It was one of the worst nights in the NICU. Brent and I had both gone to give Haley her bath, as we had done every night. Afterwards, I gave her kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) to warm her up. The nurse slipped her inside my shirt, and she snuggled right into my chest - her tiny, frail frame against me and her bony knees bent in between us. Her petite fingers tickled my collarbone - her entire hand wasn't any bigger than the nub of bone at the base of my neck.
Two nurses we came to know and love had Haley as their charge. They sat with us and went over some "teaching". Teaching is a session where the nurses go over a list of items with you for things you need to watch for or be informed about: feedings, body temperature, breathing, bowel loops, heart murmurs, etc. While they were visiting with us, Haley's respiration sensor kept beeping. At one point, I moved her head to tilt it back a bit so she could get some air. She didn't like that and moved her head forward again. Finally, as the nurses were continuing to do their teaching, I started getting antsy and fidgeting around. The fact that her respiration alarm kept going off was bothering me. Her breathing was sporadic. I pulled her out of my shirt to swaddle her instead, and see if she could breathe better lying down than cuddled against me.
My daughter was blue.
The nurse gasped, I rubbed Haley's sternum, and Haley's color returned right away and she was breathing again. The nurse said, "Oh her head was probably like this" and she mimicked it being down - chin to chest - cutting off her little airway. I had tried to fix that. I held it together as I swaddled her and explained, stammered, that I had tried to fix it - that I wanted to put her in a different position to help her breathing.
They walked away for a bit and I got teary-eyed. Brent sat there next to me and assured me everything was okay, she was okay, it was all okay. But the tears started to fall. I sat there and stared at my daughter as she smiled in her sleep and the realization of how fragile she still was overwhelmed me.
More reluctantly than usual, I put her in her isolette to leave her for the night. The walk from her side to the car seemed painstakingly longer than I had been used to. The image of my daughter, blue, was frozen in my mind. My heart was deep in the very pit of my stomach. I was terrified. I was ridden with guilt. I was filled with doubt - of my own capabilities as a mother, and of what the road ahead would hold for our family.
The whole ride home I cried. I told Brent I had reached the "why me" stage. I was still supposed to be pregnant. We weren't supposed to have her two months premature. I shouldn't have had to leave my baby every night.
Once we got back to the house, I gathered myself together and started tidying up the bedroom. I let out an exasperated sigh as I asked Brent to tuck his sheet back into the foot of the bed. After he tucked it in, he stood up and wrapped his arms around me. I started to sob. He nestled his face in my shoulder and I just wept as he held me. I couldn't get the image of her blue face out of my mind. What would we have done if she wasn't hooked up to those monitors? How long would we have let her struggle to breathe? Kangaroo care was supposed to be the most beneficial, innocent way to bond with our preemie. She was supposed to be safe with her mommy.
I stopped crying, but didn't let go of Brent. I said a silent prayer, thanking God for my husband and for the fact that he was intuitive enough to know that was what I needed right then. I continued the silent prayer and asked God to protect our daughter and to never let anything like that happen again.
I didn't sleep all that great that night. Later in the afternoon the following day, I headed back to the hospital to spend some time with Haley. It was crowded in the NICU. Every parent, save for of one baby, was there. Haley's charge nurse was working on another baby but told me she would be right over. I reached in to the isolette and placed my hands on Haley - one on the crown of her head, and one cupping her feet. Her nurse came and asked if I wanted to do kangaroo care. I hesitated. Slowly, I began to nod. I had to sit in an office chair as all the rockers were occupied. She put Haley in my shirt. I checked the position of her head. I stared at that monitor displaying her heart rate, respiration, and O2 levels. For a solid hour and a half I stared at that monitor. I only looked away to give her a kiss or look down and check her breathing.
I was still rattled from the night before. She did fine.
Today, Haley is 10 months old. She speed-crawls laps around us. She feeds herself real foods. She babbles non-stop. She laughs when we play peek-a-boo. She doesn't fit inside my shirt anymore, and she doesn't cuddle nearly as whole-heartedly as she used to.
Ten months ago my life changed forever. I experienced things I never thought I would have to. I came to know just how deep, how wide, and how full God's love for us is. I almost lost my child - and that frightful night in the NICU, I thought I had endangered her life once again. God gave up His son for us on purpose. The heartache of watching your child suffer is inexplicable. Let alone to watch them die? I shudder at the unimaginable thought. Please, God, spare me from that pain. But He did that - for me. For Haley. For all of us.
That night in the NICU was treacherous for me, but the entire experience has taught me so much about prayer, grace, and His power. Life is hard. It throws us down and spins us in all sorts of directions - it beats us up and leaves us for dead. But there is life and freedom and forgiveness in God. He will carry us through the toughest of times, and He will sustain us through all of our "why me" moments. I have a 10-month-old miracle....and I praise God for the opportunities to share her story - His story.