I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t been able to get out of bed with my soaring blood pressure, pounding headache, and magnesium clouded confusion. I desperately wanted to hold HER; but, it had been two days, and I had yet to see my baby. Today was the day! I willed my body, forcing my legs to carry me just one step toward the wheel chair. Un-showered, unrecognizably swollen from the preeclampsia, connected to several IV lines and a foley catheter bag…I was far from a picture, perfect new mother. Actually, I was a wreck! I was trying to hold it together, but it was all too much. My body continued to suffer the side effects of preeclampsia, unresponsive to the blood pressure medications being loaded into my veins. I was terrified for myself and my tiny newborn. But, I had to see her! I had to hold her! I had to touch her!
Every tiny bump, even the elevator’s gentle thumping felt like foot-high speed bumps. My head bobbed and my body swayed as though I was on a tiny fishing boat weathering rough seas. Although Dave was probably only moving at a turtle speed, I begging him to slow down. The nurse at his side, there to make sure that my blood pressure didn’t jump any higher and that my IV lines were running appropriately, assured me that we would be to the NICU in moments. I reminded myself to take deep breaths. I could make it. I would make it.
The NICU was a whole new world. Small rooms filled with even smaller babies. IV’s, feeding tubes, heart rate monitors, ventilators, incubators…all in an effort to save these precious little lives. My wheel chair stopped in front of HER room. It wasn’t the perfect pink room with a white crib and velvet curtains that I had planned but hadn’t had the time to decorate. Instead, it was a hospital room with a tiny incubator, purple walls, heart rate monitors, and a hospital curtain.
I barely noticed the room. All that I saw was HER. So tiny…so fragile…so transparent. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t see a beautiful, healthy, chubby baby that I could snuggle and kiss. Instead, what I saw resembled a frail, baby bird that had fallen from its nest. Her skin was translucent, covered in downy hair. Her features were far too fine and underdeveloped, lacking the fullness and health that fat brings. Her skin was wrinkly, and her arms and legs almost looked skeletal from the lack of fat. Some may be appalled to read that I didn’t find her beautiful at first sight. I loved her desperately, but her appearance was shocking…even to me, a physician.
I was afraid to hold her. Would I break her? Her weight had dropped into the 2 pound range-down a little from her birth weight of 3 pounds 2 ounces. The nurse reassured me that SHE would be fine. It took some time to get her out of the incubator and untangled from all of her iv and monitor lines. Just as she was placed in my arms I began to feel waves of nausea. My blood pressure had jumped, and my medications were making the room spin. I had made it this far. I had to hold her.
After only a few moments, with tears streaming down my face I asked for someone to take her from my arms. I had to close my eyes. I had to lay down. My body was my enemy. It was preventing me from being the mother that I longed to be. But, I had seen her. I had held her-even if just for a moment. In that moment, in my sick and terrified state, I was in love with a little life that had been gifted to me. She was tiny, but she was precious…the most priceless gift my arms had ever held.