What an incredible gift. The words echoed elusively in my unconscious state.
As my mind grappled with what the phrase meant, the faint scent of mixed flowers beckoned me into a groggy state of cognizance. I could sense the presence of other people, but I stalled opening my eyes. My thoughts were oddly befuddled. The simple act of recapitulating who and where I was felt like an attempt to solve one of those unsolvable, mysterious life questions. Like, why in God’s green earth are the Kardashians famous?
Suddenly, I heard the steady sound of the blood pressure monitor next to me and pieces of the previous days began crashing back to me Bourne Identity style …
I am in the hospital. I had a baby. Ten weeks early.
I opened my eyes to see an entourage of people milling around the faint-lit room; family members and a nurse all staring anxiously toward me.
“Your blood pressure still has not gone down,” the nurse said factually. “But, would you like to go see your baby? Your husband can take you to the NICU.”
What is a NICU? My streaming thoughts felt like a slow runner in a race that just couldn't quite keep up with the front-runner known as reality. But, I nodded blankly and prepared for this alleged NICU.
On the way, more pieces of the puzzle began to fit in my mind. I had preeclampsia -- a disease little is known about, but strikes a small percentage of pregnancies. At first, the course of action was bedrest for ten more weeks. But, as time went on, the doctors realized they needed to deliver the baby immediately to save my life as the only known cure for preeclampsia is delivery.
So, one swift C-section later … We were parents. To a tiny, two-pound baby. Two pounds. And here I was, getting wheeled into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I learned later), half-awake to meet my daughter.
As I approached her incubator, my heartbeat quickened and I sensed myself holding my breath. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I peered in, and there she was; attached to too many cords to count and moving steadily with each tiny, miraculous breath. I gasped in disbelief. She was mine? I had never seen anything so small. So delicate and fragile. And yet so perfect.
What an incredible gift. The words that were swimming in my dreamy head suddenly made sense. It had been what one of the doctors said as he delivered her. It was one of the only lucid memories I have of her delivery.
I revisit this story often. It was two years ago, but it feels like a raw, living memory. When things get challenging in parenting (which is, ahem, everyday), I try to go back and remember. I relive when I first laid eyes on her, when I watched her fight for her life in the hospital for two months, and when we finally brought her home. I remember. And in this month of thanksgiving, I remember, I look ahead, and am truly, fully grateful.