My girls, Gracie and Meghan, have become "thick as thieves" as they say lately. Often times, I feel like I'm the referee in the middle of a boxing ring, but then I witness heart melting episodes of the girls playing so sweetly together. After a normal weekend of a little too much time together, Grace asked me if she and Meghan could watch baby movies again.
In our house, baby movies are home movies of Grace and Meghan. For the last two weeks, we've watched home movies. I've really enjoyed seeing them as babies on tape since my memories are beginning to fade with time. Tonight, I selected a tape that said "Grace in the NICU." When I picked it up, I hesitated at first. Like some other preeclampsia survivors, I continue to struggle with the guilt associated with having severe preeclampsia and premature babies. I haven't watched that tape in well over 4 years. Grace will be five in May.
Honestly, I only had a fuzzy idea of what was on that tape. I think that is because I was in a magnesium sulfate induced haze at the time of the taping. As I was putting away laundry in their room, the girls were parked in their favorite chairs watching intently. Most of the tape was Grace in her incubator, doing little to nothing. I had forgotten how much of the time in NICU is just sitting and waiting.
As we watched Grace in the NICU shortly after being born, we then watched Grace having her blood drawn for the first time. I left the room for moment. When I came back in the room, a picture of Grace's NICU monitor was full screen on the television. I reviewed the numbers, and began to panic on the inside. Grace was "desating" to 68. For those of you who have seen a desat, they make moms and dads shudder. I finally realized that Grace was desating because she was having a blood draw. It made sense, but reminded me how often we encountered episodes of fear and panic in the NICU.
Grace asked, "Mommy, why don't I have my eyes open?" I responded that the NICU had very bright lights and that she was sleepy. Another part of the tape was of my siblings meeting Grace at her bedside. Grace simply asked, "Mom, why is everyone so sad?" I explained that seeing a baby in a box (aka incubator) can be scary, but sometimes people cry when they are happy, too. She didn't seem phased by the tape. I love her ability to just accept what I say as golden.
As the tape drew to a close, I watched as I was loaded into a wheel chair, still very swollen. It was three days after Grace was born, I was finally going to see Grace since I had glimpsed her in the delivery room. I was pleased to see that I appeared excited on the tape. My memory is quite different as I had post partum depression.
The camera shook and bounced as we rolled down the hallways toward the NICU. My husband narrated. I'm pretty sure I remember my heart pounding. Seeing the NICU for the first time was obviously overwhelming, but it appeared I was able to process it slowly. My eyes darted this way and that. (I was still suffering from hypertensive retinopathy with macular swelling.) I really couldn't see.
I couldn't see Grace. Neither my husband or the staff knew that. They knew that I kept complaining about my eyes. Most just said, "Oh, that is mag." It was the day after my first visit, that I was diagnosed with more than "just mag" vision. Now that my vision has mostly returned to normal, I watched myself experience one of the most heart wrenching things ever, on tape. I suppose it was actually the viewpoint of my husbad since he was behind the camera.
I couldn't see my newly born Gracie. I couldn't see her. I could see light and dark shapes. I could hear the monitors alarming here and there. I could hear ventilators and CPAP machines administering oxygen to babies born too soon. I felt Grace's body startle as I placed my index finger in the palm of her hand. I felt the tears streaming down my face. I heard my husband attempt to console me by saying "She's just skinny, Jen. It'll be okay."
It is there...all on tape for my family and me to see. I wish I could feel better about it. Hopefully someday, I'll be able to watch it without too much emotion, without welling up.
As most moms say, "We'll see."