I’ve been blessed with two adorable little boys that have a lot in common, but how they entered the world is not one of them.  My first son was born two days after my due date, weighing 8 pounds 14 ounces.  My second son was born eight weeks early, weighing 4 pounds 4 ounces.  I have experienced both the joy of leaving the hospital with a newborn, and the sadness of being discharged with your baby still in the NICU.

Early in my second pregnancy, I learned that I had some pregnancy complications. At first, I didn’t concern myself too much; after all, my first pregnancy was perfectly normal. On December 31, 2011, at exactly 28 weeks, I was rushed to the hospital. Having suffered a miscarriage before, I was terrified I had lost the baby. I was placed on bed rest with the expectation of delivering shortly thereafter. However, I headed home to be reunited with my son five days later.

Each day without complications was celebrated.  After all, every day my baby stayed inside me he/she was growing stronger!  Yet, each day was also full of grief and worry.  I was unable to pick up and care for my son, unable to return to my job as a teacher, and left to worry about this possibly life threatening complication.  Physically, I felt fine.  Emotionally, I was a wreck.  My husband and I had decided, as we had with our first, to have the sex of our baby be a surprise.  However, around 30 weeks, I couldn’t wait any longer; there was a possibility I wouldn’t be around to find out after the baby was born.  I was delighted to learn I was carrying another boy!

At 32 weeks I woke up hemorrhaging.  Upon arrival at the hospital I learned that I had lost too much blood and was immediately prepped for delivery.  The following hours were the longest of my life.  I worried about my son entering the world too early; I panicked because I never met with my doctors to discuss a surgical plan for my C-section; and I was terrified that I was living my last day.

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My son, Jackson, was born at 4:41pm weighing 4 pounds 4 ounces and was 17 ½ inches long.  He was taken to the NICU where he was placed on C-PAP to help him breathe.  Due to my surgery, I was unable to lay eyes on my sweet baby boy for over 24 hours.  When I finally saw him, he was tiny and fragile.  Thankfully he didn’t have any severe complications, just the typical breathing and feeding issues that come with being born prematurely.  He was in an infant warmer, still on C-PAP, had a feeding tube, an IV, chest leads to monitor his temperature, heart and breathing rate, and a pulse ox to monitor his blood oxygen levels.  I had never seen a baby dependent on so many things.  It was a far cry from what I experienced with the birth of my first child.

Jackson remained in the NICU for 37 days, which felt like a lifetime.  It was extremely difficult dealing with the ups and downs that come with the life of a premature baby.  There was the sadness that he wasn’t well enough to come home and that friends and family were unable to meet him, and the feeling that I was losing out on the time I’d never get back with my last child.   There were times I felt as if he was never going to come home!  I spent countless hours in the NICU holding and feeding him, but none of that compares to life at home with a newborn.

The birth of my son opened my eyes to a whole other world.  The world behind the walls of the NICU is terrifying and amazing all at the same time.  It is a world that I pray my friends and family never have to know firsthand, but it’s the world my miracle baby lived in for the first month of his life.  It is forever a part of my life and I am grateful to the doctors and nurses who cared for my son at a time when I was not equipped to do so.

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