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Forever Changed

2 months                                      2 weeks                                          1 month                                              3 days

Today is my baby’s due date.  October 25th, the day we anticipated for months, until life happened.  This is a personal post, written to help me process, heal and move on–I needed a way to process the way everything happened, as I sat in the NICU (for 45 days) as my baby got strong enough to be home with us. I debated sharing it, but I think it’s important to share the raw, emotions and lack there of associated with such a life changing event–I know I’m not alone, though it sometimes doesn’t take away the guilt.  {The images are a collaboration of cellphone, P&S, and DSLR snaps from family, and myself.}


There’s not much I can say about having a baby, that hasn’t been said before.  But the feelings of suddenly being given this gift that is solely and dependably yours are so ethereal (in a heavenly, but real heavy, grounded yet oh-so-heart-gushing kind of way) it seems it has to be said again and again.  And I realize now, why birth stories and gushing mommas are found everywhere; it may be annoying, until you experience it yourself.  And then, if you’re an emotional writer like myself you understand completely.

{2 months}

How amazing it is to know that this little being, this little tiny one loves you because she is a part of you. She doesn’t care what you look like, if you make a bad joke, or have a bad habit.  She undeniably loves you.  And that realization is so grounding and life-changing that nothing else in the world really seems to matter.  All the worries that once were, seem to melt away when you look at the amazing things this little being accomplishes daily and know that this one being will love you unconditionally.  It’s profound.

This didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, however.  I never expected it to take three weeks to get to this place.  This place of adornment for my little one and whole-hearted awe and fascination for the amazing things she does–like open her eye and gaze at me, smile, hold our fingers, cry, and recognize us–things so simple yet so astounding in a mommas world.  I dreamt about having my own children, my own wee babes to love on since as long as I can remember.  I’ve heard stories of me as little as 3 caring for my baby-dolls in a most unique way for a child of that age.  Rocking them in chairs, shaking strollers with my foot as to lull them to sleep, supporting their heads because, if I didn’t, for sure that baby-doll head would whip back in newborn fashion and I’d be forever lost.  And so I expected and so desired this magical time in my life, this moment that seemed to last a lifetime, of getting to the end of the pregnancy, rushing to the hospital, delivering and getting this baby body of love placed in my arms while tears streamed down my face and everyone surrounded the bed in majestic fascination and lovely amusement for me and my little family.  My husband would kiss me on the forehead and we’d be a family at last. We would have met this precious little being we waited our whole lives for and we’d have been on cloud 10 (because 9 just wouldn’t be good enough).

Babies are what I do.  I think it’s a special gift I have been given;  I have a knack for reading babies, and knowing what they need or anticipating what their little minds might come up with next.  Infact, I think that is an ability I have with all people.  I’ve learned in life that with all my insecurities in tow, most people aren’t thinking about me and judging me.  They are probably worrying about themselves.  And yet, I think about other people all the time, and worry about where they stand emotionally.  I anticipate their needs on a level different than most people and that often gets me in trouble with myself.  But it’s who I am, and I accept it as a gift–I worry about others far too much–and, I can often fix or help people in need even if I just can make them smile.  With babies it’s more natural though.  It comes easy to me.  It’s my nature.

{2 months}

As people got glimpses of my baby-world fantasy throughout my life they’ve said things like, “just wait until your pregnant and get back to me,” forewarning me of the miserable months in my future.  And things like, “just wait until you have children,” or, “you’re in for the ride of your life.” And while I’d laugh and comply, my mind automatically reminded me how magical and wonderful it all would be and how even if there was pain or discomfort or hardship it’d all be worth it, and I’d know that so it’d all be bearable.  It’d just throw me into fantasies of feeling the first kicks, and that feeling of physically heart-swelling love that is so palpable and so rare.

You see I know, and live by the idea that your world is 90% what you make of it and the other ten percent is pure uncontrollable circumstance.  I know this to be true, because if anyone has bad luck, it’s myself.  And if I wallowed in the pain, sadness and unpleasant circumstance, life would be nearly unbearable.  So I don’t.  This is not to say that there aren’t bad moments, days, or weeks in my life were self-pity or heart-ache seems to swallow me whole–but that’s normal, and I move on.  So, I expected, no matter what my child-bearing experience was like, I figured I’d make it exactly how I dreamed it to be.  To flash-forward, I keep hearing my aunt on the phone as I was driving myself to the hospital saying “welcome to motherhood, she’s in charge now!”

To sum up my pregnancy, I’d say it to be in the order of miserable, with chances of sunshine.  The first three months were consumed with nausea, sprinkled with ginger ale and sherbet as tolerated.  But I was elated to be pregnant so I just trucked along with a smile on my face and a nap after work(which if you know me, is almost unheard of).  I read lots of information and downloaded every gestational development ap I could find.  I spent my alone time hyper focused on trying to feel the baby move until she finally did, and I cried. It was one of the first times in recent history I can ever remember having uninhibited emotion take over me, and it was exactly how I dreamed it’d be (except for I was at work, not with my husband, and I got a hug from my kind-of-boss after I blurted out “it just kicked!” not my husband).  My fourth month was probably the best, and my fifth month I’d started replying to the “how are you feeling?” probes with,  “I can’t complain,” always knowing it can always be worse.  And this was steadfast my reply as I began swelling beyond proportion, my head seemed all foggy and often hurt, and I just didn’t feel well anymore.  I chalked it up mostly as a part of pregnancy, and reminded myself it was temporary and moved on.  After all, I was doing all the right things…avoiding blacklisted foods, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, secondhand smoke, drinking lots of water and remaining pretty active.  Deep down, as any mother would, I worried something was wrong in the 6th month.

{swollen…half the size they’d end up being!}

I finally went to the doctor with my high and climbing blood pressures, my elephant-hoove legs and barely recognizable and swollen face–well everything, everything was SWOLLEN.  I had just been to the Dr. about 10 days prior and my weight had jumped something like 30lbs!  THATS HOW SWOLLEN I WAS!  (You can see that in the picture above, of my feet and of my belly in August above that.)  Before I gave birth though, I never recognized just how swollen everything was. Mostly just my hands and legs.  I was sent straight to the hospital and was admitted and told I wasn’t leaving without having this baby–but was still under the impression I could ‘hang on’ for a few weeks.

 I don’t know if it was the medical staff trying to maintain positive about keeping her in as long as possible or me just being in denial, being foggy from drugs, and really not considering a birth THAT early…but if I’m being honest, I still didn’t expect I’d give birth so soon and didn’t really realize it until days after she was born.  I was put on Magnesium within the hour of arriving at the hospital and wasn’t taken off of it until the night AFTER my baby was born.  It. Is. Awful.  It relaxes smooth muscle function, makes you hot, and hurts going in.  To sum it up, I couldn’t physically keep my eyes open (even though I couldn’t sleep) I my head felt like it was unhinged, my arms and legs seemed to weigh 1000 pounds and even with assistance I could hardly move them.  Because of this you are put on bed rest and not allowed to eat or drink. Good times.

At 30 weeks and 4 days I gave birth to my little girl, nine weeks ahead of schedule. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a planner.  I plan for things and try to control my surroundings as much as possible.  So this kindof surprise, ontop of the already there nerves of first-time parenting was something that threw me off kilter (to say the least).  I don’t want to say I wasn’t prepared for this–(who would be?)–but materialistically I was. I had everything I needed to bring a baby home that day.  Like I said, I followed the books, I bought what I was ‘supposed’ to have for the “just-in-case” moments.  And I knew I could handle whatever was given to me in the way of her birth and her health etc.  I {thought} I was prepared.

I’d still say that I was prepared for anything, and I think I handled things just fine–but what I wasn’t prepared for, and probably could have never been prepared for was  the emotion and emotion-less moments and experiences.  My condition got severe enough that it was medically necessary to induce me and get this baby out, for both my sake and hers.  After 36 hours, the induction got us nowhere fast, so, quicker than I’d ever imagined I was taken into the OR, given and epidural (after about 15 {no exaggeration} tries), cut open, and met my baby. We are talking like, the decision was made to do a C-section at 4:30 or so and my baby was born at 5:25.

What I remember most vividly, is telling myself almost robot-like, what i SHOULD be feeling and what I WANT to feel.  I remember asking probably 30 times if the NICU team was in the OR yet, and seeing my husband walk in to sit at my side.  I remember thinking, you should look at him and smile–but I couldn’t.  I remember telling myself “get excited you are going to meet your baby today”.  But I couldn’t.  I remember wondering how my husband could smile at a time like this.  And I remember him saying; “why is everyone so upset, we are having a baby today!”  And I love him for it, more than I ever did.  Because my baby deserved having a proud parent taking pictures, and standing at her bedside from the moment she arrived on this earth.  It just wasn’t me. All I could think was how terrible it was not feeling anything from my shoulders down, and all I could hear was the inconsiderate banter from the OR team.  I think my husband kissed me, and longed to share that “theres our baby!” moment with me, and I let him down.  I can remember vividly, the doctor holding the baby up for me to see (as shown in the picture above) and telling myself “what is that?…smile, Kaitlin, you have to smile, that is your baby.”  And I can still feel the way the cheeks posed as my half-hearted and in-genuine smile came across my face.  I never heard her cry.  And I don’t even remember if I asked if she was breathing.  What kind of mother was I?

My husband withheld the promise I imposed on him–don’t let her be alone at all, follow her untily ou know she is safe.  And all I could think was “I can’t wait for this to be over,” while they sewed me up.  In recovery I was in unbearable pain for a good 45 minutes until they gave me a medicine that worked.  In the fog, between moans and cries of physical and emotional pain I reminded myself to ask about the baby.  I’d say, “you’re a mother now, you have to ask if your baby is okay.” And almost delayed, I would.  And they’d tell me again, and again, “she’s doing great!”

When I finally saw everyone I practiced what I had rehearsed in my head, my smiles and inquiries about the baby.  My “thank-yous” upon congratulatory comments.  But in reality whenever someone said “congratulations!” or anything like that, for weeks I would say in my head “for what?!”  “I failed” or “I didn’t HAVE a baby.”  I realize now I was mourning.  Mourning the loss of my moments.  The moments I dreamed about and cherished my whole life.  They way it happened didn’t seem real to me.  I never got to say good-bye to my pregnant belly, or feel my baby kick for one last time. I didn’t get to hold my baby, or even SEE or TOUCH my baby for 24 hours.  How could the baby even know I’m her mother?  She didn’t even look like a baby…how could anyone even think she’s cute?

When reality started to settle in the next day I was excited to see pictures of her and the little video my husband took of her first bath.  But I still had no real connection other than guilt towards her.  I felt so incredibly guilty that she was up in a plastic container without me and because of me. I felt I had lost the special moments with her.  I was still on Magnesium so I couldn’t walk up there, and I could hardly keep my eyes open from the pain medicines.  People offered to wheelchair me, but I refused.  Part of me was scared that I wouldn’t have a moment with her–the other part of me wanted that moment so bad I wanted to be out of the fog I was in before I met her for the first time.  Finally I felt a bit of my old self return and I had this undeniable need to see her.  I HAD to do it.  So, about 29 hours after she was born I finally made my trip up to the NICU.

It may be the most surreal thing I ever experience in my life.  It was a total out-of-body experience.  What grounded me was my husband.  His excitement never wavered, and he wanted that moment for me as bad as anyone…he was still real to me in all this.  She was so small, and unreal.  And I was the first to hold her, like i wanted to be.  I wanted to want to cry but i was so scared of hurting her I couldn’t.  I felt her on me, but it wasn’t real until she squeaked. Her cry was like a little muppet squeak.  And I kept thinking this is the moment you waited your whole life for, and all I could do, was tell her “you’re okay”.  And i remember thinking, “she needs to hear my voice” so I talked, a lot.  When it was time to go back to my room, I finally felt something.  I didn’t want to leave her.  That never changed, every time I had to leave it got harder.

 {holding my baby for the first time}

The day I got discharged from the hospital I was broken.  But I was relieved because I was FINALLY feeling something along with my guilt.  I finally knew I loved her.  I finally let myself ride the waves of emotion from the events of the past week.  I was finally able to process.  Finally, all my thoughts were consumed by her.  And by loving her.  And being with her.  Finally.

{one month}

I spent 45 days at her bedside.  But it wasn’t until day 17 that I realized it completely.  And on day 18 I let go of all the guilt that kept me from loving her adequately.  Like a switch I was consumed by love and being a proud momma.  And I finally cried, and cried.  I finally had my moment.  That moment.  Just me and her, this is what it was all about.  Suddenly, almost stereotypically, nothing else in the world mattered.  Everything I once worried about wasn’t important anymore–not as important as her.  I finally felt like a mother.

My little girl is such a fighter.  She was a freaking rockstar.  Born at 2 pounds, 7 ounces she needed hardly any intervention.  She had very minor hiccups along the way and met every goal set for her.  She’s a strong girl in a very tiny package!  Today, on her due date, she is 6 pounds and 18 3/4inches and I feel so incredibly lucky that she was brought into my life 2 months early.  I got to spend two more months holding her, and loving her than most parents do.  I got my baby, and nothing else matters!

{home at last!}



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