School started. First Born is taking 3rd grade by storm. This may be a challenging year but he seems ready and excited. Little One starts his first day of pre-school, without me, away from my arms, out of my sight, for 2.5 hours 2 days a week. He starts tomorrow. We did a “get acquainted” day last week and he was psyched. The Hub and I couldn’t have been prouder, watching him walk up to new friends and teachers and telling them his name and asking for theirs. He liked playing in the play kitchen and asked a little girl what she wanted for dinner and proceeded to make it for her. We were beaming. He looked up every once and a while to see us standing there and smiled. Sometimes coming over to us to give us hugs. When it was time for snack, the parents were ushered out of the room, while the kids stayed. He physically pushed us out of the door.
Because he was a premie and the Hub and I are not any where near tall, he is on the small side. He is 4 but still wears size 2T and we are just getting into 3T. He is smart as a whip and cool as a cucumber. I had a difficult time getting pregnant with him and as I explained in some previous posts, I spent time in the hospital (4th paragraph down if you don’t feel like reading my rant on religion) and so did he.
I think that leaving him anywhere, even in a wonderful place, like his new school, or his own bed, sends an instant reminder of my leaving him in that little isolette in the NICU every day for 18 days. Every time I walked out of that NICU, whether it was for the night or for a bite to eat, or to go to the bathroom, it ripped my heart to shreds. I would arrive at the NICU between 8am and 9am and leave around 6pm or 7pm. I called the NICU nurses every night between 11:30pm and midnight, (waiting for the shift to change over) to get a report on his numbers, how much he ate, what his diaper weighed and what his temps were. I wrote everything down. I sat and pumped my breast milk every 2-4 hours to keep my supply up and stored the milk in the freezer until I could run it to the hospital the next day. I set my alarm at night so I could pump through the night. I brought the pump with me to the hospital and sat next to his isolette or in the private pumping room and turned my milk over to the nurses. I would try to have him latch on although he was not able to. I remember thinking how it must have looked to him to have a boob that was bigger than his head coming at him! I just kept putting my milk in the tiny little bottles that they provided, trying to feed him that way. That is what took the longest. He couldn’t get the hang of eating without the feeding tube. I remember when he took 40ml of milk. (just less than 1.5 ounces) I was thrilled. The nurses and I did a jig and cheered him on. I kept looking at the bottle and saying “ LOOK he did it! He ate all that himself!” He eventually got the hang of it. As he graduated from his billirubin blanket, cpap, and his heart monitor, he started maintaining a normal temperature and FINALLY they were able to take out the feeding tube and iv. I was thrilled, ecstatic, nervous and happy all at once. They had him do a car seat check, where they put him in his car seat for 30 minutes and check to see if he can maintain all his levels with no alarms going off. He passed with flying colors. Then the nurse surprised us with: “Today is the day! Look who you get to take home!” We were floored.
When your baby is in the NICU, you don’t ask too often about a timeline. You take it day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute. Each second is a blessing and you don’t want to look too far ahead, only because all the energy you have is focused on the here and now. We took him home. Home, with us. With his exhausted and physically broken mother who would go into the ER with kidney stones 2 days later. Then back to the ER with gallstones 3 weeks after that. Then back into surgery 2 months after that to have her thyroid removed. With a father who was keeping everything together with a very thin thread, maintaining the house, the 4 year old, the finances and his job all with out the help of his wife. With the 4.5 year old big brother who felt neglected and scared not wanting mommy to leave him again and wanting everything to go back to the way it was before. But Little One came home. He was calm. He rolled with it all.
It was a tough time. It tested us, at times, beyond recognition. I had a complete mental breakdown. Such severe panic attacks that I was unable to leave the corner of my bedroom for almost a week. I felt weak and unstable. But we got through. We stepped up and through it. I got myself to therapy and on anti-depressants. We gave First Born some well deserved extra attention and some therapy. To this day still try to carve out some attention time just for him. And the start of it all, Little One, with his smile and joy, kept us smiling too. He thrived and continues to thrive. He loves life, he is happy, he is joyful and he keeps me remembering how precious life is and continues to be. How much we need to live in the here and now, enjoy each and every moment.
He is going to school tomorrow, without me. He is growing and thriving. He is on to the next stage and like each step in the NICU, it is necessary and positive. This school is his own. It was not his brother’s before him. It exclusively belongs to Little One and he seems to really like that. Tomorrow, he may cry and he may not. From the looks of things he won’t. But I know once he is safe inside that building sharing his light with everyone around him, I will cry. Not because I am sad that he is growing up, but because I am happy that he is with us and continuing to thrive, love and smile! Happy “Back to School” to all of our little miracles! Appreciate the here and now!