A Preemie’s First Birthday: Mommy’s View

As we neared the days before Owen’s birthday I was struck by the juxtaposition of the emotions that I felt.  First and foremost were pride and joy.  The further we’ve gotten away from the NICU, doctors have been more and more candid that they weren’t so sure he would be with us for his first birthday.  Owen defied odds and expectations and has accomplished so much in his first year and he did much of it with a smile.  He’s done everything that’s been asked of him and inspired so many people.  I am both humbled by him and proud to be his mother.  At the same time, I am able to separate Owen and his accomplishments from April 21, 2011.

There are certain events in Owen’s life that I remember every precise detail in slow motion.  The smell and appearances of the room, the look of the doctors and nurses, what I was wearing, what was said…everything.  I call them my Techno Colored Memories.  The early morning of April 21, 2011 is one of those memories.

I remember calling the nurse to tell them I was having some symptoms.  I picked up my iPhone and looked at the clock, it was 3:22 AM.  I put my head in the pillow hoping they’d think it was nothing.  I didn’t feel contractions, but I didn’t feel great and hoped to get back to sleep soon.  Then I heard something being wheeled and several feet running down the hall.  3 women in scrubs entered the room with a sterile exam table.  One nurse demanded the evidence I reported.  The resident stood down by my feet, I could feel her eyes looking over my whole body assessing what she was seeing.  Another nurse hooked the baby monitor to my belly.  The resident checked my cervix and said “let me clean up and I will explain what I’m seeing”.  My heart sank, I knew she needed the time to collect her thoughts on what she was about to do and how to tell me.  When she spoke, she told me I was 3 CM dilated and I stared back at her with pure hate.  I’ve never felt that type of hate before. Just the day before, a Nurse Practioner from the NICU had sat down with Kyle and I explained that if we had a baby boy now, he had a 40% chance of surviving and even if he does survive, he will likely have long-term issues.  And now, how dare this woman be telling me I am in labor?  He’s NOT ready!  I am not ready.  She told me, “we will try to stop this”.  Minutes later, I was in the fetal position and my entire body was shaking.  I’m not sure if it was contractions, fear or anger but it doesn’t really matter.  It didn’t last long.  Less than 2 hours later, Owen was born.  The fear and anger were gone and I was just sad.  Sad that my baby had to do the fighting on his own.  Not guilty, just profoundly sad.

There aren’t many other moments of that day that I remember very well.  I remember the beautiful sunrise right after he was born, it was gorgeous golds and reds.  I remember seeing Owen for the first time.  I steeled myself, but am pretty sure my gasp was audible when I saw him – so tiny, eyes still fused, ventilator tapes covering most of his face.  I touched him and his skin was sticky.  I am not sure who the nurse was.  I can vaguely hear Jenny’s voice in my ear, but I can’t be certain it was she that morning.  After seeing Owen, I went back to my room and called my friend Sarah and cried as I told her Owen was born.  I remember being struck by the absurdity of people say “congratulations” to us.  Only one Doctor got it right, in my mind.  He had been the attending in Antipartum that week and he said, “I’m sorry we couldn’t keep you pregnant longer”.  I will never forget those words.

His sentiments are exactly why Owen’s birthday is bittersweet to me.  I am so happy to have Owen as my son, but I am really sad that April 21st is when he was born.  This year, as I celebrated my miracle baby boy and all that he has done, I also grieved the pregnancy I didn’t get to finish. I accept where we are and somehow believe I’m going to be a better person for it, but also wish he could have been my little baby, not my micro baby.

Left, Owen with Tatum’s hand April 21, 2011. Right, Owen and Tatum April 21, 2012.

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

14 thoughts on “A Preemie’s First Birthday: Mommy’s View

  1. Oh my gosh Tatum, moved, truly moved! I really think you should write a book for other moms, you are an AWESOME writer and an awesome mom, Owen is so strong and willfull, and so loved!!! Love you guys, miss you guys, hugs C xxx

  2. Tatum, This makes my heart sink. I know it was so long ago but I remember my own deep ache.. . . you just wish and wish and wish for the best. Beautifully written.

    I also wanted to say how much I have enjoyed following your story– both the connection from B-school, the CMV and our shared physicians (husband included). Thank you for sharing your story with the greater internets.

    • You know what Dana, Matt will always go down in my memory as the Resident that took Owen off that damn Oscillating vent so I could finally hold my baby again. And, even though I wish neither of us had it, I’m glad to not be the only family dreading the next hearing screen – which Owen always turns into screens because he will only sit still for one hear at time. You never know where you’re going to meet the people who touch you in life – thanks for the husband and all the wonderful friends CSOM.

  3. This is so powerful Tatum. Thanks for writing it! I have to admit feeling sad on Owen’s birthday too–and a little angry, which surprised me. I’m sure it was because he was in the hospital again, and wasn’t supposed to be– not on his special day. Oh and helpless. A big dose a helplessness over here.
    Then came the party pics.
    And Frosting.
    And the million-dollar SMILE.
    So much inspiration packed into one year and one growing boy. Happy Birthday Owen! We love you.

    • Joey, Thanks for the comment. You know, I never considered that other people that love Owen would have the same feelings about his birthday. I’m glad you shared – I need to consider that more often.

  4. I love reading your stories and cry each time as you describe it all so accurate and real and you say all the things I’ve never said but am feeling and have kept it to myself. Banjo my son is a 24 week prem and his actual real full gestation first birthday was yesterday but instead we celebrated it jan 14. Thank you for your blog as its really helped me feel a bit more normal and not alone on this so called ‘roller coaster ride’. Your blog on this was great and I also hated the whole roller coaster description.

    • Diana,
      Your note gave me the chills. I really thought I was doing this blog for myself, but it makes me feel so good to know that it’s also helped you. Thank you for telling me. Happy Corrected Birthday, Banjo!

  5. Pingback: Owen’s Birth Story | Ain't No Roller Coaster

  6. Rayven’s first birthday is coming up way to fast. I am so thankful she is ok, and proud of her. However, I feel this guilt, I know I shouldn’t feel. I feel as if my body can do so many things, but, the one thing is was suppose to do, it failed.

    It seems that, I cannot shake what happened. The guilt has gotten better, I know it was not my fault, these things happen. However, I feel really betrayed by my body. If it had been able to control my blood pressure, maybe none of this would have happened? I really try hard not to go to that place anymore. I know it is going to take time but, maybe one day it will be completely about her, and not me thinking back and going “what if.” I got a ton of birthday to perfect it though :D.

    I think I have told you this before but, that your for sharing yours and Owen’s story. You really helped me with part of the guilt I was feeling. I didn’t understand why the NICU was affecting me so much. I remember her doctor’s going “She is fine now, you can put this behind you.” And I honestly felt guilty I could not. Reading your blog has proven to me that I’m not crazy, we went through alot, and its ok I feel this way. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Ashleigh. It means the world to me to hear my sharing is helpful to others. This stuff is hard, I think we all get through it better together.

  7. Pingback: Preemie’s First Birthday | Handpicked Miracle