There were babies everywhere: babies in carriers, babies riding in shopping carts, and babies being held by their moms. It seemed that no matter which way I looked, I saw a baby…except when I looked down at my empty arms.
I took a deep breath and tried not to have a breakdown inside the Target. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and the store was packed with families on their way to fun adventures. I was sitting on the bench next to the pharmacy wearing my pajamas, wondering if I had enough strength to make it through the rest of the day.
“Are you feeling okay?” my husband asked, walking up with my just-filled prescriptions for pain relievers. After my C-section on Thursday morning, the wiser choice probably would have been waiting in the car. I looked at him with tear-filled eyes. What was going to happen to our little family?
* * * * *
It seemed unreal that three days earlier, I woke up (26 weeks pregnant) and headed to work. Any Hallmark employee can tell you that the month of June means madness in the backroom as boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments arrive from the warehouse for Ornament Premiere. There were three of us working that night, and I was getting as much work done sitting down in the back as possible. I had a pain in my back that would not go away.
My friend and co-worker Lexie was also pregnant (with her third baby), so she tried to reassure me that everything I was feeling was completely normal. Back pain and pregnancy go together like peanut butter and jelly. Around 6:30 p.m., Adam stopped by on his way home from work, and he was concerned by the fact that I couldn’t make it through a sentence without wincing in pain. “Call the doctor, Melissa,” he said, as he walked toward the door. “I’ll see you at home.”
The on-call doctor for my OB practice agreed with Lexie. “It’s sounds like dehydration–drink a lot of water and put your feet up. The pain should stop, but if it doesn’t–feel free to come by the hospital and we’ll check everything out.”
By 10:30 p.m., I was home in my jammies with a gigantic cup full of ice water. The pain seemed to be getting worse, and I finally admitted that we needed to go visit Labor & Delivery. Confident that I was over-reacting and would be sent home immediately, I brought absolutely nothing with me–not a book, not a change of clothes, not even my contact case and back-up glasses.
Which brought me back to our unexpected trip to Target that Saturday morning: sitting on a bench in my pajamas, no longer pregnant.
Our precious baby had been born on Thursday morning, 14 weeks too early, weighing just one pound and 8 ounces. A transport team for the children’s hospital waited on standby for Adeline’s delivery–less than two hours old, our girl was going to take her first ambulance ride to the closest level IV NICU, 30 minutes away.
Adam’s words echoed in my mind. Was I feeling okay? The feelings were hard to distinguish. “Can we just go, please?” I begged from my spot on the bench, aching for a second chance to see our daughter.
He gently led me to our car and drove silently to our daughter’s new home, Children’s Mercy Hospital. He found a spot in the parking garage, settled me into a borrowed wheelchair from the lobby, and pushed me down the hallway to the far set of elevators next to the cafeteria. The bright colors and cheerful decorations seemed at war with my level of despair. This was not what I had planned for our girl.
Her real bedroom was ready for her at home–a brand-new crib, an antique changing table/dresser from Adam’s childhood, piles of tiny pink outfits neatly folded in baskets, a pair of too-big shoes that she might never get to wear…
Instead, our precious daughter was curled up in a temperature-controlled isolette, surrounded by machines and medical personnel who worked tirelessly to keep our baby alive.
Adam wheeled me up Adeline’s bedside and together, we stepped forward into our New Normal.
When I walked into the NICU and saw Addie’s tiny feet, I broke down as I realized she might never have a chance to wear these shoes that were waiting for her at home.
Our 26-weeker miracle recently celebrated her seventh birthday. Today’s post is just bits and pieces of our 135 day NICU journey, inspired by the recent launch of Kayla Aimee’s new book Anchored. You can read more about Kayla Aimee and her book in this previous post. Thank you for reading!
Your turn: I’d love to hear about unmet expectations in your life–how have you been able to celebrate second chances?