By Rebecca Hughes Parker for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
I consider my daughters’ birthday to be in January. But I am the only one.
Their birth certificates read November 17, 2004 and that is the day they were hastily scooped out of my womb, neonatologists standing by with oxygen. But, in my head, they did not fully join this world until January 2005, when the tubes and leads were removed from their tiny bodies and they were finally declared ready to breathe and digest on their own. The day they came home—a bitter cold day like the ones we have been having this winter—they were five-and-a-half-pound newborns. They looked and acted like two-day olds, but really it had already been two months.
We are lucky, so lucky. I know that. I know they are fine now. Better than fine. But I’m the one who was toting them around, slowly, inside of me at 29 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy when my water broke in the middle of the night. And it didn’t feel so lucky then.
It didn’t feel so lucky when they were put in the more “intensive” part of the intensive care unit, with one nurse just for the two of them. I did not get to hold them when they were born. I was wheeled down hours later to their incubators so I could look at them. Look, but not touch.
It didn’t feel so lucky when I was told how much oxygen they were being given. When I was told that they each had a brain bleed. That one had a hole in her heart she would be given drugs to help close. That they needed caffeine-based drugs every day to stimulate them. That though they were relatively big for their gestational age, they were still far from ready to be born. We will “approximate the placenta” as best we can, they said, but the conditions in the NICU are not as good as the ones in the womb.