Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love getting Christmas cards and seeing pictures of friends, their pets and children. I love reading the letters, making cookies, wrapping presents and finding the perfect gift. Six years ago tomorrow I received my Christmas miracle.
Six years ago the joy of Christmas changed for me and each year since I meet December with joy and tears. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of pure emotion. I'll be sitting in my car and hear a song about Christmas wishes, joy or sadness and just tear up.
Six years ago I was six months pregnant and woke up with my water breaking. Jeff grabbed Lindsey (5 years at the time) and we rushed to the hospital. I knew something was very wrong. I was hooked up to an IV, and the doctor gave us a choice of two hospitals because if I were to deliver now or in the near future I had to be at a hospital with a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was put into an ambulance by myself and rushed to the other hospital. Luckily there was no traffic, but the experience to this day still seems unreal.
I was not sick and the baby was fine once they stopped the contractions. There was no explanation for the early rupture and I was told I could be on bed rest for the next 3 months. I was committed to do whatever it took to get this baby here safely. The Neonatologist gave us grim details about premature births...like a baby born at 25 weeks had a 50% chance of survival and future issues were inevitable. Each week that I made it on bed rest increased the chances of survival. So after 6 days (December 19, 2001) things were looking good and they said I could get up to use the restroom and take a shower. Shortly after my shower I went into labor and the scene was like ER...All I remember was my cart being pushed by nurses and doctors running through the hallway and arriving in a white room with bright lights and about 12 masked people in white surgical gear. It was very strange and I felt like I wasn’t even really there...more like a bad dream. I was terrified and I didn’t start to cry until I saw one tear roll down my husband’s cheek. Jeff is not a “crier” so I knew this was bad. She was delivered in minutes and taken by the doctors to get her situated. I kept asking Jeff, “did I really just have our baby?” I remember they were getting ready to take her out of the room and all I could do was ask to see her...”Can I please see my baby?”
She looked larger than I expected but was very tiny. I don’t think you are ever really sure what a 1.5 pound baby would look like, but other than her size she looked amazing. She was in an incubator and on a ventilator to help her breath as her only major issue was the development of her lungs. They tried to prepare of for the next 3 months. It would be an emotional roller coaster. There would be good and bad days. There were scary terms for typical preemies like cranial hemorrhaging, deafness, blindness, infections, NEC (a condition that happens and is fatal). I had to pump like I had a baby and was put on a schedule to pump every 4 hours. I would have to set the alarm and wake in the middle of the night to pump. This became my job. I would wake in the morning and get Lindsey ready and then head to the hospital to sit by her incubators and read books on preemies. I would head home before rush hour so we could have dinner as a family and then put Lindsey to bed and then Jeff would go to the hospital for a couple hours in the evening. We tried to keep Lindsey’s life normal and for the most part she didn’t realize anything was wrong. This was our life for months and we never really knew if she would come home.
On Christmas Eve we got the best gift of all that year...we got to hold her. I went to church that night and remembered seeing all those moms with babies and just realizing what a gift each child is...I do remember sobbing in bed after church. It was the worst feeling have a precious little one in a hospital. I remember praying harder than I have ever prayed. I remember the kindness of strangers who gave encouraging words at the hospital, I remember the cleaning lady that sat with me and said a prayer for my little girl. I remember the college aged mother across the way that had a preemie that was out of the incubator and going home that gave me a wonderful card of encouragement when she left. I remember the other babies that weren’t so lucky. I remember the nurses who cared for her, the babies that had no parents sitting at their side. And each time around this year all those memories are fresh like yesterday.
On the day we finally got to bring her home in March I cried as we were carrying her to our car to bring her home...tears of happiness, tears of fear, tears of joy...just tears but mostly tears of relief. The next few years were still uncertain when we were leaving the hospital, but tomorrow My Sweet Petunia will be 6 years old. We were the lucky ones! Lauren survived without any typical preemie problems a MIRACLE.
Not only did I get a wonderful baby girl, but I gained perspective. I was a Type A, detail oriented, perfectionist...but after that day in December I gained perspective on what I value in my life.
May this holiday season bring you peace, joy and perspective.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007