Our son, Harper, was born at 29 weeks weighing in at 2 pounds 16 ounces. Harper spent the next 60 days growing, struggling at times, but always fighting. Have you ever seen a 2 pound heavy weight fighter? NICU parents have and boy did I have one. No one can prepare you for the moment when you are discharged from the hospital and you go home, no longer pregnant but also without your baby. No one can prepare you for the conversation you have to have with your 6 year old son who doesn't understand why his brother isn't home and who is also really sad and scared because he's never seen mommy and daddy so sad and scared. So you cry your tears and then you realize your 29 week preemie is fighting, not crying, and so you get to work fighting the fight alongside him.
You become an advocate for your child, learning medical terminology you never dreamed you'd have to know. You quickly learn which are the "scary" beeps and noises and which ones you can ignore. You still hear those scary ones in your dreams at times. You realize that not only is your preemie a super hero but so are his nurses - they truly are angels sent down to care for our babies when we can't. Not only that but you realize they are also healing you. They are your shoulder to cry on, your distraction as you chit chat about fall fashion trends, holiday plans, really anything to keep your mind off those beeps.
Everyday you wake up and immediately call the hospital to find out how his night was - any Brady's? how much did he eat? what's his weight? - and then you gather up your pumping supplies and head back to the hospital to check in on him for yourself. You laugh (and you want to cry) when people say "well, at least you are sleeping through the night" since they don't realize that you are actually setting an alarm to wake up every 3 hours to pump. You walk past the empty nursery as you head to the kitchen to put the milk in the fridge then you wash and dry the pumping supplies and as you try to fall back asleep you accidentally let your mind wander to that isolette and to your baby with wires attached and tubes and IV's coming out of his head - yes, sometimes that's the best vein the can find. Those are the hard nights of course.
But then somedays you get to the hospital and you learn that he's coming off of the CPAP or he's finally off of the feeding tube or he's allowed to wear clothes for the first time or he's regulating his body temperature well enough he can move to a crib or he's Brady free for 5 days or he's ready to come home. Those are the moments that get you through. You celebrate those victories and then you finally go home. You cry because you aren't sure how to survive day to day any longer without those nurses by your side but you also want to jump for joy and run up and down the hallways cheering about how much of a rockstar your now 6 pound preemie and NICU grad is!
Harper came home to us after 60 days. He got to snuggle with his brother who had waited so long. We got to hold him and walk around without worrying about wires and beeps. We got to be a real family - home together - under one roof - where we all belonged.
I wouldn't change our journey - as hard as it was - it made us all stronger and it's a part of Harper and it's made him who he is today - a nearly 30 pound 2 year old who is smart, funny, stubborn, strong, courageous, loving, and fearless - a fighter through and through.