When I found out I was in labor on October 28th, 2011 and that our baby would be coming well before he was ready all I thought about was getting to the hospital. Yes, I panicked at first. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I wondered if my baby would be okay. But I had just read the amazing rate of survival for babies at 28-29 weeks due to the technology of the NICU. He just had to wait until we got to the hospital where they had the help he needed.
And he did, he waited. He wasn't born waiting for the ambulance or in the ambulance. Once we arrived in triage I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. I was still scared. Is still didn't know what was going to happen to my baby. But they could help him. The could make sure he was okay. At that moment I stopped worrying if he would live and started worrying more about how much help he would need. What would he go through.
And he was okay. He came out crying telling me that he was okay. He was more than okay, he was perfect. He was a big boy for his gestation. He was immediately taken to the NICU, but they kept saying how great he looked and how well he was doing. At that moment we became NICU parents. I knew my boy was alive and I knew he was getting the breathing help he needed and that great wonderful experts were taking care of him. I no longer worried for his life. I was on top of the world.
I remember calling my mom and my sister and feeling like I had to reassure them. I had to tell them, "it's okay, he's great!" To tell them not to worry, I honestly was not worried. Why wasn't I worried? I don't know. I don't know what it was, but I really was never that worried about him. I knew how strong he was.
I instantly latched on to my new identity as Marcellus's mommy and NICU mom. I pumped as soon as I could, even before I saw him. I got to the NICU as soon as I was able to get into that wheelchair. I was in awe of him. I wasn't scared of the NICU. I wasn't scared of the vent (that he was only on for 24 hours), the tubes, the wires, the monitors. That was my son there, that's all that mattered.
It was quite the adjustment though. But I was proud to be a NICU mom. I even started to feel lucky. Yes, lucky (seems a bit crazy now, huh). I was getting two more months with my baby boy than other parents do. I was getting to see him develop in a way that other parents didn't. Of course, I would have much rather had him come at full-term, but I felt so incredibly blessed to be in that NICU. I also thought about how I was getting to display a set of parenting skills that most don't. No, I couldn't breastfeed him, no I couldn't just pick him whenever, no I didn't get up to him in the night. But I did so many other things for him. I sat in the NICU all day touching him, talking to him, loving on him. I pumped diligently for him and everyone was in awe at how well I was doing. I held him as much as I could, oh the pure joy of kangaroo care. I showed him off to whomever I could. I asked all the questions I needed to (although I must admit Daddy was a little bit better at asking questions). I was proud of him and really I was proud of myself too. I felt like Super NICU Mom.
It was definitely difficult, but yet I enjoyed every single minute of it. I joined an online "Preemie Parenting" group and there were so many moms saying how horrible it was to be in the NICU and how they hated being there. Again, of course I didn't "want" him there, but that was our situation and if that's what I had to do to be his mommy then I would. And I would do the best damn job I could at it and enjoy it as much as possible.
I often say that if Marcellus had to die, then I'm glad I didn't know he was going to. It gave us the opportunity to have 11 absolutely perfect days with him. We enjoyed him. Yes, there was stress and some worry and anxiety. But those days were pure bliss.
Then he got sick and our perfect NICU world got turned upside down. But he was in the hospital, with great nurses and doctors, surely he'd be okay in the end. Surely this was just one of the downs they talked about in the "ups and downs of the NICU." Surely he wouldn't die. But my sweet boy got sicker and sicker and sicker in those last 24 hours of his life. And he did die in that NICU. And I am no longer a NICU mom, but now a baby loss mom.
But I am more than thankful for those 11 perfect days we had with our squirmy wormy in the NICU. I'm even thankful for those last 24 hours. Thankful that I was able to be there for him, hopefully comforting him in some way. To be with him as he took his last breath. To do one last thing for him as his mother while he was here on this earth.
But I wanted to be a NICU mom for another month, two months, however long it would have taken to bring Marcellus home. I want to be a preemie parent, not a baby loss parent.