It’s a terrible thing to wish that time would speed up.
I don’t normally fall prey to this trap. I know it’s difficult to be happy when you aren’t present.
But I would venture to guess that many mothers of extremely premature babies feel the same.
Josiah decided to make all my anxieties about his wellbeing come rushing back into the forefront of my mind, creeping like a recurring rash you never really get rid of but that flares when you least expect.
He developed a cough a couple of days ago. Honestly, it’s a miracle that he hasn’t been sick yet. (He’s been home from the NICU since January.)
My mind replays the statistics.
50% of preemies end up back in the hospital their first year of life, usually due to RSV or some other respiratory infection that a bigger, stronger baby could throw off easily. (And illness notwithstanding, he’ll need surgery soon to correct a hernia, common among preemies.)
Fall means the start of RSV and flu season, sicknesses that can and do kill preemies.
It used to be one of my favorite times of year. But I’m dreading these next several months.
If I had a remote control, I would fast-forward to spring, click-like.
Last night before bed I grabbed my backpack (which conveniently houses my breast pump) and packed it for an overnight stay at the hospital, just in case little one scared me in the night.
It made me feel better.
I ran an atomizer with essential oils and the vaporizer. I gave Josiah elderberry syrup and took immune boosting herbs myself.
Most mothers of infants want their babies to stay little forever. They want time to stop. As hard as the newborn period can be, it’s also magical and lovely.
That’s how I felt with my first 6 babies.
But the extended newbornhood of the preemie isn’t fun.
Hurry up, baby. Hurry up and grow.
I fool myself into thinking that when Josiah is 2, the age my last baby was when this all began, that my life (and therefore I) will feel normal again.
But it’s likely an illusion.
Will the anxiety ever go away? Will the fears ever stop?
The other night, the familiar nightmare came back. The details change, but the dream is the same: I am desperate to get at my baby, but many things make it impossible. I grow more and more panicked, then when I finally find him, he’s gone.
I’ve lost the mothering confidence I had for 17 years. I thought I had this.
But everything is different with a preemie.
September is NICU awareness month. (Before having a preemie, I certainly wasn’t aware. I’m glad such a thing exists.)
Next month is my son’s birthday. He’ll be a calendar year old, but it will only have been 9 months since my due date. The pictures I took of my baby while he was in the hospital got lost when my last phone imploded, and I wasn’t sad. The pictures were too painful to look at, as are other mementos from that time. I think that my brain blocked out much of what happened during those days and the weeks after.
Little things come back to me now and again, and I remember. I burst into tears often, for no real reason at all.
Note: I wrote this post two days ago. Josiah is doing better now and his cough is abating. I thought that once my little one was home from the NICU, everything would be perfect. But as is so often true in life, I exchanged one set of problems for another.
Here are a few of my posts from Josiah’s time in the NICU, starting with his birth. Homecoming. Two steps forward, one step back. All the angry feelings come out. The fragile flower of the NICU. Locked inside your heart-shaped box. More angry eyes. Going home from the hospital without your baby. Breaking down. Why NICU nurses are part angel.