health & body, musings, prematurity

Countdown to D-day B-day.

We’re less than two weeks away from Emmett’s first birthday, and every day brings a growing feeling of dread. Logically, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s doing really well, all things considered, and it’s not like anything bad is going to happen on his first birthday or anything. It should be a happy day. But I suppose this is just part of the PTSD experience — and from what I gather from other preemie moms — normal, even.

I have this app on my phone called Timehop. Most of the time I love it. It shows you pictures you took or things you posted to social media this time last year and every year it has access to. It’s been fun to revisit baby photos of Theo or to see some of the ridiculous thoughts that occupied my mind eight years ago that I somehow thought all of Facebook needed to know. But you know what’s been popping up lately from this time last year? Pregnancy photos. Casual, breezy selfies I snapped in the bathroom at work, or in front of the mirror in our bedroom. And while I rarely take selfies normally, I’ve always felt an uncharacteristic sense of body confidence while pregnant, and found myself admiring and snapping photos of my growing bump quite often.

And so it’s weird to juxtapose last year’s carefree photos with my current state of anxiety. It’s haunting to see these photos now, knowing what was about to happen. I had no idea my world was about to come crashing down while exploding with love, all at the same time. Oblivious that I was about to embark on the hardest year of my life. Unaware I would soon come to think of a hospital room as home and that I would create familial bonds with the caregivers who held my son’s life in their hands.

I also find myself reopening Pandora’s Box with the whys. We were told my preterm labor was unexplained, and that we’d probably never know why it happened. For the first couple weeks, that bothered me a lot. And then we got preoccupied with other life or death matters (literally) and I was able to push the questions out of my mind. But I find myself asking why a lot more again these days. Was it the fertility treatments? Did all the medications I took to prevent me from miscarrying again trigger something else that caused labor? Was there some connection medically between the losses and the preterm labor? My OB says no, but that seems hard to believe. Did I work out too much or too hard? I was really into barre while pregnant and took pride in the strength and flexibility I was capable of, even as I got bigger and my center of gravity shifted. Did I overdo it hosting Theo’s birthday? I remember my back hurt really badly that evening, and that was just a week before Emmett was born. Was it the pedicure I got just three days before Emmett arrived? I’ve heard there are acupressure points on your foot that are supposed to induce labor and that sometimes women who are overdue will get a pedicure or foot massage in hopes of kick starting labor. Could any of these things have triggered it? And the reciprocal question that haunts me: is there anything I could have done to prevent it?

So many questions that I’ll probably never have the answers to.

Sweet, naive me.

Baby Emmett, NICU

NICU day 21

Emmett is three weeks old today. Also, I have a new niece, born today. It was bittersweet hearing the news my brother and sister-in-law were in labor. On the one hand, I’m excited to meet my niece, and having cousins who are exactly three weeks apart in age will be fun as they grow up. But it also dredged up a ton of repressed emotions and I had myself a good cry. I was hit with the realization that their baby was supposed to be two months older than ours. That I’m still supposed to be pregnant. And I’m mourning the loss of a normal birth experience; the anticipation, the excitement, the rush, the joy. For as painful, long and excruciating as my labor with Theo was, I’ve always said I would repeat that day every day for the rest of my life if I could. There is simply no feeling in this world like having a screaming baby handed to you that you just gave life to. If I could bottle up that high and sell it I’d be rich.

But we didn’t get that this time. And since we’re done having babies, we don’t get that ever again. I got cheated out of that experience. Instead of intense joy, I’ve never been more scared in my life. I was alone and unsure if D would make it in time. Unsure if my child was even going to live. And there’s still so much uncertainty. Even the best moments so far like getting to hold him for the first time and having Theo meet him are overshadowed by the fear that this story still might not have a happy ending.

I’m glad one of my favorite nurses was on today. She saw how upset I was and gave me a hug. She pointed out how well Emmett is doing, and she offered to connect me with another mom so I would have someone to talk to. I mentioned yesterday that the support group isn’t very well attended, and actually last night’s session ended up getting cancelled altogether. This experience is very isolating. So this afternoon I had a “mom date” with another one of the moms in the NICU. Unfortunately (for me — good for her!) she is getting discharged tomorrow, but we really hit it off and she gave me her phone number and told me to call or text her any time I needed to vent or ask questions. She’s been here for more than three months and has a heartbreaking and amazing story. I’m so happy she gets to go home tomorrow and only wish I had met her three weeks ago!

I attended daily rounds again this morning. While there wasn’t much new to report, I’ve let the nurses know that as long as one of us is here during rounds, we’d like to attend. For me, knowledge = some semblance of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. His iron is a little low (27) and if it gets below 25 they will treat with a hormone patch. He’s on iron supplements currently, though, and they are hoping that will do the trick. They’ll check again in a few days. I think my eyes must have still been a little bloodshot from crying when I attended rounds, because everyone was giving me major “hang in there” looks, and the doctor kept assuring me he’s doing well. I’m feeling a bit schizophrenic on the sympathy front. On the one hand, I can’t stand it when someone like Nurse Bitchy completely ignores my pain, but I also get really uncomfortable with all the pity. I’m not really sure what I want — besides the privilege of still being able to complain about swollen ankles and make jokes about how awful it is to be so huge in this heat. That would be nice.

The good news is, I got to hold Emmett for a full three hours today and he did amazing. It was just what I needed after an emotional day. There’s still so much uncertainty in our future, but I’m trying to focus on the little things that mean the most right now: a day with fewer events, 21% oxygen for most of the day, and a weight increase of 52 grams (he’s now 2 lbs 7 oz!).

Keep fighting, little man.