In the blink of an eye, our NICU journey had begun. While in the hospital, we spent every moment we could with Liam. Holding him, doing skin to skin, and trying to help him feel loved and not alone. My heart broke every time I had to put him back in the basinet and walk away. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. He was on oxygen the first week and I was not allowed to breastfeed him. Understandably, he was not strong enough to breathe and breastfeed at the same time. His lungs had to have time to develop and get stronger. Even though I knew that he needed time to get strong, I hated that I had to pump and could not have the same bond with Liam as I did with Everitt. It’s an amazing thing to have an infant placed on your chest right after birth and see them wiggle over to eat. They know exactly what to do without anyone teaching them. It’s absolutely miraculous!
Pumping had become my new best friend. Either in my hospital room or by Liam’s bedside, I pumped every 2-3 hours around the clock. Talk about exhausting and emotionally challenging. Every time I pumped, I wanted to be breastfeeding. The only thing that kept me going, was knowing that the milk I pumped was given to Liam and it was the best thing for him.
In the hospital, I tried to think positively and tell myself that Liam being in the NICU was allowing me to heal faster and take care of myself. Michael and I tried to distract ourselves but inside, I was devastated. Every time we left the NICU and came back to our empty, quiet hospital room it was like a terrible reality being thrown back in my face. Hearing other people’s babies crying broke my heart because I wanted to be that mom. The self-doubt and what if’s rushed into my mind.
A few days after Liam was born we were discharged. Leaving Liam in the hospital was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I made it out of the hospital without crying but on the drive home I completely lost it and cried the whole way home. I missed Everitt so much and wanted to be home with him, yet was so torn inside because Liam was not with us. Once we got home, I hugged and kissed Everitt, and then completely broke down again in tears. Everitt was confused as to why Liam was neither in my tummy nor with us. We did the best we could to explain things, but it was still really difficult on everyone.
Every day, I left Everitt, and went to spend time with Liam. Trying to create a bond that I felt would never happen with my baby who had no discharge date. Praise God, Liam was so strong and progressed very quickly. He got off oxygen and we began the journey of breastfeeding. I wanted to be with Liam 24 hours a day; that’s how it was supposed to be in my mind. He was supposed to be in my arms, learning who I was and I was supposed to be learning him. Breastfeeding is already an art between a mom and baby, but trying to create a bond and breastfeed successfully, while meeting the parameters of the hospital was so stressful and emotional. I felt like giving up and as though my baby was being held hostage (another irrational feeling but truly how I felt). Liam ended up in the NICU for two weeks. Those two weeks felt so long! I felt torn between leaving Everitt or Liam. Every day I felt like I was choosing one son over the other. Everitt is always a very happy boy, but even he broke down in tears when I left him a few of the days. His Mom, his whole world and best friend was leaving every day for hours. To Everitt, I was gone for an eternity each day.
The week before Christmas, we got the wonderful news that we could bring Liam home! Our little Christmas miracle! It finally felt like our family was complete! Breastfeeding was a breeze once we got home and were in a relaxed environment. Within a few days, he went from breastfeeding and needing to be supplemented with a bottle to solely breastfeeding. Having him home and our family together made me feel as though I was doing my job as a mom. I was able to provide for his needs and fulfill my role to both boys.
Being a NICU family is extremely tough and my heart breaks for everyone who has gone through those challenging days. I will never get the two weeks back with either boy. Those were very long and emotional days for everyone in our family. My daily goal is to focus on enjoying the moment. I try to approach my days as gifts from God. The ability to watch, teach and love on my boys every day is a blessing. I fall more and more in love with both of my boys every day and my heart grows bigger. It is my hope in sharing my story that some mother out there going through a tough time will find comfort in knowing you are not alone. The journey you are on is hard yet, know that it gets better and easier.
“Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope.” – John Lewis