past twelve weeks, just to be sure. Just to be safe. We’d been down that road before, and getting everyone’s hopes up again was something we didn’t want to do.
I remember the 12-week sonogram, and the 15-week sonogram, showing a strong healthy boy. But still we held quiet.
I remember around 16 weeks our little girl, 4 at the time, coming downstairs in the middle of the night and climbing into bed with us, sleepily telling us how happy she was that her twin brother, who’d died at 19 weeks while still in the womb with her, was finally coming to be part of our family. We had not said a word to her yet about the pregnancy.
I remember the phone call from a friend—a friend who knows things. She was calling to talk to me about the baby, to tell me that he had a marvelous sense of humor and to warn me that he was coming early…but that he would be okay. I had not yet told her of the pregnancy.
I remember the appointment, so, so vividly. The doctor, a perinatologist, the same one who’d performed the sonogram that revealed our daughter’s twin brother had passed away half way during the pregnancy. He was a youngish man, around our age. Blond. I remember the way he looked at me that first time, the uncomfortable sympathy in his eyes. I remember seeing that again, and I remember the instant sheet of cold that slipped through my body. We were eighteen weeks along, but our baby’s growth had slowed…just like the twin we lost, and the baby girl before him. Tests were inconclusive. No one knew why he was slowing, only that he was…and chances of a viable pregnancy were low.
I remember having to tell the family about the pregnancy—and the complication—all in one numbing conversation.
I remember going from specialist to specialist, each of them with a different opinion. Downs was discussed and dismissed. A heart condition ruled out.
I remember the kindly older Spanish doctor who finally seemed to comprehend what was going on. I remember seeing him several times a week for him to measure blood flow through my umbilical cord. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my husband each time, terrified of what the coming sonogram might show.
I remember touring the NICU at 22 weeks…just in case. Just to be ready. I remember meeting with the neonatologist. I remember all the things he told us, all the things that can go wrong with preemie babies.
I remember going on bedrest, my mother and my mother-in-law taking turns caring for me and the household, for my husband, my daughter. I remember all the food that got piled into me, in the hopes that if I kept growing, our baby boy would grow as well.
I remember waking up one morning and about an hour later realizing my left eye wouldn’t close. I remember looking into the mirror and realizing it was the entire left side of my face, frozen in Bell’s Palsy.
I remember being in the hospital for almost four weeks, so the medical staff could keep a closer eye on me. I remember the days and nights in the bed, with too much time alone with my thoughts. I remember the loneliness, the fear, the hospital food…and three times/day stress tests to monitor our little boy’s heart.
I remember the day of my little girl’s dance recital, my wonderful neighbor who dressed her and did her make-up, who brought her to me. I remember seeing two little four year olds giggling and dancing in the hospital room.
I remember the morning of Friday, May 30, going to see the kindly older Spanish doctor for a routine sonogram that turned out to be anything but. I remember him telling me “today was the day”….because he’d seen something he didn’t like. I remember calling my husband, in a meeting at work. And my mother, who ran for her car and started the long drive from Louisiana.
I remember the nurse—the amazing, wonderful, kind, dedicated nurse—who decided to put the belts on me until they took me down to L&D, just in case. I remember watching the readout…and seeing my baby’s heart-rate growing weaker. I remember the nurse rushing in, my husband by my side, the gurney race down to L&D. I remember my doctor walking in from lunch…the second he realized what was going on. I remember the drink in his hand, a yellow fast food cup a straw coming out the top. I remember him tossing it on a counter and coming to me.
I remember the race to the operating room, how fast everyone was moving, how efficient, how wordlessly. I remember my doctor’s nurse coming in and taking my hand, and promising me she wouldn’t let go. I remember the gas mask coming down on my face. And I remember the voice, right as I was going under, another nurse, her words: He’s crashing.
I remember coming to sometime later, but not opening my eyes, not wanting to, not until I knew what I was waking up to. I remember lying there with my eyes closed, drifting, listening to various murmurs. Finally I remember hearing my sister say, “Isn’t he beautiful?” and then I opened my eyes.
I remember the shock of hearing 1 lb, 13 oz, of being wheeled on the gurney to the NICU, of seeing him for the first time, my little boy, my baby, so tiny and reddish purple, his skin stretched over his skeleton like parchment, his eyes darting around the brightness in confusion and fear. I remember that it hurt to look at him. I remember that I was not allowed to touch him, because just that, my touch, might have been too much for his immature nervous (and immune) system.
I remember awaking that night in a panic attack, but having just had a C-section, being barely able to move. I remember throwing things across the hospital room to wake my husband up, so he could go down to the NICU and check on our little boy. I remember him being gone for a long, long time, and my imagination doing cruel, cruel things.
After that, it all blurs, the days and nights and weeks and months. He was small and fragile but healthy. He needed time to grow. For his body to gain strength and learn how to function on its own. I remember all the monitors, new terms like micropreemie and NEC and Brady, Pulse Ox and brain bleeds. (And yeah…wimpy white boys.) I remember countless hours sitting by his isolette, kangarooing him for the first time, calling the hospital all hours of the night for status updates and hanging onto every single gram he gained—or lost. I remember the miracle workers, the doctors and nurses who cared for him.
I remember all that, and today, six years later, I celebrate. I celebrate milestones big and small. I celebrate hope and faith and love, the power of miracles. I celebrate smiles and laughter and mischievousness, a relentless thirst for life and an unstoppable spirit. Today I celebrate my little guy.
Look out world, he’s got big plans for you.