“Sometimes when I hear a birth story told from the perspective of a mom I’ve held – it brings me to a dead stop. As for this one, it was like Momma M was allowing us to peek into her soul and I’m so grateful of her bravery.”– Doula Alyssa Leon
I woke up on a Friday morning and saw blood everywhere, I knew you would soon be on your way.
I didn’t panic, I had prepared for this. I knew we needed to get to the hospital as fast as we could, to a hospital that seemed so far but it was the best place for you because you were only 28 weeks. We were so lucky Grandma and Grandpa were visiting because they took care of your big brother, CK, as we ran out the door.
We arrived at the hospital, your dad drove over a curb to park in a restricted parking lot because we didn’t know where to go. We made it up and I explained to the nurses all of our complications. We were rushed in and they started monitoring you. I heard your little heart and I felt at ease. But there was so much blood. At some point, between the medications and care, we were stable again. I remember the doctor saying we may have to watch the Super Bowl at the hospital. I laughed because we don’t care about sports at all.
Your dad wasn’t able to stay overnight that first night but you and I were ok. The night was long and I’m sure you missed your big brother kissing my belly as much as I did.
That next day Grandma and Grandpa came to visit and Dad was able to stay behind for the night. The day was hard, there was more blood. In the evening the contractions started. At first, I didn’t notice them, the monitors did. They intensified fast and we were given so much medication to try to stop them but it was unsuccessful.
The nurses called the doctor again and I was told we were about to have a birthday party for you on Super Bowl Sunday! They prepped me and your Dad called our doula, Alyssa, and explained the situation. They were sending me back in just a few minutes and as they were prepping me, she walked in with Dad. It was comforting to see a familiar face and have someone photographing what was happening. I was so out of it between all of the meds and epidural, I was so scared to not remember your birth.
I didn’t feel much of anything, I just remember there were so many people and I told them to make sure I didn’t feel anything before starting. They seemed to panic at some point and I remember just feeling so weak. I felt punching and pulling and rushing. Then your dad and Alyssa told me you were out.
You didn’t cry, they rushed to resuscitate you. You were 2lbs 10oz.
A few minutes later, your dad was able to see you for the first time. I’m so grateful we had Alyssa there. She was the exact support I needed when your dad was busy seeing you. She held my hand and comforted me as they worked on finishing everything up.
Your dad came back and told me you were small but reassured me that you were ok…
He showed me a picture and I couldn’t believe that my first time seeing my son would be through a picture. I had always imagined I would be able to hold you right after you were born, but I wouldn’t be able to hold you for another week.
I recovered for a while and I was finally able to see you. They wheeled up my bed and that was the first time I saw the NICU, the place I would spend a good part of my days for the next two months. The nurses were sweet but I was scared. You looked tiny and had a million wires all around you. I didn’t know if you were going to be ok and I felt numb. I felt mad and angry too. It wasn’t fair.
I was scared to go up and see you alone when dad wasn’t there. I was so scared they would tell me something I couldn’t handle. I also didn’t feel like you were mine, I wasn’t the one caring for you and I didn’t get to even hold you. I felt disconnected.
The next two months in the NICU were a whirlwind.
Your dad and I would come in and try to be around for 2 rounds of care. It was hard leaving your big brother home but grandma and grandpa were able to keep him busy while we were gone.
At first, I didn’t want to touch you, I was so afraid to break you but like the nurses said, you were much stronger than you looked.
I remember the first day I held you, there were wires everywhere and I couldn’t relax. I kept my eyes on the monitors and they kept going off. It wasn’t what I imagined my first time holding you would be like. I was stressed and scared to hurt you. I was relieved when they told me I could put you back, I never wanted to hold you again. I was so scared to hurt you.
I remember I made dad hold you a ton, he seemed more relaxed about it. I sat close and watched the monitors even closer. I became obsessed with your O2 and heart rate. I asked the nurses so many questions and they were so sweet and kind. The NICU nurses really have amazing patience and they loved you and cared for you when I couldn’t.
One day on our drive in, they called us to let us know they had moved you. You were stable so they moved you to a private room. I felt like we were so close to going home! They tried to take off your oxygen but you didn’t do well. The nurse was telling us that you had pretty severe dips and had to be aggressively stimulated to come back.
I felt hopeless, I didn’t think you would ever come home.
We worked on feeding and breathing for a while. The doctors eventually decided that if your feeding was going well, they would send you home on oxygen. We were somewhat lucky because I think they were trying to make room for COVID patients. COVID was getting really bad and they restricted us to 1 visitor at a time. I had relied on your dad to do so much of the care because I was always anxious about hurting you or not doing it right. When he wasn’t around, I felt incompetent. I felt far from what a mother should be.
I wasn’t able to care for you the way a mother should.
We went through training for your oxygen in order to prepare to go home and that was intense. They showed us how to use the machine that would eventually wake me up every few minutes in the middle of the night with it’s loud beeping and they taught us CPR. On theme, I was anxious to bring you home.
The day they sent you home was the first day they required everyone to wear masks. Can you believe we used to not wear masks?!?! Your dad took one last picture of me and you together in the NICU and we made our way home.
When we got home, you finally met your brother! He was so confused but excited I think. He wanted to rock you and touch you but I don’t think he realized you were going to be staying for good.
At home, the fear continued. I was afraid you would stop breathing in your sleep and the monitors wouldn’t realize it. I was anxious about the loud beeping sounds the monitors made.
I didn’t sleep for a month.
I would stay awake with the monitor in my face making sure your stats wouldn’t drop. I didn’t let you out of my sight but I did feel like we were finally connecting now that I could take care of you.
The next few months were spent getting to know each other and finally getting into a routine with you and your brother. Eventually you were stable enough to come off of oxygen, that was a huge relief.
I remember as I would sit next to you in the NICU just praying you would one day be playing with your brother and causing havoc in our home together. I’m so grateful you are here now laughing and playing with your big brother. That day seemed so far away and not even possible at one point. You are the sweetest, happiest, chunkiest baby boy.
You had a rough start, sweet boy, but that never slowed you down and I doubt it ever will.
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Hi! I’m Alyssa Leon. I lead Cherry Blossom Doula Services, LLC – an inclusive birth + postpartum doula team in Arizona; and mentor doulas in Arizona and beyond.