Tommy has been home from the NICU for 2 months. For the first time in his life, he is flourishing. He’s gained over 2 1/2 lbs since discharge, which is the most steady weight gain he’s ever had. He’s not on any medications or supplements and is completely breastfed. He’s had a lot of follow up appointments but, instead of discussions on troubleshooting, we’re talking about how to maintain his success. Things are going well.
Except now I am falling apart.
The timing is so weird to me. Tommy is doing great. I’m 5 months postpartum, so I don’t have the same hormonal surges. And yet these last few weeks I have slipped further and further into a state of anxiety that I can’t seem to get out of.
I think it’s the fact that things are better that is making it tough for me. When Tommy was sick, I pulled together all the strength I had to be there for Tommy and still make life normal for Milo. Life dealt us a really crappy hand, but I rose to the occasion and stood my ground. But now things are better, and I’ve dropped my guard. I don’t need to be strong any more. And suddenly I’m aware of the ways this experience has wounded me.
I see a mom with a new baby and my heart sinks. There she is with her child just like it’s supposed to be, but my child lived in a hospital for the first 3 months. I look at the mom and baby and think it’s just not fair. Why couldn’t that have been us?
Or I see this stupid commercial that I can’t even remember what it’s for, but it’s these moms in labor and the baby is placed right on their chest as soon as they’re out. I relive Tommy’s first minutes and the way they whisked him off to an isolette. My first memory of him isn’t in my arms, it’s looking across the room at the nurse who is giving my son oxygen. The first thing I felt when my son was born was fear.
I didn’t get the first hour of skin-to-skin time. They wrapped him up and let me hold him for 5 minutes before taking him to the NICU. I had to stay in labor and delivery for 2 hours to be monitored before they let me go see how Tommy was doing.
And that was just the birthing experience. Then I spent weeks watching my son fight to live and it’s hard not to assume he’s still doing that. I still see him as sick and struggling and it makes me anxious over every little symptom. I can’t shake the feeling that my son is still barely holding on.
I thought I was ok with all of this. I had shrugged it off to just the way things happened, that this was just our story. But now I’m realizing I had pains that went unnoticed while I was busy being strong. They’ve left me with scars that won’t ever fade; I’ll carry them with me as a reminder.
I know it will get easier. I know that the more removed we are from the whole experience, the better I will feel. Everything is still fresh, a little raw. I need some time to heal. But I wish time would pass a little bit faster. Because I’m ready to not feel so not ok.
(All photos are credit of Joyful Exposures)
(Don’t worry, I’m not completely drowning in anxiety. I’m working on healing, but that’s for another post.)