I Feel Robbed
I feel robbed of memories, and experiences that we were supposed to have but never had the privilege of experiencing. These are memories and experiences that we have missed out on and we will never get a “do-over”. I am left with a scar I never wanted, but a pain I will take all over again if I had to. This is our NICU story.
My boy the day mommy found out I was pregnant with you was the best day of my life. See, all I have ever wanted to be was a mom and oh how daddy and I prayed for you. The news really came as no surprise – you were planned – every detail of you – and I still remember how daddy and I would stay up late at night talking to Papa God about the color of your eyes, your hair and your personality. With every kick you gave, I saw your face in my mind. My pregnancy was such a special experience to me. Mommy loved seeing you grow, I loved feeling your kicks and summersaults, and I even loved the tickles your hick ups gave me. Daddy and I were so excited, we wanted everything to be perfect for the birth of our miracle boy, so we chose mommy’s dream birth center, and an amazing midwife and doula. Daddy attended every single scan and antenatal class with mommy and we both couldn’t wait to meet you and hold you – the missing piece to our life – but it happened a little sooner and a little different than we expected. And although mommy is so blessed with your giggles and laughs, your kisses and hugs, mommy still feels like we’ve both been robbed and that left a forever invisible scar.
Mama sees all the beautiful maternity shoots that pop on Facebook and Instagram, and my tummy pulls into a knot, because the only photos I have of our little journey are the ones daddy took once a month and our scans. Yes, I had my dress planned and spent months on Pinterest and even paid for our shoot, but our day never came – mama was robbed of her maternity shoot, and oh how I wish that I had taken more photos, but how were I supposed to know? Mama never had the privilege of packing your hospital bag, or even my own, instead ouma, oupa and dada had to try and get everything sorted while mommy lay in a hospital bed and you were being pumped with steroids, so that when you are born, your lungs could be just a little stronger. It seems like such a small, futile thing to complain about, but it was the one thing I looked forward to the most! Mommy was not unprepared, it all just happened so fast. You were robbed of a peaceful entrance into the world when you were pulled from mommy’s tummy 6 weeks before you were supposed to be ready, and yes mama still feels like I’ve failed you. My body didn’t do it’s job. I promise this was not mommy’s plan and I promise it was not your fault. It was supposed to be peaceful and natural, instead it was the complete opposite and completely unnatural.
My boy I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you, I’m sorry I couldn’t hold you and kiss you and tell you that everything’s going to be okay when you entered this cold world – strong and healthy - but alone. I remember that first kiss you gave me before they took you away, I remember how everyone told me how beautiful you are, and I remember how I swallowed my tears telling myself I have to be strong for you now.
You see it wasn’t supposed to be like this either – you were supposed to be in my arms, we were taught that you will be placed on my chest and then crawl up to mommy’s breast to latch and drink your first sip of liquid gold, you were supposed to be quietly breastfeeding while hearing mommy’s heartbeat to calm you. Instead you were surrounded by the sounds of machines, doctors and nurses, you were being poked and prodded and there were tubes bigger than you surrounding you. You were scared and alone and all I wanted was to see you and be there with you – but you see mommy couldn’t move until the next day, and oh how I did the next day. Mommy (and you) were robbed of those special first moments of staring into each other’s eyes and holding on to each other, and we were robbed of our first skin-to-skin session that I see so many moms do on photos and social media. Mommy was sad too, because instead of spending our first hours together, bonding and cuddling on that very cold and rainy day, mommy was left worried sick but didn’t have time to think about that, because I had to pump and pump and pump to make sure that you at least receive the best nutrition mama could give you. I couldn’t give you the gift of a wonderful birth, but I were determined to give you the gift of liquid gold. All I wanted was to see you and hold you, but that had to wait…
And then we had to leave you behind on mommy’s first ever mother’s day and this was by far the worst day of my life, because now I couldn’t see you when I wanted to, I couldn’t just walk to you and be there for you and mommy had to go back home, empty handed, leaving you in the hands of complete strangers. Nothing felt right that long way home – I couldn’t feel your kicks when the music was playing, and you weren’t there with us. I had to sleep next to an empty crib, and mommy was left feeling empty and incredibly scared for you. Mama was robbed of her very first Mother’s Day.
It’s been nearly 2 years and mommy can’t help but feel a little jealous when I see photos of newborns in their mothers’ arms, waterbirths, and perfect memories. We were supposed to have those perfect memories. Mommy also wanted a day I’ll always remember, instead I got a week I’ll never forget. Just like my unwanted (but not unloved) C-Section scar reminding me of that day, mama has an invisible scar that might not ever go away. Mama just wanted it to be perfect, but YOU were the only perfect thing about it. Nearly 2 years later and random smells, sounds and small little things you do take me right back to the NICU – like the simplest smell of the hand sanitizer at your school or the way you grab my finger when you wake at night. Mommy doesn’t know if you can remember, maybe you do, hopefully you don’t, but when you wake screaming at night and grab mommy’s finger to calm down, just like you used to do, it leaves me wondering. I don’t want you to remember, no, I want you to remember the weeks, months and years after that – how you only ever slept on my chest, and woke up next to me with my arms folded around you, because that’s how it should have been.
O my sweet, brave boy, do you want to hear a little secret? If I were ever given a choice to do it all over again for you, I’d scream YES YES YES without a blink of an eye, because although mama feels robbed (and secretly know you were too), I also know full well that I am INCREDIBLY BLESSED! You complete our family – your giggles, your hugs and wet kisses, your sayings and silly shenanigans, YOU - in all your perfection, is what gives meaning to my life and for that I will be forever grateful!
According to https://www.verywellfamily.com/premature-birth-facts-and-statistics-2748469 as many as 11.4% of all pregnancies end in early deliveries and 80 + % of preterm births are unanticipated, whereof 30% are related to preterm rupture of membranes (as in our case).
Dear friends and family, please don’t tell us that we were unprepared, or we could have done things better as that is simply not true. We had our Plan B written down as part of our birth plan, but it all happens so much faster than one would ever expect.
To all the moms who have had preemies you are all brave and strong and it was not your fault! Remember, being the parent of a preemie means you are extra special. After all, God does not just pick anybody to witness a miracle. Don’t let those flashbacks, or those little triggers steal your joy of today, don’t let the nightmares steal your future dreams, because our little ones are BIG warriors with such bright futures, because they know the meaning of having to fight. Don’t let other’s opinions determine your child’s future, because I have lost count of the amounts of times that people have told me “he will be behind”, “preemies are usually slower” or “it’s okay if he can’t do this or that because he was prem”. Their opinions mean nothing, because they do not know the fighter within my child and he has proven them all wrong, time and time again, and so will yours.
To all the moms who currently have a preemie in the NICU fighting – YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS! Some may take longer than others and everyone’s journey is unique, there will be a lot of ups and even some downs BUT there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your baby is so much stronger than his small, fragile body makes him look! Just push through, I promise you it will all be worth it in the end. Never give up hope and soon your babies’ smile and laughter will replace the far distant memories from the NICU. Oh the memories will be there, always, but they will become a source of inspiration and wonder, and a constant reminder that miracles still happen.
What does it mean to be the mother to a miracle?
It means knowing that every day is a blessing and a gift. It means knowing that you are the luckiest person in the world, just to be a parent. It means cherishing every moment, every breath, with such intensity that you feel tears come to your eyes for no apparent reason. – K. Lena