It was one of those days. Both kids woke up cranky, my husband was out of town, naps were too short, someone was pushed into the corner of the wall, milk was spilled at dinner, tears were shed, Mommy was snappy and short, and bedtime couldn’t come soon enough. Ugh, motherhood. There are days were the Calgone isn’t strong enough to take me away. But it’s at the end of days like this that those memories from my first pregnancy come flooding back to me.
I remember the joy my husband and I had when we saw the positive results from the pregnancy test. I remember that first appointment where they confirmed the baby’s heartbeat, smiles spreading over our faces as we began our plans. I remember thinking how I would try a delivery without pain medicine and see if I could do it, just like my mother had. I remember spreading the news – we would be parents and we were ecstatic!
And then I remember our second sonogram. The tech came into the room, doing her routine thing and then hovered – hovered just a little too long, looked a little too close, didn’t say enough to fill the empty space that was growing in the room and then left to return with the doctor. I remember the sick feeling that washed over me when I asked, “Is everything okay?”, only to be answered with, “We just need to take a closer look.”
I remember being sent to the perinatologist’s office and first hearing the word “omphalocele” and asking the doctor to spell it – a word that would become all too familiar to me and one I can now write as easily as my own name. I remember learning that my child’s internal organs were developing on the outside of her body and that she would be born that way. There was no fix in utero. And I remember being so scared.
I remember the doctor advising us not to come home and Google “omphalocele” and hours later, sitting in front of a computer screen with fear creeping into my heart and feeling sick at my stomach at what our future held as I frantically searched online for this new vocabulary word. I remember each pre-delivery doctor visit – perinatologist, ob, neonatologist, pediatric surgeon – each time hearing worse news, each time growing more terrified as we heard the words life-long complications, multiple surgeries, potentially fatal outcome. I remember being told that a C-Section was the only option for delivery. If we chose a vaginal delivery, our baby’s omphalecele was at risk of rupturing, highly increasing her chance at infection and, ultimately, her chances at death.
I remember waking up at 2am almost every night during my pregnancy, sobbing uncontrollably, crawling out of bed so as not to wake up my husband and ending up in a heap of tears on my bathroom floor. I remember my prayers during those midnight hours, “Lord, please get us through this. And if this baby girl lives, please don’t ever let me forget this feeling of utter helplessness. Please remind me daily so I can be grateful.”
I remember writing. My blogging began to keep family and friends informed but it became my therapeutic journal. Somehow, if I put words on paper, I felt a little more in control.
I remember finally picking her name – Harper – after Harper Lee, author of my favorite book, “To Kill A Mockingbird”. And then I remember thinking what it would look like on a tombstone because we were told that was a possibility and the thought being too much for me to bear.
I remember the night before our delivery. I remember trying to act so in control, because if I didn’t, my world would shatter and I wouldn’t make it through the next 24 hours. I remember neither my husband or I sleeping that night, the alarm going off in the 5 o’clock hour, alerting us it was time to go to the hospital. I remember those minutes and hours that dragged and felt like days as we were prepped for delivery. I remember the smell of the operating room, the bright lights, the cold temperature, the sterile feel, the all-too-serious attitude in the room.
I remember her first cries. They were like beautiful music to my ears. She was here and she was crying, which was amazing! I remember seeing her for less than a minute before she was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and I remember wondering what was next. I remember Jared running off to be by her side because I didn’t want him anywhere else than with our little girl and I remember feeling so lonely, so helpless as they stitched my body back together.
I remember being wheeled into the NICU to see her. I remember thinking she looked strong, like a fighter. I remember whispering in her ear that I needed her to survive, I needed her to fight. I needed to love her for the rest of her life, to watch her grow and run and play, to learn how to dance, to learn how to drive, to walk down the aisle to get married, and to stand beside her and hold her hand when she would one day see her baby for the first time.
I remember leaving the hospital without my baby girl in my arms as she stayed in the NICU and knowing it would be one of the hardest things I would ever face. I remember those days in the NICU, oh were they hard. I remember leaving each day to come home, a hormonal wreck, and sobbing over our dinner each night before we left to go back to the hospital to say goodnight. And I remember the good – holding her for the first time after watching her from afar for so many days. I remember nursing her just a few weeks later. I remember the nurses falling in love with my sweet girl as they so tenderly took care of her and loved her through the hours we went home to crash in exhaustion. I remember the progress she made, how she became stronger, how she grew in the midst of the beeps and buzzes of the hospital. How days turned into weeks, turned into months, and we finally got the news that she would come home. She would come home!!!
I remember that first year, being so proud with each milestone hit. The endless doctors visits, physical therapy, surgery, but having that smiling little face to look at was joy, utter joy.
Today I look at my strong, happy, healthy little girl. She might have a few more scars than other kids but she is GOOD. So, it is those days as a mom that wear and rub on you; it’s those days that I am so grateful for the memories of my first pregnancy. They keep me grounded, they keep life in perspective. And we have so much to be thankful for.