The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

29 Years and 1 Day Ago

What a wild ride that first year was. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was a totally foreign atmosphere to us in the beginning but within that unit filled with bright lights, beeping machines, incubators and all manner of sterile equipment was a tiny baby boy who held our hearts and our dreams in his miniature little hand. We were overwhelmed at first by all the wires, tubes, medications, oxygen and incomprehensible terminology that surrounded our new son but as one day flowed into the next and each month flowed into another and another and then still another we became sort of 'parent experts', to the point that when the machine that monitored his breathing would trip, signaling that he was forgetting to breathe, one of us would gently pat the bottom of a little foot, watch for a big breath and then reach over and hit the reset button. We could discuss, intelligently, his medications, blood oxygen levels and progress with the doctors

There were some very scary times. A phone call from the nurse in the middle of the night saying the baby had taken a sharp turn for the worse and they weren't sure he would make it through the night and that we should come to the hospital. There was a very long weekend waiting for test results that would determine whether our son had Cystic Fibrosis. There were seizures and worst of all was the day he went into surgery, at five months old, to have half of his right lung removed. Day in, day out, our lives revolved around the drive to the hospital, scrubbing up and donning sterile gowns once we got there in order to do what most new parents get to do all day, every day....hold their new baby. I remember one day, sitting in a rocking chair, holding my little bundle, who was attached to an oxygen tank, and watching two young mothers, so excited because they were each taking their babies home that day. They talked about how long they had waited. One baby was 5 weeks old and the other was about 8 weeks old. I turned the rocker toward the wall because now I was crying. Michael was 6 months old. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. When I arrived at the hospital the next day a new baby had been brought into the NICU. This baby was not a preemie. His mother had had a perfectly normal pregnancy and had delivered her son full term. But this otherwise perfectly healthy baby was missing most of both arms and both legs. The nurse told me they just wanted to watch him for a few days before they let him go home. That was quite reality check for me. I suddenly realized how lucky I was. I still didn't know when Michael would be well enough to come home but he was whole and eventually our day would come. We were pretty sure by then that he would not have any long term or permanent disabilities because of his premature birth.

Our day finally came after 7 1/2 long months. He was very small, still needed several medications and required an oxygen tent over his crib, but he was strong enough to come home! For the first couple of weeks his pediatrician wanted to see him every other day. Then it was once a week, then once every two weeks, then once a month. We had appointments with the physical therapist and the occupational therapist, who gave us exercises and activities to do with Michael at home, all to help him catch up to other babies his age. He was so far behind at that point. But every day brought new developments. He crawled two weeks before his first birthday and walked at 16 months. We sat on the floor with him that day and cried with joy.

Though I love all of my children equally, there has always been something special about watching Michael learn to walk, start school, ride a bike, drive a car, graduate from high school and then college. That tiny little baby who fought so hard to stay alive turned 29 years old yesterday and I just can't imagine what my life would have been like all these years without him. He is smart, responsible, very funny and an outstanding human being. I am so proud of him.

Happy birthday, Michael. Thanks for making me a mom!


Michael said...

Thank you! It was an exhausting day at work, and the restaurant I wanted to try with Steve and Shauna after work was closed. But eventually we three found a good Thai restaurant and enjoyed some really spicy food. :-) Then we went home and watched "Tribbles" on Shauna's laptop.

Stressful day, great ending!

I love you!

Amy said...

Wow, Michael... I'd heard parts of your Survivor Baby story, but never quite that much... dude, we may chafe sometimes, but I'm really glad you're here too.