Monday, October 3, 2011

naïve

A better name for this post would be not-so-naïve.

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I remember quite vividly having my first ultrasound at 20 weeks. I knew that at that time, we would be able to see if our baby was "structurally sound," if you will, in addition to possibly finding out the gender. We had no gender success (for another few ultrasounds), but we learned that day that Lucas had 10 fingers and 10 toes, and I felt so relieved. SO RELIEVED! As if 10 fingers and 10 toes could predict the health of my baby. 

Flash forward to his premature birth, a result of a premature rupture of membranes at 35 weeks (my water broke), followed by an 8-day NICU stay (I was discharged without him on Christmas Day!), 3 failed newborn hearing screenings, a detected heart murmur, and another birth defect. We left the NICU with a neonatologist (who should NOT work with NICU families) telling us that Lucas was going to die because of his heart defect... never mind his hearing. To say that the first few weeks of his life were difficult is a VAST understatement. I woke him every 3 hours for the first month of his life to feed him. And, I didn't put him down for about 2 months. Really. We even slept together on the couch. Add to it the fact that I spent 10 hours a day trying to (unsuccessfully) breastfeed him for the first 3 months until he was hospitalized with RSV for 5 days, at which point I decided to pump full time for the next 10 months. He was then hospitalized again for 5 days at 6 months old with suspected meningitis. Those first few months are seriously a blur. He had 2 sedated MRIs, a CT scan and 2 surgeries by the time he turned 1. I never once had a carefree day with him. Never even once. There's a CD I used to listen to during that time to try and relax. When I hear it now, it makes me absolutely sick.

I'm not looking for pity at all, but that was my reality. I now know that it really could have been much worse. We have so many blessings to count. But it still wasn't easy, and you'll never understand until you have a similar experience. Lucas is the center of my world. His joy brings me happiness every.single.day. His lust for life clouds over the intense sorrow and worry I had for him as a newborn. His success is because of a fighting spirit on both his part and ours. We now only look with lots and lots of hope toward the future. We are at a great point in life with Lucas, and we hardly think about that first, difficult year.

However, with the imminent arrival of our baby girl, Lucas's birth and infancy are all that's on my mind. It's the only thing I know. And this time around, I'm not so naïve. 

I know the devastating effects of premature birth. I know the heartbreak of a NICU stay. I know the struggle of unsuccessful breastfeeding. I know the stress of several difficult diagnoses paired with numerous specialist appointments 90 miles away. I know the anxiety of not one, but 6 surgeries for my child, in addition to several painful tests. 

But, I also know how to try and prevent premature birth with closely-followed prenatal care. I know that my baby will probably come home after a NICU stay (at least at this point in my pregnancy). I know that I can still pump breast milk and give my baby the nutrition she deserves. I know how to prepare and pack an infant for a long day of specialist visits. I know how to prepare a child (and myself) for surgery and tests. I know where to look for and find invaluable parent support! AND I know how to teach a baby to listen and speak.

We know that it's certainly possible that our little girl may have a hearing loss. I know families with 1 of 4 children with EVA, and I know families with 4 out of 4 children with EVA. It is absolutely not out of the realm of possibilities. It will still be devastating, and we will mourn for a time, but we will be prepared. And we know what a bright future she will have. She has an AMAZING big brother to look up to. At this point, it is the least of my worries. And, if she CAN hear, she might just be the amazing 6-month old talking baby (haha), because auditory-verbal therapy is an integral part of our parenting lifestyle.

This one has got to be easier though, right? Here's praying for an easy next 2 weeks (to full-term), a smooth delivery, and most of all... a HEALTHY baby girl who gets to go home when her mommy is discharged. Bring it on.

4 comments:

Melanie said...

Bring it on is right! The first year after my boys were born was a total blur. Not as many surgeries, but I can relate to the unexpected NICU stay, nursing challenges and of course the many failed hearing screens. You are an experienced parent now. You know how to handle whatever will come your way. So excited for your family's upcoming arrival.

Julia said...

Okay, I got through most of that, but when you wrote that she is going to have an amazing brother to look up to, that's when the water works started. Take very good care of yourself (both before and after the baby comes), keep that baby inside as long as possible, and come what may, you can get through it. You're a veteran. Hugs to Lucas as he prepares for his new role, too.

leah said...

Take it easy these last two weeks, and I hope she stays put for as long as possible! No matter what, this little girl is going to thrive in your family. Lucas is going to be an amazing big brother, and you and Nate are wonderful parents. Sending so many hugs your way, and I can't wait to see that beautiful baby girl!

Erin & Craig said...

Jen, you are SO inspiring. I just wish more parents knew of your story with Lucas, and how much of an intense fighter of a mom you are. True, you guys are lucky to have Lucas with you in this world, but you know what? I think he is even LUCKIER to have such amazing parents! You go girl! Can't wait to meet Baby Girl!