A story for the readers of The Listserve:
For 32 days last fall I was a ghost. Watching people go about their day-to-day lives around me while time seemed to stand still. My son was born 41 days early and spent 32 agonizing (for me) days in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
One Friday night my wife and I were sitting on the couch relaxing after dinner when *POP* her water broke. 6 ½ weeks early. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Women having their first NEVER go early we were told. It did happen. We rushed to the hospital where our fears were confirmed: Her water had broken. My wife was not leaving the hospital until she delivered the baby, but it was not happening that night. Over the next 6 days we talked, hugged, and tried to stay calm. In the moments I found myself alone I cried. Fear of the unknown can be terrifying. For 6 days I was terrified, but I didn’t show it. I put on a brave face for my wife and the son I hadn’t yet met. Six days later, once the doctor’s felt the baby’s lungs had fully developed they induced labor. Nearly 24 hours later my son was born. A great size and weight for a preemie we were told.
The next 32 days were a haze of worry, nerves, smiles, tears, and joy. I went back to work, visiting the NICU every day at 5:30 AM before going to the office and again at 6 PM on my way home. My wife was there from mid-morning until mid-evening each day, and we would call the hospital in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, just to be reassured that he was ok. I was torn to pieces to see my son hooked up to IVs, a breathing machine, and a feeding tube.
I went through the motions each day, watching as others lived their lives and I could only sit and wait for my life to get going. It was impossible to explain to people how tired I was, how scared I was, and how I would just wish everybody would leave me alone. I ate crappy food, I barely slept, and I tried to put on a brave face. We were told he was close to going home enough times that, though I cognitively knew it would happen eventually, I had a difficult time believing it.
After 32 days my son came home, with no lasting medical issues or signs he had entered the world in such an unexpected way. A very wise nurse in the NICU said to my wife and I “If you don’t tell him he spent 32 days here he would never know it, despite that, you will be scarred for life.” She was right. He is a happy, smiling, drooling, amazing 5 ½ month old and each and every day I look with wonder and amazement as he grows and learns.
That’s it. A story from my heart.
If in parting I can share some unimaginative wisdom it is this:
Life is full of unexpected moments, some good ones, some bad ones, and some both good and bad. Getting through each day and starting over the next is all we as humans can do.
It’s ok to cry and ok to be scared. In the end it will all work out, or it won’t.
Feel free to share your story with me and thanks for allowing me to share mine.