A year in the life

*Thanks Julia, for pointing out a typo in the original post

I suspected, but now can confirm, that having another baby does not in fact make it all better. Nevertheless, the guidance one of JJ’s advisers gave us last year, a man who lost a 2-year old son decades ago, that it never gets better but does get easier has been a comfort. Baby Man, no doubt, made yesterday easier. Still, the passing of Natan’s yahrzeit was not easy. The combination of it and Baby Man’s brit mila was surreal. We lit our candles during the break of visitors stopping by to celebrate. I didn’t cry until they left.

I’m somewhat empty of words to describe how I feel about Natan’s absence now. It aches. We miss him. I wish he was here.

Baby Man’s first week with us has been a wonder. I can hardly imagine my life without him already. Last Monday we took him for his first visit to the pediatrician’s office. I was somewhat shocked at myself, at the joy I took in having a baby to bring into a doctor’s office. To see the little books and toys. To check him in with the receptionist. I really am taking glee in the silliest little things. All the things I didn’t get to do with Natan. We have of course had our moments, our meltdowns, but all in all this week has been among the happiest of my life.

Even though Monday ended horribly. We learned at the doctor’s office that Baby Man’s bilirubin levels had risen to over 19. Way too high. We had to take him to the hospital, and continue the Old versus New saga. At New hospital, he could have his own room, with the lights and us sleeping in on cots. At Old hospital, he had to go to the NICU. You can guess what our insurance demanded. So off we were to the NICU. Even though I understood he was not critical, that this was activist medicine, the thought of the NICU caused my throat to literally begin to close. If I could have, I would have passed out. As we got closer to it, breathing only got harder. We spent one night there. His bilirubin level fell remarkably quickly, and they let us go home. All in all an extreme, but fairly typical case of “breastfeeding jaundice.”

In the NICU, I felt as if I were being visited by the Ghost of What Could Have Been. Baby Man was by far the largest and healthiest baby there. Next to and in front of us were two very tiny, very sick babies. He had to spend the night under the lights, but when the blood test at 6am showed his bilirubin levels had dropped sufficiently, they took him out from under the lights and let me hold him. I held him, fed him, and tried to talk and sing to him, softly.

From the cubicle in front of me, the one containing a baby as tiny as Natan, I could heard voices. First, doctors, “her levels have dropped 70%,” “This is not good,” “Honestly, I don’t know what else to do,” “More morphine, I suppose.” Shortly, I saw the baby’s parents return. Two very young, very frightened parents, kids themselves, really. The father embodied fear. I’m not sure I can recall ever seeing such a face. The mother looked stoic. She stayed by the side of the incubator constantly for the rest of the day. I thought her voice, singing, “Wake up, Wake up, Please wake up,” would kill me.

And I felt so grateful for Baby Man’s 39 weeks and 6 days in my womb. Even as I worried I was betraying Natan, I felt that feeling I dread from others, “Thank goodness I am not her.” When the doctor said we could leave with Baby Man, I think I may have expressed my happiness too loudly. I couldn’t control myself. Only immediately after I exclaimed did I feel guilty.

So cruel is fate that when we eventually packed up Baby Man to leave, the other mother was returning from a break, and held the door for us as we left. I wish I could have thought of something to say, to do, for her, because I fear she will join us as a grieving mother shortly.

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8 responses to “A year in the life

  1. This is a BEAUTIFUL post. I think everything that you are feeling is all that anyone in your shoes could be feeling, and you express it so eloquently. I am glad you made it through Friday, both the joys and the sorrows. I have a feeling that the way the dates fell was no mistake. Natan and his little brother shared a very special day.

    Also – I am glad all is well with little Samuel after the scary NICU experience! That is definitely not what you want to do with your new little guy, but I am glad it was a relatively treatable problem.

  2. I am thinking of all of you. Glad you are now home and together.

  3. What a momentous week for your family. Your NICU description shows so clearly that you are still the mother of Natan even as you begin that role with Samuel.

    I’m so glad you are enjoying all the little lights of the day (going to the pediatrician’s office, etc.) that come with caring for an infant. So many take them for granted.

  4. I’m glad to hear that things are going well and that Samuel is back at home.

    But I, too, am thinking of that other mother and want to cry.

  5. I too am glad that Samuel is healthy and home with you now. Baby Ish spent two days in the NICU for “fast breathing.” When I finally got to visit, my cs incision was so painful I could only hold him for a few minutes. I literally was angrily jealous of the NICU nurse who seemed to be able to enjoy him more than me! We had the same experience too thinking we were lucky our situation wasn’t worse.

    Enjoy this time as much as you want, though! I am so happy for you!

  6. The NICU is such a disjointed place. It’s almost as if one childs step forward is another step back. It’s a place where I learned never to complain, at least in there. I am happy for Samuel, Josh and you. No one deserves to be a grieving mother.

  7. oh, B. beauty and tears in this.

    O stayed in the NICU (which, it being a small provincial hospital, not the one Finn was born in, hosts mostly non-critical patients) for two weeks after he was born. during that two weeks, there was a baby born who for reasons unexplained to me did not get airlifted to Halifax, but who stayed, apparently brain dead, hooked up to the incessant monitors and terrible clanking machines i remembered too well from the year before. and i was paralyzed, unable to speak a word to those parents, so afraid of overstepping and assuming a worst case they might not experience, so afraid of going back there myself even though i felt only tiny hard-won steps from that place.

    the bris and yahrzeit combination must have been surreal indeed.

    Natan and Samuel, you are so intertwined.

  8. oh, whoops. that was me above…which was probably obvious. 😉

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