With Hazel's PDA closure surgery coming up the day after tomorrow I'm feeling all kinds of emotions. Relief, anxiety, fear, thankfulness... I'm already a hot mess, and then as we were getting ready this morning the song came on my phone that I used to sing to Hazel in the NICU and as I sang along, Hazel smiled at me and rested her head in my chest and I couldn't hold back the tears. I've been keeping myself so busy since we got the date for her procedure so I wouldn't have to think about it... but with very few days left in between I don't have much of a choice anymore but to deal with it #adulting.
The funny thing about the NICU, is that you never really leave. I mean sure, physically you bust out of those doors the moment they sign the discharge order (after many tearful hugs and goodbyes) and you swear you'll never look back, but after an extended stay in neonatal ICU like that it becomes your "normal". That life is all you know with your baby, and for me I found myself missing certain parts of it. Of course I was overjoyed Hazel was home, but I missed the support of our nurses, the laughter and the love that was shared for our sweet girl. I missed running into other Moms in the pump room who quickly became friends. That pump room started off as an awkward space... but quickly became a place where we were safe, a place without judgement, full of understanding and support for and from other NICU mamas. It became a place where I made some of my most special friends.
Coming home I expected life to continue on, the only difference was I would now be joining the world of motherhood... but life in the NICU, having a micro preemie... it changed me. I can tell you the exact moment I realized I was no longer the woman I was when I went into that hospital. The night we almost lost Hazel. The was the first of many experiences that would be gut wrenching, heart stopping, hurt you so bad you want to scream moments. From that moment on, I would never be the same... and when I came home with our sweet girl I realized there would be no going back.
I knew having a micro preemie changed the kind of mother I would be. I knew my perspective had shifted but what I didn't expect was to find myself feeling like I was in a whole other space with my friends. Don't get me wrong, I love my friends dearly but I came out of that hospital a different person and I've struggled to find my way back to them. I have found it difficult to participate in conversations with other Moms who had healthy, term babies. Not out of jealousy, but because I can't relate. Sure, there are the most basic things that we can chat about but when my life is consumed with respiratory needs, and surgery, with medications, and appointments after appointments... the conversation just isn't the same. Most Moms think they can imagine what those 175 days were like, hell I would have thought I could too... but the truth is, it's nothing like you imagined. If I seem distant, or closed off it isn't because I don't love you my friends... it's because I don't know how to be ME around you anymore because the me you knew one year ago, isn't the same me I am today.
This journey is not for the weak. It changes you as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter and a friend. There is beauty in int, but there is ugliness too. There is joy and there is sadness. There are ever lasting bonds, and there are friends that have a purpose at that time in your journey. There is strength and there is weakness. You bend and you break, and then you build yourself back up again. Having a micro preemie, that life doesn't stop the day you walk out of the NICU.
Just this week I noticed the NICU is still listed under my "favourites" contact list for a quick dial. Six months after coming home and I still haven't deleted it. Six months after coming home, and exactly one week before Hazel's first birthday and we are preparing to be in the hospital again (albeit brief) for her PDA closure. Six months later and I'm still washing syringes daily and administering meds 3 times a day.
Having a micro preemie taught me patience upon endless patience. It taught me undeniable strength. It taught me that the tiniest beings are some of the strongest. Having a micro preemie taught me that miracles DO exist. I learned how to reach deep within myself and reflect. I learned how to better communicate with my husband, and how to be a strong advocate for my child. I learned to trust without fail.
It also taught me that though I am fierce, I am also weak. I've seen myself in the most vulnerable place you can possibly imagine and then further. I've felt my heart ripped from my chest and held in an incubator in the hands of a medical team. I've cried harder than I ever thought possible. I've watched parents lose their babies... I've seen nurses try to cope with their loses, and parents standing in a place we could have been standing ourselves. I've held other mothers in tears, some I knew, some I didn't... but I took their pain home with me and cried even more. I've seen a fear in myself I didn't know existed, a fear that still has the ability to paralyze me, to grip my heart in it's fist and squeeze so hard I can hardly breathe.
I have survived. WE have survived. Having a micro preemie changed me in ways I never imagined it would, but I will tell you this... I am stronger for it. I am better for it.
**Photo credit to Rebecca Lynn Photography**