Our final walk through the NICU doors...this time WITH Evan! After 66 days...we were going home together. With Evan in our arms, and Zac forever in our hearts. After "doctoring" up Evan's seat with towels because he was under the minimum weight requirement, we were almost ready to go!
Getting ready to pack up our little boy to go home!
Home in Evan's own basinet!! What a feeling. What a sight!
Finally getting to snuggle with my son in my own home. What a feeling!
I remember the morning of this date one year ago. Wondering how the day would turn out. I did my usual routine. Call the NICU at an obscenely early time to see how Evan's night was, get the call that he was ready to eat, fly to the hospital to nurse him...and then stay put by his side. Also wondering if we would get the word on whether today might be "the" day, or if it would be
another delay. More blood work to ensure his count was normal. And then wondering when his surgery date would be set for his hernia repairs.
I have to admit, I was disappointed that he didn't get to have his surgery while in NICU, because I know how closely he would have been watched afterwards because of the nurse to patient ratio. I know how busy little peds is, and that the nurse to patient ratio is much more spread out...so I knew he wouldn't have that same attention in NICU. How did I know this?? Because I volunteered in that wing for a few years...so I knew first hand. Don't get me wrong...it wasn't that the children weren't cared for...it was just that they didn't get that same special attention due to the high volume of children to nurse. And I always felt bad for the nurses...so that is why I enjoyed volunteering there so much. It allowed me to love and care for a sick child for a few hours and give them the one on one attention they craved while parents were unable to be there...or just didn't come. It is sad to think that a parent just wouldn't come to see their child...but it was a true, and sad reality.
ANYHOW, I knew I would be with Evan every second of his stay when he had his surgery so I didn't have that concern on my mind. But I'll leave that for a later day!
The day dragged out. The frustration was mounting on me. Here I was, knowing that if it hadn't been for these hernias...we would have had Evan home a week ago. The only think keeping him in NICU was the funny blood count on his draws, and even then the doctors believed it was what commonly happens with preemies and their white count "roller coasters" without any actual concerns. But as frustrating as it all was...I was so thankful for the love and care Evan received.
He had become a "mascot" so to speak in NICU. Everyone knew him. But he was a long-timer...so it was hard not to get to know him!
I remember the moment I heard the nurse saying "the doctor will be by shortly to start his release exam". WHUUUUUUT!!!! They hadn't even pre-warned me!! Just suddenly he was about to get his release exam. However, keep in mind this was later in the afternoon. Much later. But suddenly things just started to happen like a whirlwind! I was SOOOOOOO glad that I had brought Evan's diaper bag (something I started to do daily since it was a daily "pins and needles" idea of "maybe today will be the day" and we wanted to be prepared). My mom had been with me, so I ran to my car and got Evan's diaper bag and called Brett to say "YOU HAVE TO COME!!! Evan gets to come home!!! They are doing his release exam!!!"
And when Brett showed up we just sat there in shock! Excitement, yet shock! Here we had been, 66 days in NICU, and the day was finally here. The wonder of "will Evan even be coming home with us??" was gone. He was coming home.
I remember being in a daze. The exam went relatively quick, but then there was all the discharge stuff. Papers, hand outs, teaching us how to "rig" the car seat since Evan didn't even meet the minimum weight requirement!!
And then...the time came. Evan was in his seat, we were all loaded up. OK, the tears are streaming here right now as I remember the day like it was yesterday. After almost 10 years of wondering if we'd ever get a day like this...after all the years of tears and sadness and questions...after the loss of Ethan and Jack...after the passing of our sweet little Zac.........our son was coming home. We would walk out those NICU doors one last time as patients. We would walk out the hospital doors finally with Evan in our arms. We would leave behind the only place we knew Zac alive.
And as precious, and exciting, and overwhelming and beautiful as that day was...there it was again...the bitter sweet. The joy of knowing Evan was coming home, but the bitter reality that once again...our Zac was not. And this time...I had to walk from the only place I ever held my son. The only place I ever saw his eyes looking at me, or his head turn to me when he would hear my voice, or touch him and kiss him and smell him and love on him.
So as joyful as it was to walk out those NICU doors...it also hurt so much.
On a day where we should have been walking out those doors with TWO car seats, TWO bundles of joy, BOTH our sons...we weren't.
But oh, how my heart overflowed through the sadness and the confusion of my emotions. How the smile shone through the exhaustion and the pain. We were bringing Evan home. No more running back and forth to the hospital through the night to nurse him. I would nurse him at home. No more sitting beside his isolette and basinet all day. I would watch him in his own bed at home. No more phone calls at 3am to see how he was doing. I would only have to look beside my bed to see his little chest rise and fall. No more hospital food!! That speaks for itself!!
For 5 weeks of my hospital stay, and then the 66 days following...from January 30th to May 11th...my life revolved around that hospital. It became my home. For over 3 months it was my surroundings. The nurses became my friends and my support system. And leaving them meant leaving my knowledge and support system for my teeny tiny baby! Although he was no longer a 2lb 9ou-not one ounce of chub/fat-baby...he was now just under 5 pounds with a BIT more meat on him...but I was still scared.
ME...the person who has never doubted herself with a child/baby...was scared. Again, it was not how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to have these term babies who were healthy and weighed at least double their birth weights. I was supposed to go home with hardly an emotional scar with dealing with NICU life.
At least...that's how I dreamt it before that awful January 30th morning.
However...when we drove up to our house and walked through our door...I cried. Both tears of joy and sorrow, gratitude and bitterness, and confusion. But mostly I just stared in awe at this unbelievably tiny baby in the middle of my kitchen floor asleep in his car seat. Brett and I just watched him, and looked at each other and just stared in this stunned silence. We couldn't believe that we finally had our son home. We couldn't believe that we finally held the names "mommy" and "daddy". We were parents. Even though we always considered ourselves parents after our first twins died. But we were parents of living children, and parents to our little Evan in the middle of our kitchen.
I think that's when things really REALLY started to hit me. Even though I felt my sadness and fear and joy every day after Zac and Evan were born...it all REALLY hit me. Because during NICU I had that to occupy my mind. I had the fear of day to day wondering if Evan would ever come home to preoccupy me. I had the racing back and forth to the hospital to keep me forever unrested. But now...I had silence. I had no more racing back and forth. I had no more wonder of my sons life. I had no more nurses to chat and laugh with and to watch Evan diligently.
It was us. It was me. It was silence. And that was something I was not used to anymore. Silence left too much time to think. Too much time to relive things. Too much time to hear the thoughts swirling in my head.
Yet, again, even though the ache of missing Zac was beyond breathable...I was in heaven with Evan. I still am. I still think of where we were a year ago. I still remember the fear of his life when Zac's membranes ruptured. The fear of the thought of losing both my sons once again. And the thought gives me chills as cold as they did that January morning.
And then the reality of how truly exhausted I really was set in. And then the fears of day to day life wondering if Evan was getting enough to eat and if he was going to stay healthy.
AND the knowledge that we would be returning to the hospital a week later for his surgery and the fear of that.
We also had the added stress of "reducing" Evan's hernias every so often. I couldn't do it. I would want to pass out at every time poor Brett had to do it. It didn't hurt Evan, but it was just wierd. And I would get angry every time because it was just one more thing we had to deal with that so many others didn't have to.
But wow...did it ever feel sooooooo good, so precious, to have Evan home. As much as I missed some of our nurses, it was nice to be the one finally feeling like a mom. The one caring for my own child. The one being able to hold him WHENEVER and HOWEVER much I wanted to!! And let me tell you...I did! I held him all the time! We were hardly ever apart. Except when I'd be blessed to have a nap while my mom took over :)
And what a time in sharing that with my mom. The person who sat with me every day in NICU and stayed by my side. Supporting me, getting me to laugh, making me eat! What would I have ever done without you mom?! You saved me through so many days where I wondered if I'd ever survive this. And dad...for everything you did...my heart overflows. I couldn't ask for more precious, more supportive parents in the world!
And Brett...for all he had to deal with. He didn't even get the chance to just sit and allowing everything to soak in. He had to keep going. While I was in the hospital before having the boys, he lived back and forth as well. I hated being apart from him. Hated not being able to share our boys with him all day. Hated that he had to carry everything on his shoulders. Yet, he did it without complaint.
Then after Zac passed away...there was hardly time to mourn. He planned the funeral while I was still recovering and in NICU with Evan. He did all the leg work. Picked out Zac's gravesite. He burdened it all. And again, thank you to his parents for supporting him through that. And thank you to my parents for supporting us through that. Who would have ever thought this would be our reality.
But TODAY, one year ago...was precious beyond words. I will never forget that day. I will never forget the feeling in my heart and soul. I will never forget the gratitude to the NICU staff and doctors. That place and those precious people will always have a special place in my heart.
And I will never forget the feeling of blessing to walk out those doors with our son. As much as I felt cheated out of a life with Zac...I was and AM blessed beyond measure by God for His graciousness to allow us the honor of being Evan's mommy and daddy.
I will never forget today...one year ago!