Monday, March 13, 2017

To my first-born son on the day we expected you to be born

Dear Jack,

You are thirteen and a half weeks old - and yet today is the day we expected to meet you.

I didn't have a birth plan.  I didn't know if I wanted skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping, or rooming in.  I hadn't packed a bag for the hospital and we hadn't picked out an outfit to bring you home in.  I thought I wanted to breast-feed, but our class was scheduled for early February.  I was actively looking for a sardonic stuffed animal to bring with me to the breast-feeding class; I had ordered a stuffed methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) toy which was awesome, but too small for the class.

None of that stuff mattered, thankfully.

I had been waiting my whole life to have a baby - and I was so thrilled to have you.  I cried when I got a positive pregnancy test.  Seeing you wave your arms and legs around at the 12 week ultrasound blew my mind.  Your dad and I joked for weeks that you were saying "Look!  I have fingers!  Look at my fingers!  Ooh!  Legs!"  I breathed a sigh of relief at the 20-week ultrasound when your heart, spine, and brain looked good; I worry too much since your Uncle David died so young. Watching the technician visualize the blood flow to your kidneys and your umbilical cord left me gasping with delight.  You were so perfect - and completely you.

And then - all of a sudden - you had to be born far too early to save us both.

I spent the night before your birth in frantic prayer.  I wanted you to live.  Live and be happy.  Please, let him live and be happy.  I'll do anything.  Please.  I don't need my organs to work perfectly after he's born; damage me before hurting him. Please.  He's so small - I'm grown so let me take the damage.  Please.

When Dr. Erinn was delivering you, I could hear her talking with someone.  Apparently, you were up to some tricks.  The delivery team couldn't get ahold of you to keep you in place while she opened the uterus.  Well, and then you tried to stay put by shoving a foot into a Fallopian tube.  You are clearly my son and the son of your Dad.

I didn't hear your actual birth; I was throwing up rather loudly.  Eventually, I started looking around to see if you were born.  I heard Dr. Haines say to Dad "You want to trim the cord, Dad?"  I let out a breath that I had been holding since the night before; you had to be doing well if the NICU team could let Nico trim your cord.

I stared at the drapes and then threw up again. (Really, vomiting while having an epidural in place isn't too bad.  That was a nice surprise.  Bet you love that bit of information :-P )

All of a sudden, a voice says "Melinda. take a look at your son."  I turn my head towards the voice and there you were.   No one had told me that I might be able to see you in the OR.  You were perfect - and crying!  Dr. Prentice had told us yesterday not to worry when we didn't hear you cry - you were young, the cries are really quiet and most preemies don't cry.   You were crying!  The hat for the CPAP mask covered most of your face so all I could see was your chin and cheeks - but you were perfect and making the most heart-breaking and adorable "wah, wah, wah" sounds.

I told you what was in my heart: I love you so so much.  I'm so glad you are safe.  You are totally worth it.  The disembodied voice - I still have no idea who it was - told me I could kiss you before you went to the NICU.   I felt like a kid on Christmas; I got to see you and kiss you!?!?  I gave you a little kiss on the chin.

Later that day, I got to see you in your isolette.  I wanted to see you but was scared, exhausted and hormonal which made me feel crazy.  Your dad brought me down in a wheelchair with a nurse in tow since I was still on one-to-one nurse coverage.

I wanted you to live and thrive and grow.  I knew that you might not make it - 26 weeks gestation is so little - but I hoped to see a sign that you were here to stay.  I wanted you to know how much I loved you, how much your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins loved you.  I wanted you to know how amazing the world was - flying kites, learning to swim, petting kittens, watching fireflies on a summer night - in hopes that you would be able to stay here.

I wanted to give you hope and strength, but you were the one who gave me strength.

I saw teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy you in the isolette.  Dr. Prentice had told us not to worry if you didn't move much since you weren't used to moving against gravity and you needed to save your strength.  Apparently, she forgot to tell you that piece of information.  You were waving your arms in the air.  You were grabbing the cords to your heart monitor with your toes - as smoothly as if your toes were fingers!  Your tiny hands were exploring the new textures.  You grabbed your CPAP mask and clutched a piece of it for a few heartbeats then tapped your fingers along a different piece of plastic.  All of a sudden you reached your eye-protection which was a strip of flannel.  You paused for just a second, then tapped your fingers along the flannel discovering a new texture.

In that moment, I had the hope I needed.  You were exploring this world with gusto - so however long you were with us you would experience life to the fullest.  That's all I wanted for you.

You've grown into a strapping, healthy baby now.  We tell people that you are a few days old - which is true in a semantic sense - and watch their eyes pop at a 8 pound baby who can hold his head up for a few seconds while we hold you in a sitting up position and focuses on objects.  (A nurse kindly - but firmly - asked us to stop doing that to people in the NICU.  It was messing with parents of actual newborns who thought their newborns were slow.  We must have forgotten to give the punch line of "He's 3 days old but was born 14 weeks ago.  Oops.....)

I love you, little man.


PS.  Yes, I know I finished this a few weeks later. What can I say?  You were so cute I got distracted.

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