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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Four Weeks

     Thank you for all the positive and heart-felt responses about my last post on our birth story. Many of you said that it made you cry. I get it, it was emotional. I cried while writing it. I'm not sure what emotions this post will stir but it may cause some tears; tears of joy, relief, and a little fear. If my memory of Felix's birth is painful why do I choose to not only remember it but also immortalize it in writing? Shouldn't I let go of the past and live in the present?
     I write about it so that I can't forget about the little things that kept me going when, otherwise, I didn't know how I was going to make it. Like the cloth hearts some hospital volunteers made that were always somewhere on his body - his head, stomach, or back. Those little hearts that, one by one, day after day, I'd fold and place into my bra by my heart so that they'd smell like me when they'd be placed on my baby, hoping that they'd give him some comfort and a semblance of bonding through the sedative induced sleep he was in. And vice versa, so I could carry the scent of Felix around with me when we weren't together. Every night before falling asleep next to an empty crib, I'd pull one of those little hearts out from my bosom, hold it up to my nose, and deeply inhale his smell. Incidentally, they also worked well at wiping away tears.
     I write down the memories so that I don't forget that for the first nine days of his life he was exclusively fed through a skinny orange tube in his nose due to having a breathing tube in his mouth. Then, when the tracheal tube was removed, he began to occasionally nurse from me and drink pumped milk from a bottle so the feeding tube wasn't used as much. And then, on July 23rd, the feeding tube was removed entirely because his suck-swallow-breathe coordination was strong enough that he no longer needed the tube to help him eat. I write about this difficulty so I can remember the challenges he overcame. That way, when my nipples are sore to the point of cracking and the last thing I feel like doing is breastfeeding, I'll remember to grin and bear it (okay, maybe not grin) because we are lucky he was able to latch on in the first place!
     I write down these difficult memories so that on the nights I'm frustrated that he's waking every two hours I'll try to remember to focus on the weight of his small body in my arms instead of the sleepiness in my eyes. A weight I longed to hold and couldn't until the tenth day of his life and a weight I literally ached to nurse and couldn't until the third week of his life. Before that, the only touch we were allowed was a little pressure on the top of his head and on the soles of his feet, which you can see us doing in several of the photos in this post. So remembering what wasn't possible helps me be grateful for what became possible, thus, these sleepless nights.
     I write to remember the machines that kept Felix alive and filled up his room. And the alarms that came with the machines which went off with unwavering (and unnerving) consistency seemingly every five minutes. Whenever a medication was running low - beep, beep, beep - or his oxygen saturation wasn't right - beep, beep, beep -  or his heart rate was too high or too low - beep, beep, beep - or his food was done being administered - beep, beep, beep - and on, and on, and on. And with every beep I grew a gray hair. Then the machines and their noises began to disappear, one by one, and we knew it meant our time at the NICU was coming to an end. Now when I'm at home with Felix and it seems too quiet and I'm getting restless I'll remember those alarms and immediately be thankful for the peace.
     I write to remember all the wonderful support we had during the hardest time of my life. Like my wonderful friends and co-workers who created a meal train so that my family would have fresh meals waiting for us when we'd arrive home late after a long and stressful day at the NICU. It was such a blessing to open the cooler we'd leave on the front porch and find pizza, pasta, enchiladas, taco bowls, beer, wine, and more. Food is such a comfort during difficult times.
     Then there's my family, Team Felix, who spent the long days and nights by our side and helped us pull through. My sister, who canceled her flight home twice and drove my mother and I back and forth from the hospital every day for two weeks. My mother, who canceled her flight and stayed an extra month to give us extra support and to give Felix extra love; who kept our stomachs full, washed my pumping accouterments, and maintained the house decent; who kept my extended family in the loop, and who bathed me in my recovery room shower a day after my c-section when I was too weak to do it myself.  My mother-in-law, who understands trauma and is calm in emergencies, who always stayed at the NICU late and arrived there first thing in the morning, and who, on one of those early mornings, decorated the room with a banner and small balloons to celebrate my 35th birthday. And Chris, my God what would I have done without a partner like Chris? Who had to balance the weight of both my distress and his, who spent fourteen hours a day by Felix's bedside, who advocated for his son tirelessly by asking all the right (and sometimes wrong) questions, and who managed to remain an optimist through it all.
     I write about the painful past so that when I'm feeling bad and being hard on myself I can remember how strong I am. The strength I had in dealing with infertility, to overcoming the grief I experienced for the beautiful birth I had planned, to treading that tightrope between despair and hope, to finally making it through with just a couple of battle wounds: the physical one that brought my son out into the world and the emotional one embedded into my soul. Wounds that heal a little more each day as they evolve into tough scars. Misfortune aids resiliency.
     In writing these memories I'm forced to reckon with how fragile life is because I've witnessed its fickleness. So when motherhood has me entrenched in dirty diapers, fussiness, and clutter to the point where I'm too overwhelmed to leave the house and cranky because of it all, I can take a deep breath and remember our history. Remember that life is short so I need to be grateful for every day and try to forget the stuff that ultimately doesn't matter - the messy house, the unwashed hair - and remember what's important - the little boy who almost didn't make it, who now counts on me to sustain his life, whose every breath is a reason to celebrate the present, and who, in writing, has become immortal.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A great story! And it has only been 3 months but seems much longer.
Pop

Anonymous said...

You, Felix and Chris are amazing! Very well written as well!

Drew

Carol said...

I'm glad you're collecting the sad and the happy stories, all beautiful. I never had a second thought about staying with you during this. And thanks for reminding me to stay in the present!

Mami said...

It's not easy for me to read your post and not cry again, but this time my tears are produced by a mix of emotions. Gratefulness because we know that those painful memories were transformed into beautiful memories of joy, amazement and awe. I'm very happy that you are writing down all of these extraordinary events because Felix ought to know how special the circumstances of his birth were, how strong he is, and how much he's been loved.. And you Nanita should also never forget how incredible strong you are. I'm in awe and extremely proud of the kind of mother you have been since the very first day; how dutifully and full of love you started pumping your breast since the first day even when you were still under the effects of anesthesia, then at the NICU, every two-three hours day and night, and how hard to this day you keep trying to feed Felix only breast milk, even when formula feeding sometimes would have been easier, but you want to give him only what's best regardless of how much pain, or how tired, or how many sleepless nights you get.
I was fortunate to be able to spend the time I did with the three of you. I'm happy I did, and I'll treasure this experience for ever in my heart no matter how difficult it was a times. I'm also very proud of Chris and happy he is your husband and Felix' dad. His dedication, his patience, his understanding, his love for both of you are only some of his amazing qualities, thank you Chris!

Not seeing Felix every day after I left has been very hard, I miss his smiles, his ' conversations' with me, his sweet flirting, his little hands grabbing the skiing of my neck...everything! I miss you and Chris too! Can't wait to see you in December! Love you so much!!!