Two things happened today that made me think of beginnings, Big Man’s beginnings to be specific. The first was a conversation about pregnancies. The second was a friend giving birth, prematurely, to a beautiful little boy. And since we’re in September, the month when it all went wrong (and right – because my miracle is indeed a miracle), my thoughts spun back to his beginnings.
We saw the egg that is half of Big Man. I kid you not. We were going through fertility treatments, on gonal-F shots and under close care with our fertility specialist. We had an ultrasound on a Saturday morning to see if it was time for the shot that would release the eggs. There was one egg ready to go, and a few others close behind. We were sent home to “do the deed,” and two weeks later, I had a positive pregnancy test. Four weeks after that, we saw Big Man’s heart beating for the first time. Spouse was SO proud. He took that grainy ultrasound picture home and stuck it on the fridge. We were so happy. After over 18 months of trying, with multiple tests, procedures, medications, disappointments, and one miscarriage, we were finally, truly pregnant. It came crashing down at 9 weeks when I started spotting. We got the same answer we’d been given just before I miscarried the first time – the pregnancy would hold, or it wouldn’t. There was nothing they could do. A few days later, the spotting stopped, and we were filled with relief.
The day Big Man was born was full of pain, fever, fear, anger, and frustration. We had done everything right. I had followed every rule. Since being admitted to the hospital with a placental abruption, I’d done everything the doctors said to do to keep our child inside of me. I remember every minute of that day, but there are a few things that stand out so much. First off, two pounds of baby coming out hurts way more than you think it would. Second, and most-impressed upon my heart, is how loud silence can be. There were three doctors and five nurses in the room with us when Big Man was born, but there was not a single sound in those seconds immediately following his birth. My heart ripped in two, certain the worst had happened and he was already gone. They took him across the room to the waiting warming table, but just before, I asked Spouse to tell me if we had a son or daughter. He looked, somewhat fearfully, and told me we had a son. Third, just before Big Man was intubated, he gave us a tiny, kitten-like cry. I breathed, because I knew he breathed. I saw an impossibly small foot wave in the air, and then they took him away to the temporary NICU. Fourth, the neonatologist came back shortly afterwards, handing us two Polaroids of our son. He informed us we had a “feisty fighter” on our hands. I will never forget those words, nor how true they proved to be. Fifth, I saw Big Man three hours later, just before they transferred him to the hospital his NICU was in. He lay there, splayed, naked, red-skinned, hooked up to life-saving machines, with wires attached to seemingly every part of his body. More than half of his face was covered with the tape holding the ventilator tube in place. There wasn’t much skin available to touch. But I put my pinky in his tiny hand. He grabbed on. Too soon, he was put in an incubator, rolled into the waiting ambulance, and driven away.
We spent 93 days traveling back and forth to that NICU. More hours than I can count, I sat by his isolette. He was scheduled to come home December 16. During the night of the 15th, he stopped breathing and his heart rate dropped. He was back on oxygen when we arrived the morning of the 16th. He would not be coming home. The clock started again. He had to go at least five days without any episodes, and without needing supplemental oxygen. On December 22nd, his neonatologist asked what we thought about a Christmas baby. Our Big Man came home to stay on Christmas Day.
Those are his beginnings. That is his story (or part of it). I was forever changed by him right from the very start – from everything it took to get pregnant with him, to nearly losing him multiple times, to bringing him home and having the incredible gift of watching him grow into a young man.