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I had expected a normal pregnancy, with the feeling of labor, contractions, holding my son, and leaving for home together. What I got was the exact opposite of what I wanted and expected, and caused me to experience such intense feelings of guilt, failure, and helplessness, that it surprised me to connect a new baby with such raw feelings.
I had a textbook perfect pregnancy up until 30 weeks, when they noticed he wasn't growing and his heart rate kept dropping dangerously low. I spent a week and a half in the hospital, connected to all sorts of monitors and on strict bed rest. My job was just to sit there, and try to keep him in as long as possible. It wasn't working. At 10:30 pm, the doctor came in, and told us his heart rate had dropped and wasn't recovering. I'd be rushed in to surgery immediately, for an emergency cesarean section.
I don't remember much after that. An IV, signing a few forms, the anesthesia and pain medication.. At some point my boyfriend (Shawn) was in scrubs in the operating room, next to me. Suddenly I heard the tiniest little cry.. I don't know if it was a combination of the medication and everything happening so fast, but I was confused for a minute as to where the sound was coming from. Shawn turned around and in his arms was the tiniest little face peeking out.. The hospital cap they tried to put on him was falling into his eyes, and the blanket came up over his chin. All I got to see was the tiny sliver of a face before my son was rushed into the NICU.
After what seemed like an eternity, they were finished with the surgery and wheeled me back through the NICU where I was able to get a small peek at him in the incubator. I think we were both falling asleep at that point. I was placed in triage where I was pretty violently sick for a while, then finally back into my room at around 4 am or so.
The next 4 days, I was taught to sit myself up, get into the wheelchair, and eventually walk myself down to the NICU to visit my son every 3 hours. During my visits I learned how serious his condition had become. He had stopped growing during a crucial part of the fat development, he was only 3 lbs. He wasn't able to regulate his body temperature by himself, and he was only able to drink 30 milliliters of donor breast milk every 2 hours that needed to be supplemented by formula for extra calories. He needed an IV, breathing tube, feeding tube, heart monitor, oxygen monitor.. So many things on such a tiny body.
The day I was discharged was the hardest point in my life this far. I was leaving him behind.
I always thought he was supposed to go with me, but we hadn't even been able to hold him outside of the incubator for more than 15 minutes or so without risking a lot, he still wasn't able to regulate his body temperature.
When he finally came home after 2 weeks, the first two days were the happiest of my life. I could barely sleep, I was so happy to have him with me. Then, the third day, everything changed. I was exhausted from waking up every 2 hours to feed him. He couldn't nurse, and wasn't able to latch on. I was so tired of pumping, I had failed at breastfeeding. I had failed at having a normal pregnancy. I had failed at having a regular birth, no labor, no contractions.
I had felt such a disconnect at not "having" a baby, and that he was just taken out of me, instead.
Without the love and support of family and my boyfriend, I probably would have gone into a serious case of postpartum depression. It took a lot of time to get over, but now I have such a strong bond with my little boy, and he's grown so much and come so far. I just hope that anyone who has a birth that is different or unexpected than what they want or envision can still embrace positive feelings and love for their child.