It was a warm day in July...the 23rd to be exact and I was still in a bit of pain. I woke up knowing what the day would bring and a part of me felt ready, but anxious. I had spent the night before preparing to be discharged from the hospital, after spending 10 days in Labor & Delivery. I would be going home to start my new normal. I was officially a "NICU Mom" to a micro preemie baby boy born at 22 weeks born July 18, 2015 weighing a tiny 1lb 2.9oz, 11 inches long. While I looked forward to recovering from my c-section in the comfort of my own home, a part of me felt sad. I had to leave my new baby in the hospital, with people I didn't know but had to trust. It felt awkward and unsettling. How would I cope? How would I be able to relax? How would I be able to sleep at night being away from my first born who was fighting for his life? My husband and I were told we could call and visit anytime we wanted. We only lived about 12 minutes from the hospital so that was definitely our plan. The first few days were a blur. I was numb and in auto pilot. I don't remember crying very much until day 9 when things took a turn with our son's health. I felt like I was aging so quickly, and trying to keep it together for my family. People would always ask how Jaxson was doing, no one every really asked how I was doing. Did that bother me? A little but naturally everyone was worried about my 22 week preemie. I think if someone had asked me how I was doing I may have fallen apart. I gained strength I never knew existed. People would comment on "how well" we were handling our circumstances but little did they know I was aching inside. For the first weeks he was so fragile, he couldn't be held and touching was limited.
Not many understand the emotional toll that parents deal with when it comes to leaving your baby in the NICU. Giving birth to an extremely premature is scary beyond words. There's no manual for it, and not many people talk about it. For days, weeks and months it felt like we were living on edge. One day could be great and then the next everything could change. With that in mind it's hard to get comfortable. Our brains were constantly in learning mode-soaking up medical terms and numbers NON stop! There was no time to curl up in bed and be sad. Nope, I was pumping around the clock, going back and forth to the hospital and trying to create some sort of balance. Once Jaxson was stable after 2 months, one of our Doctors encouraged my husband and I to spend time together outside of the hospital and do fun things. That was hard for me, I felt bad for going on with life as though we weren't facing one of our biggest battles. We spent time together by Jaxson's bedside and it made us happy, comfortable so to speak. Prior to having Jaxson, I wasn't fond of hospitals so it was interesting to me that I found comfort in a place that used to freak me out.
I think the peace of mind came from just being present and not having to worry about the hospital calling us with an emergency...we were right there! Let me tell you, the fear I had going to bed at night was so real. Afraid that your going to wake up from your sleep to a phone call telling you something is wrong and get to the hospital ASAP. I really hating hearing my phone vibrate in the middle of the night. A text message or email would make me jump. Thankfully over the course of our 4 month NICU stay we never received any of those middle of the nights phone calls! Jaxson endured so much during his time in the NICU, but he showed us that he was brave and was a tiny fighter. What helped us get through was the support from our family and friends, faith, hope and unwavering love. Without these things it would've been much harder for us to get through our 119 days in the NICU.
So many parents are experiencing the NICU for the first time and trying to process their new normal. Being sad, afraid, anxious, stressed, unsure, etc. IS NORMAL for the this situation! If you are feeling any of these things, you are not crazy. It is HARD going day in and day out of the hospital without your baby. But you know what, we learned to make every moment count, we learned to never take anything for granted and we kept our hope that we would one day bring our baby boy home. And we did!
Being the mother to a little miracle has strengthened me in ways I never knew it could. I've seen miracles happen before my eyes and watched my micro preemie grow into a beautiful and healthy toddler. He is amazing and going through our journey has been such a beautiful blessing.