Today I got hit hard by memory lane. Smacked in the face really. Hard.
Remembering seeing my tiny babies in their swaddles that were so tight they could only have been done by a NICU nurse. Seeing them in those NICU isolettes.
We always knew they were just there to feed and grow, but it was still hard. I am the first to say that our NICU experience was nothing compared to other people’s. There were moms in there that had been there for months. We only spent a week. There were moms in there that were constantly scared, we were never scared. Well, we were constantly scared, but we never wondered if our babies would come home. And really, our NICO time was a blessing. It gave me time to heal from a birth experience that apparently only 4% of women face. Go me… sigh…. But they spent 26 hours without me. and I spent 26 hours without them. I barely remember those 26 hours. In fact, what I remember the most is my father in law sitting by my bedside. I am sure D was there, I am sure he showed me pictures. I don’t even remember if I saw Emily. I feel like I must have, but I don’t remember. I remember that 26th hour though. I remember the nurse saying that I could come off the magnesium at 4:00 instead of 5:00. I remember being in the wheelchair, but I don’t really remember getting into it. I remember having the option to go to the NICU in my hospital bed. NO! I know it was hard to get into the chair, but I know I did it. I remember seeing my babies in those isolettes.
When Emily was 26 hours old I was beyond ready to get home. I had nursed, changed diapers and not slept. I had cuddled her. Loved her. I had memorized her face, her fingers and how they grasped mine, her smell…. I was robbed at that with Sidney and Spencer. I got to know them with nurses hovering, with machines beeping, with wires tangling. I have wondered (occasionally, I won’t let myself go here), if they ever thought the nurses were their mommy. Do they feel robbed of those 26 hours as well? In the NICU, they were always together, but really so far apart. Once we put them together in the same isolette for that first picture.
I love this first picture of them together. An 8×10 of it is still on my mantle. Did they know they were together? Finally. Do they feel robbed of their time together in the beginning? They play together all the time now. They share food with each other, eat of each other’s trays, share toys, books, mommy (not well). When they same home, we put them in the cosleeper together, and the crib together. Did they miss each other in those 26 hours.
I never knew Sidney was born. In those 26 hours, I remember feeling my (still large, but not as large as it was) belly. I had gas that felt like baby kicks. But she was down the hall, through 2 sets of security doors, hooked to monitors. Not with me. I knew Spencer had been born, I heard his cry. I continued to hear that cry until he came home. In those 26 hours I could hear it, but it was very far away.
I don’t know why this all hit me so hard today. Well, I do really, I was reading an article about a baby in the NICU. A baby boy. He and his 2 sisters were all in the NICU, but he never got to go home. every day I am so thankful that both of my babies came home. Every day I am so aware how incredibly lucky I am. So many NICU mommies have broken hearts. My heart is always heavy for them. But it is also Emily. Emily still talks of them time mommy had to stay in the hospital to have the babies. After nearly a year, she speaks of it with amazing accuracy. Sometimes she remembers that she and daddy could do whatever they wanted and sometimes she hugs me super tight and recalls how much she missed me. But that is all behind us now.
Right now all 3 of my babies are sleeping soundly. Sidney is on her favorite giraffe (giraffEE), Spencer is cuddled into the sweetest position, and Emily is cuddled with her giraffe and may-may (favorite blanket). We are fully expecting middle of the night wake ups from the twins. They both went down at about 6pm, which is early, even for us. But every day one of my babies finds a way to melt my heart. Yesterday it was Spencer playing with his trucks. Today it was Sidney crawling across the room to get to me. Every day it is Emily hugs, Spencer cuddles, and Sidney snuggles. It is when they lay little heads down on my chest or shoulder. It is a huge smile for mommy. It is knowing that they came home from the NICU, perfect. We may have lost 26 hours of our lives together, but we are making up for it.
It has been just under a year since that first picture of the babies together. Just under a year, but really light years. No wires, no monitors, just happy, healthy babies.
This little girl has not changed a bit in the past, almost year. She is still so funny, loving, and caring. If anyone is sick, they will immediately get a hand drawn card or a dozen. She is still a world class hugger. Only now she is also a fabulous big sister. She makes the good moments better and the hard moments easier. She celebrates each of the babies milestones and accomplishments with such pride. And watching her play with the babies is the best ever! Watching her cheer them on as the crawl (mommy, Sidney got her tummy off the ground!), watching her give them books (these are hard books that you can’t eat), toys (here, do you want to play with my blocks), it is the best.
So those 26 hours will always be missing, but we are making up for that lost time every day. And some days it is like it never happened. This evening was not one of those days. But tomorrow will be.