Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day and Miracles

This is Mother’s Day.

I am probably, hopefully, just maybe sleeping in past 6 am and hopefully possibly probably eating something delicious for breakfast and just maybe having morning cuddle times with a 9 month old who has no idea what day it is, she just knows it’s morning and she’s awake and therefore we should be. So we’ll bring her into the bed with us and laugh and talk and play until I feel capable of motion. And possibly maybe hopefully just maybe coffee and maybe it will even be a venti triple coconut milk latte from Starbucks. You know. Just saying. 

(I wrote this about a week and a half ago. As of actual Mother's Day, I was up at midnight thanks to our dog barking his fool head off and then woke up for good at 5:15 because somebody's baby decided sleep was over now, played and cuddled with Audra who is feeling sick, and then she threw up on me. I changed us both out of disgusting outfits while she happily smiled and smiled. Then she realized she was tired and screamed through me changing her outfit. Then Jason took her and she went back to sleep and I'm sitting out here thinking about a time when I didn't know what sour throw-up formula smelled like. So... maybe there will still be the latte?)

Oooh, and there will be chocolate and red wine - but I’m not supposed to know about that. 

I don’t really want to talk about my first year as a mother - I think I talk about that about enough. You’re all sick of hearing about teeth and sleep and baby clothes and tiny fingernails I only cut when I absolutely have to. 

I don’t want to talk about that today. Instead, I want to talk about miracles. 

A little over three months ago, my best friend from high school was pregnant with her firstborn and had been having some problems. 

She’d been in and out of the hospital, trying to keep her baby in until his due date. She and her fiance were making plans, picking things up. The nursery wasn’t ready, because they had nearly four months left - plenty of time. 

Until, of course, they didn’t. 

Henry was born at 24 weeks gestation, the tiniest little slip of a baby weighing just barely over one pound. His eyes took up so much of his face, his veins visible through his skin. 

At 24 weeks, I had only just begun to even feel like my pregnancy was really happening, that I was really going to have a baby. 

At 24 weeks, Sarah gave birth to one. 



When you have a baby so early, things are written out very starkly for you. Doctors and nurses are compassionate but realistic, they don’t mince words. Viability is only really considered applicable at 23 weeks. At 23 weeks, they may not try to save your baby. At 24 weeks, they will try, but they will tell you the chances are less than 50%, even in a hospital, even with nurses and doctors as highly-trained in NICU births as Sarah’s were.

A nurse or your partner or your parents or a doctor may hold your hand when they break the news. He may not make it, they tell you as softly and gently as they can, while your baby is still moving inside you, still defiantly alive. Even if he lives, he may never really see. He may have hearing problems. He may be deaf. He will not walk when his peers do, or grasp things, or sit up. Even if he lives, being a micropreemie is not just a few months of issues. It could be years. Perhaps his whole life.

If he lives.


Henry Rike did.

He comes from a family full of stubborn people who aren’t going to let anyone in a hospital tell them what they’re going to do. If anybody was going to have a baby who would simply ignore the statistics and go on living, it was going to be Sarah.

If is what a micropreemie’s parents hear, over and over and over again, until there’s no more meaning in it, until it’s a syllable that says nothing. Until those ‘ifs’ become the routine. As that tiny baby in the box goes from one pound to two, from two pounds to three, you begin to really hope. The compassionate realism of the doctors and nurses turns into optimism and delight. They fall in love with their little charge just as you do.

If he lives, they told her at 24 weeks when she saw her son for the first time.

If.


For her first Mother’s Day, Sarah will see her son in his hospital crib, cuddled in soft blankets. He is over five pounds now, over three months old, every day inching closer to fully breathing all by himself, to going home.

At 24 weeks, they said, “If he makes it overnight.”

If he can get through the first week without a brain bleed.”

If he can gain weight.”

If he can handle the switch to the new ventilator.”

At 90 days, they say, “When he makes it to six pounds.”

When he can come off the ventilator.”

“When he goes home.”



Sarah’s first three months as a mother have been routine in many ways - holding her son against her skin, listening to the tiniest, kittenish cries, early mornings and late nights, diaper changes and the smell of your baby’s hair. It has been watching her fiance hold his son, working together to get the nursery ready, figuring out what kind of team you’re going to be to raise your baby. It’s been Henry meeting his grandparents, the first time you see your parents holding your baby and falling head over heels in love.  

It has also been three months of staring into the face of if, watching your one-pound baby boy fight to survive and begging for a miracle. Praying for two pounds and then three, four and then five. It was asking that he please not experience a brain bleed, God, please let his eyes track her movements. Please, please let him react to the sound of her voice.

If he hears me.

If he sees me.

If.


Happy Mother’s Day, Sarah.

Welcome to your when.

And thank God (and the incredible staff at St. Luke's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for tiny miracles.










Henry's blog, Henry's Journey Home, contains regular updates on Henry's progress, and you can still donate to help Sarah and Scott out with the astronomical expenses that come with having micropreemies by donating here. Every dollar helps.

4 comments:

  1. Aaand now my face is leaking. My oldest was born 6 weeks early after me being on on bed-rest in the hospital for 2 weeks (my water broke at 32 weeks). I always had "when" and that was hard enough; I cannot imagine "if." Best wishes and lots of love for your friend and her family.

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    1. Yeah, that idea of 'if' just tears me apart. I can't even imagine.

      I will say that my friend and her whole family have expressed that the Ronald McDonald House at St. Luke's has been exceptional and helped them a great deal. I knew what the RMHC were before this, but I think kind of in a low-level way. Now when I drive past the House they keep near our local hospital I'm very aware of it and wondering if any families inside are going trhough what Sarah, Scott, and Henry are.

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  2. Crying at this! What a beautiful story(and mama and baby!) My sister had always had issues keeping her babies in until full term, and when she found out she was expecting twins, you can imagine how stressed she was. Her last child had been born extremely early and almost died. She traveled along to Chicago with her family miles away in TN (they had moved to Missouri for a work opportunity.) She was terrified. She had a horrible, painful surgery while pregnant to band her uterus to keep the babies in. All went well until the babies were born, her little girl was very small but okay, but the little boy was so, so sick. He almost didn't make it, she couldn't even see him. For weeks, it was "if" he comes home. "If" he makes it. Those two babies recently had their 2nd birthday. Mothers are amazing. :)

    PS: That little boy is seriously crazy. He spent most of today torturing his sister by pouring sand in her hair and making his patient mama quite stressed by peeing in the carpet.

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    1. Oh, that is the absolute worst, to be alone. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have family with me. Poor woman! That took some exceptional strength to get through.

      This has kind of opened me up to the world of micropreemies. I find online all the time these reports of the kids two, three, five years on. It's amazing what such little bodies can do if we help them.

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