About a year ago, Mr Minion and I were announcing the impending arrival of the Minion, expected in August. Within the past two weeks, I have had no less than five people announce their pregnancies, all due between May and August. As a normal human being, I’m happy for them, of course. As a Preemie/NICU mom, I’m a little less enthused. The smiling faces unburdened by the possibility that things might not go as planned. The ultrasound photos with the estimated length and weight of the baby as a novelty–baby is the size of a blueberry, of a banana, of a large orange–not desperately trying to figure out if the baby weighs enough to survive on the outside, if it is far enough along that the doctors will attempt resuscitation, if needed. The due dates, given as a matter of certainty, not as a day that seems forever away when the baby arrives 12 weeks early.
Of course I’m happy for them. It’s exciting, having a baby. Soon they will talk about decorating the nursery, buying clothes, planning a shower. Our nursery was painted on a weekend while she was still in the NICU. She didn’t get to wear clothes for the first two months of her life, mostly because even the preemie sized ones were huge, and also because you don’t need clothes when you live in an isolette. My shower was about a month after she was born. I showed pictures of her because she was (obviously) still in the NICU. I had to go stand in a bathroom stall and pump about halfway through.
Then will come the impatience. “I’m so tired of being pregnant.” “I’m so huge.” “None of my clothes fit me anymore.” “Why won’t this baby just come out already?” “Trying all the labor tricks today!” And it will take all my strength and all my self control not to smack them. How dare you try to wish your baby into coming early! Don’t you know the last couple weeks are crucial to lung and brain development? Not to mention the antibody transfer? Are you really so selfish that you would put your child in the NICU on respiratory support just so that you can squeeze into some jeans?
And they don’t really mean it like that. No one would wish a NICU stay on another family.
Then will come the birth. The preparation of packing a bag. The excitement when you realize that this is it, that your baby is coming. Getting to the hospital, having leisurely conversations about what to have for dinner when you come home in a day or two. The actual birth. Skin to skin. Holding your baby. Nursing the baby, if you want to. Being wheeled down the hall on your way home, baby wrapped in your arms, getting adoring looks from strangers and people congratulating you.
Unless you have the baby before you have a chance to pack a bag, to consider your options. Med free? Epidural? The stark terror and disbelief that numbs you when the doctor says that your baby is coming in an hour, even though you are only in the first day of the third trimester and the latest ultrasound puts your baby at a pound and a half, and you have only been able to feel her moving for a few weeks. Being pumped full of magnesium and boiling alive, unable to comprehend written words. Wondering if your husband will make it back in time, since this wasn’t supposed to be Baby Day. The actual birth. Seeing your impossibly tiny baby for only a few seconds with tubes pushing oxygen to her nose and her head nearly disappearing into the standard sized newborn hats. Giving her a kiss and then being alone as she is whisked to the NICU with your husband following behind. Not being able to hold her for an entire day after her birth, and then only if she keeps breathing and her heart rate stays up. Leaving the hospital after you are discharged without your baby. No one knows why you are here, though you shuffle across the floor, unable to straighten without hurting your incision. Though you wear a name tag declaring you “Mom.”
But I am happy for the newly announced parents-to-be. I wish for them to get everything I missed out on.