I vividly remember lying on the stretcher gushing blood in a silent panic as the hospitalist said to me, “You’re going to be here for the duration.”
The duration of what?
I have six more weeks to go.
I haven’t even packed my bag yet!
You know, the perfectly organized 2-night-stay bag that all of the mom bloggers post about?
That was four years ago. The next day I delivered a 34-weeker. He weighed 4 pounds, 14 ounces and I remember nothing of his birth. I awoke from general anesthesia in a fog thinking, “Did I just have a baby?”
Thirteen weeks into my pregnancy I discovered through a pulmonary embolism that I have two rare blood disorders causing my blood to clot easily. I spent the rest of the pregnancy giving myself shots of blood thinners twice a day. When I felt a pop at 34 weeks sitting on the couch, I had no idea I had abrupted and how complicated all of my blood issues would make the end of my pregnancy. Turns out I had developed preeclampsia, turned HELLP syndrome. The anemia and headaches and general slow recovery would make our NICU stay much more challenging.
Though not a micro-preemie and not nearly as fragile as some, he did need to be intubated, given surfactant, and quickly whisked off to the NICU. My husband frantically rushed back and forth from the recovery room to the NICU and back again. I kept saying, “Take more pictures and bring ’em back to me!” Later he confessed that he felt silly taking more or less the same shot because our preemie did little more than move his arms and legs from time to time and stayed in the same general position asleep in his isolette.
Twenty-seven hours later I met him for the first time. The nurse told me to gently put my index finger on him and to not stroke him. Forget about holding him today or the next day. Not quite my romantic dream of motherhood. Two days later I was able to cradle my child. That’s the moment I felt like I officially became a mother.
Despite all of the trauma surrounding my pregnancy and his birth, he’s doing well. He’s a typical four-year-old and keeps me on my toes.
Everything about being pregnant was hard for me and we really questioned whether or not we should have another biological child. That’s why a positive pregnancy test last fall really brought all my fears rushing back again. I had no idea the extent of my PTSD until I saw a double blue line. I didn’t think I had it in me to do another NICU stay – until I was forced to.
I think it’s common for mommas of NICU babies to question whether or not to have another baby. You watch your friends do it and it looks so easy. I know for me I got a lot of advice from others about whether it would be wise to have another. Honestly, none of it was helpful. Even advice I got from various doctors was conflicting. Baby number two was a surprise for us, but whether or not we would have planned it, it took lots of faith to walk the road of pregnancy again.
This time I made it to 37 weeks. But at a seemingly healthy 5 pounds, 9 ounces we knew even the first night that something was not right. Within two weeks we had a confirmed rare genetic diagnosis that would change our lives forever.
Back to the NICU. Back to the beeping, the syringes, the cords, and the pumping. Back to someone else knowing my baby’s feeding and pooping patterns better than me. Back to someone else choosing outfits and giving baths. Back to spending days, weeks, and months in the hospital while real life goes on without me.
Whatever your unique and precious birth story is, you may find yourself asking the question, “Should we really have another baby?” Despite everyone else’s answers to that question, the decision isn’t up to them. Sometimes it’s not even up to you.
We are only a few months in and it’s hard and tiring and messy. It’s also beautiful and amazing and hopeful.
The truth is, this baby is a blessing. Whether he’s with us a short time or a long time, it’s undeniable how he’s already enriched our lives. In the end – whatever “in the end” looks like – we will be okay. You will, too.