As I look back at the NICU journey of my 25.5 weeker, I am incredibly thankful for the beautiful baby boy who has shown me true strength and determination. He has been a fighter from day one and been through more in 9 months than most deal with in a lifetime. What a blessing it has been to witness this miracle grow and develop from a fragile 1 lb 8 oz micropreemie to a 14 lb 4 oz “big” boy.
Despite how blessed I feel for how far we have come, as I look at my stack of maternity clothes in my closet, I am constantly reminded of the last 14 weeks of pregnancy I was never able to experience. I loved that last trimester when I was pregnant with my daughter. The kicks. The movement that could be seen as I look down at my belly. Holding my growing belly and imagining how this baby would look. Feeling the response to my touch. Wondering if it was a boy or a girl. Picking out names. Setting up the nursery. The anticipation. I didn’t get the full pregnancy experience, and I am amazed how hard that hit me.
With almost no time to prepare for my son’s delivery, I spent quite a few months in shock from the whole experience. HELLP syndrome came on quick and threatened the life of both myself and my unborn son. I went into the ER Friday night, was admitted to OB around midnight, and delivered by c-section at 9:56 the next morning. Initially I was told the delivery would be in 48 hours, so steroids could be given to mature the lungs. That wasn’t an option after my 6 am labs came back showing quickly worsening HELLP syndrome. Delivery was our only chance for survival.
And survive we did, with relatively smooth courses for both of us. As a nurse in OB, I am frequently reminded how blessed I am to have made it through this whole ordeal with very few bumps in the road. I have witnessed parents lose their precious babies before they even had a chance to meet them or shortly after from complications of prematurity or a traumatic delivery. They grieve the loss of a life, their hopes and plans of a future with that baby. Yet I find myself needing to grieve the loss of those last weeks of pregnancy. It seems petty and unimportant, especially knowing there is absolutely no comparison to losing a child. I have a beautiful little boy to hold in my arms, but I still find myself staring at those barely used or never even worn maternity clothes hanging in my closet, and I am overcome with sadness.
Knowing I will not have any more children due to all of the risks involved makes this even harder. It’s the end of an era for me, my child bearing days. I always thought I would have at least three kids and even toyed with the idea of surrogacy. I’ve seen so many people struggle with infertility, being able to give someone the gift of new life would have been absolutely amazing. These dreams will never become reality for me, but they still remain.
While I may look back at this time and think of dreams unfulfilled, these thoughts fade further into the background as I enjoy every day life with my family. I may always feel a twinge of sadness as I look back on those last weeks of pregnancy that I was unable to enjoy, but I am becoming more content with what I have been given as time goes by. I have two little miracles whom I love and adore, and I could not imagine my life without them. And those plans I may have missed out on, I have plenty of new hopes and dreams for the future to keep me entertained.
Now I think it’s time to revamp my closet, sell those ever present reminders, and close this chapter. Life is calling.
Anna Shuld is a wife and mom of two. She has a 3 year old daughter and a 9 month old son. She resides in Central Wisconsin where she works as an OB nurse.
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