September was #Nicuawareness month and also Calvin’s first birthday. I spent a lot of time reflecting on his birth story. Since it’s been a year, I felt like I could share a few things about my experience as a NICU mom. For a first time mom, I often wish this wouldn’t be my pregnancy story. But it was and it was painful. So here is a bit of my story with Calvin.
I had a few people ask about whether we had planned to get pregnant and the answer is no, we didn’t. It was a rough season for us in our marriage and getting pregnant was the last thing I thought could occur. But God thought otherwise. Each time we got new pictures of Calvin reality would hit us, we were about to be parents no matter the condition of our marriage, and the bigger reality was that God was in control of it all. Watching each sonogram reminded me that God was knitting Calvin in my womb and did not require my help. He just required that I trust him. He had planned this moment even before I was born and He had planned for Calvin to be born for this exact season whether we were ready or not. I’d like to think now that God’s plan was perfect, I had it wrong when I thought that Calvin would be the joy we needed for our marriage because what God was going to teach us was that we needed Him more than ever. Our joy alone could only come from Him and only He could heal what sin had broken.
“Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” – Esther 4:14
During my 18 week appointment, I really got to see Calvin’s growth. We got a perfect heartbeat and even got to see a little hand. What was such a beautiful moment quickly got tainted by fear. The sonogram technician finished taking a look at Calvin and said: “ your cervix is a little short, I’m gonna run this by the doctor”. I could feel that that wasn’t good. The doctor shared that my cervix was a lot shorter and I was at high risk of going into preterm labor. I’m not sure I really understood what she meant and I didn’t know what questions to ask. So when I got home I did the one thing I was told not to do ever, I Googled. I started googling what it meant to have a short cervix, reading about moms that had miscarriages later in their pregnancies and some said that their babies were born too early so they had to stay in the NICU for a while. I could feel my heart fill with fears of that being my case. I had this whole thing planned out and right now it wasn’t going according to my plan. I became frustrated and upset. I wasn’t understanding why things weren’t going my way. For six weeks I would have to get checked and be on a treatment to make sure my cervix was growing instead of shortening. Those weeks were the most miserable weeks of my life but I did get to see Calvin every-time, which gave me something to look forward too. At the end of those weeks, the doctor would determine if I would need to get stitched or continue the treatment hoping that I would make it. Eventually, my cervix grew enough and everything seemed clear. I mean she even said it “ if you were to go into early labor, it definitely wouldn’t be because of your cervix”. Welp, at 33 weeks I began having contractions and I was definitely going into labor.
During this time I felt like God was going to allow this pregnancy to play out the way He wanted it too and this is where I couldn’t say that no matter what happens He was still good.
But God is still good no matter how I feel towards Him, my affections for him at the moment don’t change who He really is good.
At this point we had spent two days in the hospital, I was monitored all day and given shots in order to delay my contractions but nothing was stopping them. Calvin was coming and I was under extreme distress. The doctors really encouraged that I take the epidural in order to be able to have a vaginal birth. The hours before the delivery time was a little crazy, my body was exhausted, I couldn’t eat food and I was connected to so many wires that I could barely move. Right before giving birth, there was only one nurse helping between two delivery rooms and the doctor had only a few mins to deliver Calvin and move on to the next room.
After my water broke and my cervix dilated from 3 cm, 5 cm, and quickly to 9 cm, at this point it was time. The doctor put on her gloves and she said “ it’s gonna be okay, you’ll do great. When I say push, you push and hold. Push and hold.” Those 15 minutes felt like hours, the doctor was cheering me on the whole time, my mom was a hot mess and my husband, he was recording, crying and talking a lot. Lol
But then we heard him. We heard his cry for the first time. That’s the moment when you feel like the whole world stops, what was once growing in you was now physically here. Calvin was slimy and dirty, his shiny black hair filled his head and back and everything about him was wrinkly; he was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. This was truly love at first sight. I got the chance to hold him and tell him how much he was loved over and over.
Finally, the anticipation was over, he had arrived. We got our first family picture but just as quick as that shot was over, Calvin would be taken away to be cared for at the NICU. That night there was no private room available for Ruben to stay with me. So I stayed alone sharing a room with a mama that had her baby. This would be the loneliest night of my life, still a year later that night leaves a sting.
All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face! For his anger is for a moment, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. Psalm 30:5.
After a week I was done. I didn’t want to talk to God, I was bitter and honestly, I didn’t want to hear that “ God had a purpose for this” because what I was feeling was abandoned and unloved by Him. I remember Ruben once saying to me “ I know this sucks, it hurts and it feels unfair, but we need to find things to be grateful for so that we can survive this.”.
And there were things to be grateful for:
•Calvin’s condition wasn’t so complicated. He just simply was early.
•We were never, ever alone at the hospital, people stopped by to bring us food and keep us company.
•We were learning to care for Calvin from the nurses who were attending us.
•Our home was not set up for Calvin yet, so this gave us time to prepare for our little boy.
We had things to be grateful for and I was not seeing them in the midst of our pain. No matter how angry I was with God at that moment, He made sure to remind me that He was near. He is always near to the broken in spirit.
For my amiga Roberta, I thank her being a warrior mom and giving me strength during this season. Her story and her son’s Kayden’s life will always remind me that God listens to our prayers. He knew I needed someone that could say “ I know boo, I know how it feels”. He is a God of miracles. #nicumomstrong.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to perfectly describe my experience in the NICU, But if I can sum up the way I felt after being cared for by the wonderful staff who helped us at every step of the way- it would be “hopeful”.Everyone is hopeful that each baby there would eventually be healthy enough to go home. Because the reality is- not every baby that is in the NICU will make it back home.
I can describe the sounds you hear: Tons of monitors going off, babies and parents crying, doctors whispering, families talking. For me, the monitors were what broke the silence of being with Calvin, and scared me the most. You just never know which monitor is going off and even when you’re embracing your newborn baby, you can’t help but worry about what those beeping monitors mean- both for your child, and the other babies. I think if you stay at the NICU long enough, after you leave, it feels like you’ve developed PTSD. Even after coming home, I could still hear them.
I spent two weeks in the NICU traveling back and forth- early morning to past midnight. Some days I just sat in front of Calvin’s incubator weeping, and other days I was given the opportunity to hold him for hours. When I wasn’t with him, I was in a room pumping to get at least one or two ounces of milk. Calvin struggled to eat, which is why he needed a feeding tube. He wouldn’t latch on to my breast, and my milk supply was so low that it wasn’t enough to feed him all day. That was depressing and exhausting.
But out of all those things, the hardest part was going home empty-handed.
That’s what breaks you…
I think that even a year later it still hurts, but I have hope. So, Nicu mama I’m praying for you. May strength and comfort be upon you. May your baby keep fighting and may you not lose hope, be hopeful.
Transparent City Mama