I don’t think anything can prepare you for seeing your tiny angel laying in a plastic bassinet connected to an unlimited amount of wires and cords…I hated those cords. I hated the noises the machines made. I hated all the sounds of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I hated the fact that I had to ask a stranger for permission to hold my beautiful baby girl. I hated that I was scared to hold her. To this day, I still hate seeing the nursing bottles I had to take back and forth from the hospital to our home. I can’t even stand to see the “kangaroo care” shirt that I wore to “bond” with my baby. I hated seeing the NICU phone number pop up on my screen when I wasn’t there.I hated that I couldn’t be there as much as I wanted to be. But… my daughter is ALIVE because of the NICU. The NICU is one of the most horrible and beautiful places I have ever been. There is no doubt in my mind that God lives in the NICU… and the nurses are his angels.
Ashlynn was born on August 27th, 2018 at 10:30 pm. From the time I went into labor to the time she was born took only two hours and three pushes. The room was filled with two teams of doctors, one for me, and one for her. In total, there were probably 15 people in our room; not exactly what you imagine when you think of bringing your beautiful child into this world. They had warned me that when she was born, I most likely wouldn’t be able to hold her. That broke my heart, but I understood. Again, I wasn’t worried about me; it was all about her. I remember thinking I just want to hear her cry. Please God let me hear her sweet little cry. As she was born, I caught a quick glimpse of her as they took her into her corner of the room where her team was on stand-by ready to get to work. I couldn’t see what they were doing. I quickly sat up to try and see, but I couldn’t see a thing. I didn’t hear a sound. I kept asking, “Is she ok?? Do you know if she is ok?? Is she breathing??” Finally, a few gurgles and a sweet little cry filled the room! I began to cry. “Thank you, God!” They began to rush her out of the room. I quickly asked, “Can I please hold her??!” They looked at the doctor and she said “Very quickly.” They handed her over to me. She was absolutely perfect. It was hard to see her through all my tears. We were able to get a quick picture before they took her again. She was finally here! Only by the grace of God.
We spent 35 long days in the NICU. It could have been much worse; I realize that now. It was a really hard time for so many reasons. I felt like I was on auto pilot. Same routine every single day. It never got easier for me. Actually as time went on, it got much harder. Morale got lower. One thing that always remained constant was my trust in God and His plan for our Ashlynn. I would play music for her from church, sing to her, talk to her, play dress up with her by bringing in new hats and bows, pray with her. One night, I even went and watched Miss America with her! I would even FaceTime with our little guy so he could see his baby sister.
I tried to make the best of a tough situation. I always tried my best to keep everyone’s spirits up. One of the hardest things about this whole thing was leaving her every single night. Handing her over to the nurse and walking out the door. For 35 days, I had to do that. For 35 days, I cried the whole way home. I sit here and cry as I write this. It was soul crushing…it still is. I wasn’t able to stay with her over night – my little guy needed me too! He missed his mommy and was having a really hard time without me. I felt like I had to choose between being there for one or the other; it was an awful decision to have to make. Plus add in exhaustion, stress… oh, and I just gave birth! There was no down time for me. I was released from the hospital two days after I had Ashlynn, and on the third day I was right back there beginning my mommy-of-a-preemie journey. Looking back, I don’t think I ever really gave myself time to process the magnitude of what was happening. I didn’t give myself that option. I just kept going. Here we are, six months later and I’m just now able to talk about it all openly.
You may be sitting here reading this and thinking, “ok, so Ashlynn was early and spent time in the NICU…that’s really sad, but what’s the big deal??” And you’re right. There is more to the story and our journey. And it’s not all heavy and sad. There is so much good and happy times to share as well! What I haven’t shared up to this point is what we learned about Ashlynn during her NICU stay. As if the tests we faced up to this point weren’t enough, we were about to get life-changing news. We share because what we have gone through, others have too, and will continue to go through. If me talking about our journey helps anyone, (even if it’s just me) then it’s all worth it. People deal with things in so many different ways and this is mine. I’m not afraid to share our truth. I most certainly am not afraid to be honest and open. There is healing in finding community. There is healing and strength through the grace of God. There is healing in finding love and support from others going through difficult times and happy times… real times.
And that is what my blog is all about.
I would like to invite you on our journey as we learned the name of the mountain assigned to us (and I promise it’s not ALL tough stuff!) You ready?