Sometimes I resented it like crazy that I had to ask to hold my preemie. Then, to make it that much worse, sometimes it felt like he was being yanked from my arms. And sometimes he was because he had stopped breathing. Another time, a nurse actually reprimanded me for holding him too much because, you know, once I got home with him, he was never going to let me put him down. And, sometimes, okay…a lot of the time, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I’d walk away. Often I’d go find a semi-private place in the hospital and sob.
I know you all get what I’m saying. How unbelievably hard all of it is. And how it doesn’t always get easier once you are home, away from the NICU. Surgeries happen and we have to hand over our precious babies once again and watch anesthesiologists walk away with them. Developmental delays happen and we have to live with the fear that our preemies may never walk on their own. And through it all, we stumble, we fall, we crawl. Life in and after the NICU can bring you to your knees! But we keep pressing on.
How do we do it? Everyone always seems to ask. For a lot of us, it’s our faith that carries us through. I am always reminded of, and comforted by, the beautiful “Footprints in the Sand” poem whenever I face the trials and tribulations life throws our way. I know I am carried just like the man sees in his dream. Just like the pediatric nurse who carried my then 7-month old preemie around with her just so his dad and I could get a few hours of much needed sleep (after we had held, rocked, and carried him around the hospital for 48-hours straight).
All of us, however, can say that it’s our love for our preemies that carried us, and continues to carry us, through the dark and difficult times.
When he finally began to walk shortly before he turned 3, I released a huge sigh of relief, and that’s when I think I finally learned how to walk, too: One step at a time, only looking back to see how far I’ve come. How far we both have come! Though, I can guarantee you there will still be times when we both stumble and fall.
So, when my now 3-year old big boy begs “mama, carry you” when he wants me to pick him up, you better believe I am going to. I could not carry him to term, but I will carry him now. I am going to carry him for all the times I could not: his first week of life, when he’d stop breathing, when he was in surgery. And I will never, ever, walk away again.