I was in the hospital for three more days, during which time my family came to help. I went to the NICU in a wheelchair through a long underground tunnel each day, sometimes twice a day. There was not much I could do there – I couldn't imagine how to change a diaper on such a tiny infant (her diapers were smaller than my palm). We couldn't hold her or do any of the medical things that needed to be done, and her skin was so fragile that we were reluctant to touch her unless absolutely necessary. Her eyes were still fused shut.
Baby M had surprised everyone by coming off the ventilator within 24 hours of her birth. She received oxygen assistance through a SiPap (similar to a CPAP for adult snorers). The headgear for the device covered almost her entire head. She had several IVs which delivered nutrition and medications and had monitor wires stuck all over to check her heartbeat, respiration, and temperature. Her initial test results were mostly very good – her brain ultrasound indicated no bleeds, and she began pooping right away so we knew her digestive system worked.
We got to hold her for the first time when she was four days old. A nurse wrapped her in a blanket and put her in my arms. That was the moment when the full trauma of what had happened to us hit me. I wanted to fold her up and put her back inside where she was safe, which of course was impossible. Instead, I held my baby in my arms and I wept. I wept for the natural birth I had planned for and now would never have. I wept for having had to face the biggest fear of my life and surviving. I wept for Peanut who had to watch his wife’s heart break. I wept for having only five weeks to come to terms with being pregnant and not infertile after all, for having nothing ready for her, for knowing that the next weeks and months and years were going to be a tremendous struggle for her and for us. I wept because I thought I couldn’t handle what was going to come next.
But I was wrong.
That half-hour gave me the strength to do everything that has come since and everything that will come from this moment on. That was my child, and I am her mother, and despite the traumatic beginning and the short-term difficulties and the potential long-term problems, we will be fine.
To be continued…