Originally published on http://www.itsybitsybalebusta.com
I can’t believe how much time has passed since I shared our IUGR story. It was never my intention to let this amount of time lapse between posts, but something about chasing around 1 and 2 year old boys all day, leaves very little energy after the battle of bedtime has been won (or at least I like to think has been won, and that they’ll be asleep for the night!).
Something changed with our IUGR series. For the first time I really felt like my writing meant something. It was difficult to open up about such a private and trying time in our life, but I’m so grateful that I did. The response to this day has been an overwhelming confirmation that sharing our story was something more important than even I initially realized. I’ll admit, my intentions were slightly selfish, using this space as a way to finally organize my thoughts on the experience and give them a new home in written words, rather than just memories following us day to day.
So where are we now? If you’ve done the math you’ll realize that N is now 13 months old! That’s right, at the end of May we celebrated his very first birthday!
Six days before he turned one, we found out he no longer required monthly nutritionist/ dietician appointments and that he was thriving! Three days after he turned one he was discharged from OT! And I know one day he isn’t going to be so thrilled that his Mama screams his weight from the roof tops, but the week of his first birthday my baby weighed in at…
Wait for it…
SEVENTEEN AND A HALF POUNDS!
He’s literally over four times his birth weight! My tiny three pound baby is this adventurous, curious, non-stop (like legit NON.STOP.) little boy!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a photo I shared leading up to his birthday. 6 days before he turned 1, we had our monthly routine appointment with a few members of his NICU team. I had only been able to bring myself to visit the actual NICU once throughout his first year. It was too traumatizing to walk those halls again, but we did visit once, close to his surgery near the end of last year, and I just wanted to see the place where he had fought his first battles and won, as a reminder of exactly what he was capable of facing. It was hard and there were tears, but it was also so great to see our nurses again and nothing compares to the feeling of “just visiting” and not having to go through the whole sanitization process and taking up a seat, days post partum, next to an incubator, hoping that, that day brought good news.
This time was different though.
This was a milestone. This was a celebration.
It still wasn’t easy for me and for that I felt guilty. This was supposed to be N’s day, a celebration of his first year and everything that he had overcome during it. I have this problem of overthinking and getting anxious. For months leading up to his birthday, the thoughts just kept spiraling and I’ll admit they were self-centered. With each decoration I chose for the party or each detail I organized, I couldn’t help but think, “how am I going to get through this day?” Weird, right? But to me, N’s birthday marked the day my body failed him. It marked him coming into the world where he was better out than in. Where a NICU staff had to pick up where my body had stopped and get N to where he had to be. I couldn’t help but dread the arrival of this anniversary. I barely got to see N on his actual birthday. He was born late at night and taken to the NICU while I stayed behind in recovery. It was a traumatic day.
So I worked myself up. I was sure I would be a mess the day of. I had overthought so much about how hard it was going to be, there just wasn’t any other choice.
And then the week leading up to his birthday came around.
Being super Type A, I had a list with everything that needed to get done each day leading up to our little guy’s special day! This kept everything in check, made sure nothing (or at least very little) was forgotten, and that I wouldn’t be stuck doing everything the night before the party! The very first thing on the list?
NICU Appreciation Day!
So back to that Instagram post.. Six days before N’s birthday, we headed down to the hospital for his appointment. But the magic started the day before!
Countless cups of flour and oatmeal, so many blueberries and chocolate chips, and even more flour to top it all off! I didn’t know how I was going to walk into that NICU and say thank you to the nurses and staff who got my baby home in thirteen days when initial estimates were in the months range. Having finally just gotten my feelings in order through writing out our experience for our IUGR series, everything seemed so fresh. The more I thought about it and the more forums I asked, one suggestion came up again and again. And not only was it clearly the answer, it couldn’t have been a more fitting one for this “food blogger” Mommy…
So for almost a full day, the oven, mixer and cooling racks were at capacity. I know what it means to bake with love. To infuse so much excitement and love into a first birthday cake or your baby’s first chocolate chip cookie and feel their excitement and your pride with their every bite. But to bake out of sheer gratitude? This was a whole new ball game. I wanted each muffin to be perfect, each cookie exactly as soft or crispy as it was supposed to be. I wanted our nurses who seemed to never eat, or ever get a break, to feel the warmth and comfort specific to
a homemade baked good and know that while they’re running around on their endless shifts, they’re thought of, remembered and appreciated.
The large boxes layered with warm homemade blueberry and chocolate chip muffins, as well as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and gift cards for coffee for the entire NICU, kept me grounded and calm walking through the halls again that morning. The same halls I’d run through in the morning to get to N and sob through walking as slowly as possible when I had to leave every evening. The halls where I would stand and wait for rounds to be done. The halls where I would put on my sunglasses so new Mom’s doing laps around the floor holding their new babies wouldn’t see my tears of sheer jealousy, as shameful as they were. The halls that saw me walk in 23 ½ hours post-labour, terrified and disoriented and thirteen days later, saw me carry out our little boy. Those halls. Oh, those halls.
But that day, those halls brought us to a celebration. The shouts of “NICU Grad” when we walked in followed by a rush of nurses to the door were overwhelming. The love and support from this incredible group of people, even a year later, had only grown. How many children do they see come in and out of those doors? But they remembered our baby. They remembered how feisty he was and our little inside jokes. They played such a huge role in our family that I know they’ll always be unforgettable to us, and we’ll do this every year to instill an appreciation in our son for his first team, but to think that they also remembered us? Amazing.
We spent a fair amount of time there. N’s nurse, the one who was there the night he was admitted, was on shift and I was thrilled. She held him from the second we walked in until it was time to leave. She smiled at N, and looked right at me and said, “I told you you’d make it to the other side.” I had no words. All I could offer, was that I hope next year N runs in and jumps into her arms, instead of having to be carried!
It was a day that changed everything. I stopped worrying about how I was going to feel on his birthday. I stopped seeing that room as one of nightmares and for a split second I saw it for what it is, only to those on the outside. A room full of so much love and LIFE. A room where every breath, every note and every movement is done to help these new, tiny little beings thrive. I wish I could somehow work it out that everywhere our boys go in life, they’ll have the same
overwhelmingly supportive, warm, strong atmosphere pushing them and cheering them on. I can say this “from the other side.” I couldn’t say this from that rocking chair. But it’s been a year, and so much happens. You survive days you’ll never think you’ll be able to and go on to face better and sometimes harder, and sometimes super impossible things. And somehow those days pass too. And before you know it it’s time to put on a party hat, bring out the cake and celebrate.
I walked into N’s room on the morning of his birthday, to find him standing in his crib smiling. All the worry, all the anxiety about how I’d feel that day evaporated. We went for ice cream and to a play place (which the four of us got to enjoy to ourselves, since it was completely empty!) and we had pizza for dinner and we celebrated and spent time together and really enjoyed the day. I will admit, his Hebrew birthday was difficult. As Shavuos wound down I couldn’t stop thinking about how a year before I was on my way to the hospital, ending the holiday with a 22 minute terrifying labour. It felt more real and scary and difficult than I had expected it to, but thankfully the feelings passed just as quickly as they arrived.
So now we’re in to year two. N is crawling at what feels like lightening speed, pulling himself up and walking along furniture. He’s babbling endlessly, has a bunch of words and loves to sing and dance all day long. He pretty much never stops and hasn’t shed his feistiness from those NICU days one bit.
*One of the greatest tips I received on my search for how to thank the NICU, was to split up the gift! Bring boxes for the day staff and separate boxes for the night staff to ensure they get to partake in the fun and know they’re remembered and appreciated too!