I will never forget the first time I held Hank in my arms. He was three days old and he was crying and hungry because he had yet to eat anything. The nurse in the NICU finally let me hold him to see if I could calm him down. I sang him a little song and he stopped crying immediately. That is the first time in my life I really felt like a mom. It was this feeling deep within me like a gaping hole was beginning to heal. I had a purpose, a meaning, I actually created him and he responds to me. I hadn’t known that before. In fact for two days I didn’t think I was ever going to hold Hank in my arms alive.
I will never forget hearing him cry for the first time. I felt so disconnected as if I was watching from the outside. Part of me was thinking “Is this what it feels like? To have a baby born full term and healthy?” I was terrified of what that would feel like yet I craved it in my soul. I had to have another chance. I had to have a healthy baby I could have in my arms right after he was born, to actually take home with me from the hospital. One minute after his birth Hank stopped breathing. And his heart stopped. I saw them performing CPR and trying to block our view of what was happening. But we knew. They were able to resuscitate him and thought maybe he had too much fluid in his lungs from being born by cesarean. They thought it was a fluke, and kind of brushed it off. So I thought – Okay, not a big deal. Jeremy held him then, smiling, a proud dad. He went on to the nursery until my surgery was over. Back in my recovery room I waited for them to wheel him in, all swollen and pink and mine. But Jeremy came back empty handed, “I don’t know how to tell you this. But he is in the NICU on some oxygen.” Okay- still not a big deal. This happens sometimes. Everything is fine…yeah, not fine. Far from fine. The first time I went to see him he was getting a blood transfusion. Wires and tubes everywhere. Wait. I’ve been here before. This isn’t supposed to happen. I did everything right. Why is this happening? The Dr told us he was born with very low blood levels and that is why he had a hard time oxygenating. The transfusion will help that they said. But it didn’t.
Are you kidding me? Am I really here again? I seriously thought I had to be cursed. Here I am sitting next to my third child on life support. Signing papers to say -Yes! Save my baby! For completely unrelated reasons another baby of mine is dying. They told us they didn’t know why he was having such a hard time. They weren’t sure there was anything else they could do. He needed to be transfered to Children’s but he wasn’t stable enough. I can’t even begin to tell you what that felt like. Hearing these words. helpless again. trying to understand what God was doing. The next day they finally felt they didn’t have any options and they had to move him to a NICU better equipped to handle his critical state. I had to say goodbye, not knowing if I was ever going to see him again. On the way to Children’s, in the ambulance, they gave him Surfactant. A drug given to premature babies in respiratory distress who are intubated. Jeremy followed the ambulance and begged to see Hank at the hospital even though it wasn’t visiting hours. Did he make it? Was he still alive? Luckily they complied. He called me after to tell me the surfactant worked and that Hank was better. I actually slept that night. I checked out the next day and went to see him. He was off the respirator by that time and I started to breathe again.
I don’t talk about Hank’s birth much. It seems strange to even type it out. I guess because Kaitlyn’s was so traumatic and then Hank came along and I just didn’t want to (still don’t want to) seem like I am always telling someone a sob story. But this is my life. I am not sure why, but it is what it is. It took me awhile to deal with his birth and all that happened. One part of his story that is miraculous is that while Hank was born with premature lungs, he was also born five days before my schedule c-section. At my Dr’s appointment the day before he asked me if we could deliver Hank the next day because he had a meeting (I heard golf when he was outside my door, but we will go with “meeting”) the morning of his scheduled birth. Being seriously, painfully pregnant I had no objections! I later found out that Hank’s low blood volume at birth was caused by something called fetomaternal hemorrhage. A condition where the fetal blood enters the mother’s circulation, resulting in neurological injury , but most often, death. Hank would not have survived in my womb until his schedule delivery date. God intervened. How am I supposed to feel about that? Amazed, blessed, thankful, in shock. Hank was alive. We were lucky. But It wasn’t over yet though.
In Hank’s first year he was diagnosed with a birth defect that has required three surgeries so far (another one next year), a rare blood disorder, a muscle deformity in is neck leading to a year of physical therapy, in turn this resulted in his head being misshapen requiring him to wear a helmet for six months, and the final diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes when he was 18 months old. He has been through a lot. He is incredibly tough and truly the light of my life.
I wanted to have Hank because I needed to heal my heart. I needed to move on from an incredibly traumatic moment in my life. God gave me a son with the most amazing spirit, huge heart, and silly personality. I could not live without this boy. I always say that he is the love of my life. I say that because the first time I held him, when I felt like a mom, I knew love for the first time. Real unconditional love that bonds a mother and a baby and it healed me. It saved my life.
So here we are five years later. When I sat next to his bed in the NICU I wondered what five years later looked like. I had hoped it would be as great as this. And thankfully, it is more than I could have imagined. Amazing, beautiful, fun, unpredictable, and bright. So today I thank you Hank. Thank you for staying strong through it all, for fighting, for loving me, for letting me love you like crazy. Thank you for teaching me how to feel life again, how to embrace my gifts, and live life it to the fullest. And no matter how big you get, you have to let me hold you no matter what!