It wasn't the beginning we were hoping for, but it was a better beginning than we had expected. Six and a half weeks prior to his birth, I walked into the hospital with a ruptured membrane, gushing fluid and certain that this pregnancy was over. Obviously, I was wrong. We hung in there and at 29 weeks, 6 days Henry was born. He weighed 3 lbs 9 oz, which is rather big for one born so early.
He cried a bit at first, but it quickly became clear that his breathing was labored. He spent the first few days on the CPAP machine, then many days after on a cannula for breathing assistance. It was days after his birth before I was able to see his face.
I spent most of my time at the hospital in the early days. I watched him receive fluids through an IV because he wasn't ready to receive his nourishment through his stomach. He had IVs in his arm, then in his head. It was a big day when the IVs came out and he got his gavage tube. He was ready to start on what milk I could pump and supplemental formula.
I pumped every two hours during the day and many times at night because, let's face it, even a double-electric hospital-grade breast pump is not as efficient as a baby. I was never able to pump enough to meet the demand of a growing preemie. I still get a nervous twitch whenever I see a breast pump. At home I was either pumping, washing pump parts, or transporting dozens of containers of expressed milk to the hospital in my little cooler.
I went to the hospital as often as I could. I had to divide my time between the children I had been apart from for so long while on bedrest, and the baby I had to leave in the NICU. I would bring Thomas and Anna to the hospital with me, leaving them in the Sibling Care play area while I went up to spend time with Henry.
Experience is a hard teacher, but my time in the NICU with Thomas made this so much easier. I understood better what to expect, which questions to ask, and how to work with the process. I had great nurses who were supportive and encouraging. They had a lot of respect for me as a NICU vet and their confidence buoyed me up.
But then, suddenly, Henry came home. That week we had been expecting that he might come home on Sunday, maybe Saturday. Friday I dropped Thomas and Anna off at the Sibling Play Area and I walked up to the NICU. As I walked into the room, Henry's nurse asked excitedly, "How'd you like to bring Henry home today?"
Incredible. Really? He's ready? I was stunned that they would think that he was ready--that I was ready--to come home. It was a homecoming for me as much as him.
The process took hours, but he was finally discharged. He was home.
And now he's a year old. Technically. We'll celebrate now, of course, but I think that another party in November might be appropriate. Ten weeks makes a big difference in the first year and I think I'd like to mark both milestones. I'd like to celebrate the day he was born, but there is a part of me that would like to celebrate the point when he will have grown into an actual One Year Old.
All things considered, I'd just like to celebrate this little boy and his great big smile.