Looking back, baby, I remember. I remember that night and I remember those five months in the hospital. Some memories sweet, and some memories I long to forget, but know that they are a part of who we are now.
I remember being confused. Why hadn't the doctors stopped my labor by now? This wasn't what was supposed to be happening. It was too early for the baby to come. Surely they realized that. Didn't they?
I remember being in agony. The pain of the contractions while being strapped onto the gurney and unable to move my body into a more comfortable position. Feeling my water break on the helicopter and knowing that we were past the point of no return. This baby was coming tonight, whether or not it was too early. The agony of pushing my tiny baby out of my body, while desperately wanting to keep her safely inside.
I remember being in denial. This sort of thing could never happen to me. I was young, healthy, ordinary. This sort of thing only happens to people who . . . and I couldn't finish the sentence. I didn't know what kind of people this happened to, but certainly, it didn't happen to me. The NICU nurse, offering me a tiny, 3-inch-square diaper to take home with me, and I wanted to throw it across the room and never look at it again. I didn't want that reminder of just how small and fragile my baby was. My baby, who my body had unkindly evicted just a few hours ago. She should still be inside my womb. I didn't want to see her. I didn't want to see how damaged and delicate and close to death she was. I wanted to pretend that none of this had happened and that I could go home and finish the last four months of pregnancy in peace.
I remember crying. A lot.
I remember holding you for the first time. I was worried how you would handle the stress of being moved and handled. But I was eager and wanting to hold you. You were so so tiny. I remember how it felt to feel your skin next to mine. It was a special moment that I will always treasure.
I remember sitting at your bedside for hours. Not reading a book, not surfing the internet. Occasionally sending an update to a loved one by phone call or text message. Just sitting, watching you sleep, willing you to grow and to heal.
I remember waiting. Watching other babies move on and progress and go home while we remained. Waiting for milestones, which were slowly but surely reached. Waiting for test results, for ultrasound results, for surgeries. Waiting for healing to happen.
I remember feeling grateful. Grateful for help and love and support and blessings. Grateful for strengthened relationships. Grateful for little things that helped us along our journey. Grateful that things could have gone a lot worse, but didn't. Grateful for miracles.