Our first trip to Mercy Toledo Children's Hospital I met my fragile, tiny little baby boy for the second time. He was two days old. He was covered in bruises. He had wires sticking all through his little arms, feet, and belly button. He had a ventilator taped to his mouth so that he could breathe and he lay motionless. I cried when I saw him and the guilt instantly crept upon me. What did I do wrong? How did my plan fail? Is he going to live?
I held my son and kissed him for the first time when he was 6 days old. His tiny 3 lb body lay in my arms snuggled to my chest, and at that moment he opened his eyes. I realized then that I am in this, He Is Mine, and I will do whatever it takes to keep him alive. The first 6 days I wouldn't let myself get attached to him, instead I would silently will him to live. Soon that feeling had ended and there I sat holding my precious son when it hit me that my life would be changed forever.
The NICU experience was exhausting. Ryan and I had never even been into a NICU. I myself never heard of a NICU. I had no idea what was in store for us. We drove 60 miles every day to be at his side, even if it were for only a couple of hours. The first 20 days we sat and stared through incubator windows and we watched the monitors beep as his oxygen levels dropped and his heart rate fell. There I sat willing him to pull through as I watched Ryan's face turn to me with a look I'll never forget, the look of instant terror. He fought a heart murmur, two brain bleeds, and seriously under developed lungs.
The last 13 days he spent in a lower level area. This area is where we could pick our child up, feed him, and hold him whenever we wanted. This was a godsend. In this area I realized that I AM his mommy. I now understood the meaning of encouragement, grace, strength, fear, doubt, and most of all unconditional love.
Thirty three long days later my son would be discharged and finally come home. Yes he would come home, but he would come with baggage. At first I said to myself 'I can't do this'. Usually, people come home when they are fully healed and this wasn't the case. My son suffered from Sleep Apnea and Bradychardia, a condition that preemies grow out of…and some faster than others. He would also come home with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, a condition where the lungs have been scarred due to the prolonged use of a ventilator and this is something that will also fix itself in due time, I prayed. I jumped at every beep the monitor made, I tripped over oxygen tubing on a daily basis, I slept only when I was not alone, and I cried like I had just lost my puppy.
The first week was pins and needles. The second week was, why is he crying. The third week was oh my goodness I am doing this and then we were in the fourth week and I was just figuring out how to get him to sleep. As one can see it was a trial and error basis with me since I had zero experience with babies. It has been an emotional journey. I could not have made it through the NICU without the tender support and care I received from the staff. We are very lucky to have only faced what we went through. We are very lucky we still have our son. We are very-very grateful for the many people who gave us hope each and every day we stepped foot into the 'Abyss'.
~We thank Delona for sharing her story with past & present NICU families. Sharing your story will give others hope! If you are interested in sharing your story please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.