Yesterday, Charlie turned eleven months. It was definitely a cause for celebration. In our home, every little bit of progress is celebrated (we are going to be embarrassing parents). On the other hand, it marks the beginning of what another micropreemie mom called “anniversary season”.
These are the anniversaries that are unique to being a preemie mom. Each one is seared into my memory: May 17th my preeclampsia was discovered, May 19th I was hospitalized and put on bed rest, May 29th I missed Charlie’s birth via emergency c section due to general anesthesia, May 31 I was well enough to meet Charlie (or rather peer at her through the isolette in between hysterical sobs), and August 24 Charlie was discharged from the NICU (on her 88th day). Life prior to these dates seems so distant.
I remember my last days carrying Charlie. I did not get to sleep much because I was always being monitored, given medication, or stuck with a needle. I had read that she was able to hear. I played every single one of my favorite pieces of music for her. I talked to her. I had read that babies with a birth weight over 1000 grams have significantly better outcomes. I voraciously ate and hoped that some of the nourishment would make it to her.
She was born via emergency c-section. She weighed 790 grams. My husband told me that she screamed the entire way to the NICU.
I remember rolling into the NICU for the first time. It seemed so surreal. My husband wheeled me through a maze of babies. All the monitors beeping, the strange lights, and rows of babies encased in isolettes gave it the ambiance of a science fiction novel. It felt like a nightmare that I could not escape. The NICU was an intimidating and tragic place. I remember seeing Charlie sleeping peacefully under the glow stick blue (as Neil and I called it) UV light. It was the first moment of many hours that I would spend watching her sleep.
I remember walking out of the NICU for the last time. I remember feeling a combination of wanting to be sick, numbness, and not being able to breathe that entire morning. I remember the down pour of tears that rolled down my face as I passed through those heavy locked doors with my baby in hand. It had to be a strange sight. A grown woman bawling as she exited the hospital with a new born baby. I remember thinking, “It’s finally over”.
I was later to find out that it was only the end of the beginning.
I remember each of these dates, moment by moment, like they were yesterday. I am treading lightly into my first “anniversary season”. I am all too aware of how those emotions sneak up on me.