6 Months into the Sleepless Dream of New Motherhood
A medical bill of different items for Harrison’s hospital stay earlier this year blares in front of my eyes.
Reference number 71045, Radiologic exam chest 4 + views, hospital neonate, 28 days or less, critically ill
Reference number 71046 subsequent hospital neonate 28 days or less, critically ill
Reference number 71047 subsequent hospital care, level V, hospital neonate, 28 days or less, critically ill
And so on, and so on, and so on, for three pages.
The items, the numbers, the amounts due, all scramble inside my head like they are dancing on the paper. Dizzy, the only thing I can make out is those two dreadful words, written over and over and over again.
I try to steady my brain to read more.
“Neonate. 28 days or less.”
28 days or less. A newborn. A baby. My newborn baby.
It’s easy to try and forget the hell that was this summer. I try to block it out of my mind constantly. Focusing instead on our first Christmas tree as a family, the ‘baby’s first Christmas’ ornament, and the big velvet ‘Harrison’ stocking on the fireplace, both hung yesterday in a scene straight out of a hallmark movie, Kenny stringing the lights on the tree while Christmas music played in the background, me popping a bottle of champagne and Harrison sitting up, smiling and laughing, taking in all the holiday excitement.
“Is he even real?” I ask myself at least 10 times a day.
The thing is, he almost wasn’t.
I guess every baby almost ‘wasn’t’ when you think about it. Every beautiful life on this earth is just a culmination of a whole lot of luck and fortuitous timing, isn’t it? That, and, if you choose to believe, the plan of God or a higher power. Destined.
I know that Harrison was always meant to be here. And that the hands of God, as well as many skilled doctors and nurses, are why he is today. And I also know that his tumultuous start to life was for a reason, one we don’t fully understand yet and might not ever.
The reality, any way you cut it, is that he was almost taken from us. Without warning, without reason.
And then, just as swiftly, he was given back.
It all happened in a moment I’ll never forget, despite how badly I wish I could. My lifeless 48-hour-old baby, suspended in the balance, while alarms blared across the NICU in the middle of the night.
I can still hear my own shallow, scared voice in the hospital hallway telling Kenny “this is not happening. This is not happening”, over and over and over again. The only words I could make out, feeling the same terrifying feeling you get when you’re in a nightmare trying to scream and nothing comes out.
I still feel the suffocating grip we held each other in, embraced with nothing holding us up but each other, as doctors swarmed around us and alarms continued to sound the halls. I’ve never felt my body float out of myself like the way I did in those moments. Waiting for what felt like an eternity for someone to tell me my baby was alive.
I won’t ever be able to forget the nightmare that I’ll never not be grateful that we woke up from.
We can try to understand… make sense of the hardships, the lucky breaks, that we are given, or we can focus on how we handle them, how we trek forward, how we take on the many challenges of life as opportunities.
I’m not sure I can make sense of why we as a family were put through what we went through this year. And I’m not sure I can make sense of why we were spared from a completely different ending that others in the same situation have faced.
And I’m not sure I can make sense of why, even though I feel so blessed, so happy, and so lucky, every day still feels like such a struggle, to make ends meet, to make our family business successful, while doing everything in our power to be there, in full force and energy, for our miracle baby boy. It’s not easy, none of it. Balancing a baby, careers, business, our relationship, our friendships, meeting new people in a new city we know no one in, and trying to find time to shower. It feels like climbing a constant steep mountain. Kenny and I have climbed many mountains before, sure, we’ve faced hardship and challenges and economic downturns, managing to find optimism, vision, and clarity in the toughest of times, but, this time, we’re climbing that mountain with a baby on our back. And, boy, does it feel different.
“But I’m just so lucky he’s here!” I steady my brain again. Trying to focus on how lucky we are, how happy we are, but feeling a responsibility to you all to let you know being a new mom isn’t without struggle. That I can feel like the luckiest, happiest, most blessed mom in the world in most moments, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t break down in many other moments. We ALL do. It’s all part of the beautiful sleepless dream were in called parenthood.
Speaking of, is it just me or is “how’s he sleeping?” the go-to question of every upbeat mom desperate to tell their tales of how their sweet little Jane was ‘sleeping through the night at 4 weeks!!!!!”. This question makes me want to scream. Not because he ‘isn’t sleeping through the night’, and I’m exhausted. (And of course jealous of Jane’s mom’s glowing skin and rested energy). But more because I just don’t care if he’s not a ‘good’ sleeper yet. I don’t care that he still wants his mama late at night. I don’t care that he needs me to hold him, to rock him, to nurse him. I would go without sleep for eternity if it means that he is HERE. He’s ALIVE. He’s turning into a little boy before my eyes.
And it’s a fucking miracle.
If Harrison’s story inspires you and you can find it in your heart to donate even $5 to his friends currently in the NICU and PICU, please do so on this fundraising page here. It’s a fact that 10% of babies are born prematurely. Our hope and mission of Harrison’s Healthy Kids is that every NICU baby turns into a healthy kid, and we hope to be a part of making that happen through these efforts. Thank you so much for your support.