The NICU Made Me A Better Mom

So often when I think back to my NICU experience, it is like we never left.

I can immediately go back to those emotions and fears, back to the days and nights in the recliner at bed spot 31, crying and praying and clinging to faith. In a word, it is terrifying. However, over the past few months, another emotion has started to rise up in me and that emotion is pride. It’s a feeling of empowerment.

When I think back to everything my sweet boy went through I feel sick to my stomach and almost immediately I can feel the oxygen being sucked out of the room.

I think about the first time I laid eyes on him, tiny and fragile and translucent.

I think about the nights where I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.

I think about the bowel surgery at 11 days old, where the surgeon told me we’d be lucky if he made it out of surgery and gave him a 25 percent chance of survival.

I think back to the swinging saturations that came with the gaping PDA and the heart surgeon trying to console me before I said “See ya later” to the then 2-pound-8-ounce boy who made my heart skip a beat.

I think about the day-by-day emotions I felt knowing nurses were calling in on their day off just to see if my son made it through the night.

I think about that third surgery — the really big one where he was hooked back up to the ventilator. I remember the nights where he clamped down and had respirations of 0.

I think about all of that and I feel scared and I feel overwhelmed. But then I think of the blessings.

I think about the first time I saw him and I told him I loved him and he reached his tiny arms out to find his mama.

I think about the conversation post bowel surgery where that surgeon told me we were witnessing a miracle; the outcome we received was more than we could have hoped for.

I think of the first time I saw my sweet baby’s whole face — which was only one day after PDA ligation — when he got moved off of the ventilator.

I think about the first time they placed him in my arms and the first time he nursed and the first time I got to give him a bath. And I feel strong and I feel happy. I feel blessed to be this warrior’s mom, and it is something I will never take for granted.

You see, I know what it feels like to question the amount of time I have with my baby. I know what it looks like to watch my child in pain and I know what fear is.

But because I know those things, I also know grace. I know compassion. I know selflessness. I know joy. I know how to live in the moment. I know what it means to love someone unconditionally and it feels so good.

I make an honest effort every day to not take my son for granted, because I remember the days where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hold him ever again. I never want to look back and feel bad about missing something, so if he wants to cuddle all day, we will. If he wants to play on the floor all evening, I am happy to do it. If all he wants is to swing outside, I will slip on my shoes and run out the door.

Because I know every moment is a gift, one I don’t want to take for granted.

He is a survivor, a superhero — my superhero — and just being his mom makes me feel a whole host of emotions, the greatest of which is pride. I love this little miracle and I’m thankful he’s mine. Without him I know I wouldn’t be the woman or the mother I am today.

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