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Joy-Ann's Story

My son just had his very first day of school. He’s the first to tell me that he’s “a big

boy” and all I can think of is the tiny 3 lbs 14 oz baby in the incubator. It’s amazing

how time takes on wings once becoming a parent. As he embarks on this very

special milestone of starting formal education, I take time to reflect on how he

entered the world outside of the womb.

The expectation of your first child comes with a myriad of feelings. At 35 weeks

pregnant, my husband and I were filled with anticipation as we only had 5 weeks

before we met our little one…or so we thought. At around 32 weeks, an ultrasound

showed that our baby was not growing as he should and was smaller than expected.

At 35 weeks. We went in for an additional ultrasound, and to our complete shock,

the doctor told us that I would be admitted and induced. What?!? I was supposed to

go back to work later that morning….my baby shower was scheduled for later that

week. I was not ready!!!!

They induced me, but the baby was not tolerating the contractions very well. I wasn’t

progressing very well with dilation either. They inserted a Foley catheter to help me

along… My goodness! The pain of that thing was worse than the contractions in my

opinion. I only made it to 4 cm. In the end, after about 28 hours of labour I ended up

having a c-section. That was an experience. Being at a teaching hospital, I knew of

the likelihood of working with students and residents, but lying there on the table,

hearing one resident instructing another on how to stitch me up, I felt like I was on

an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

After briefly holding him after the c-section, my son was whisked away to the

NICU. Through all the labour and preparation for surgery, nobody informed us of the

likelihood that our baby would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care

unit (NICU). I was in no way prepared for the separation from my baby. It would be

12 hours before I would have the chance to finally hold him again. At one point, I

remember waiting for the nurse to check my vitals so I could go to the NICU and see

my baby. My nurse was nowhere to be found. I paged and waited, paged and

waited some more. No one came to me. I didn’t care. I got myself into a wheelchair

and wheeled myself off to my son. Even though I was staying on a different floor in

the same hospital, the separation was torture for me. It was even worse once I was

discharged and my son was still in the NICU. I remember the day I left the hospital

and he remained in the hospital. My husband and I were in a crowded elevator, I had flowers and “it’s a boy” balloons in hand… and no baby. The idea of going home

without my son was absurd to me. There I was at home, with swollen feet, a fresh

scar on my midsection and pumping milk like a cow… all evidence that I had given

birth to a baby, but there was no baby at home with me. Absurd. This was an assault

on my mental health. We spent all day at the hospital and then slept at home. I

remember walking the halls of the NICU and thinking, “what am I doing here?” It all

seemed so unreal. I envied those who were caring for my baby when I wasn’t there

and also worried about how they were handling him. Ultimately, I was missing out on

time with my baby and I felt lost. There was only one remedy to relieve this sense of

loss and that was to hold my son. Upon holding my son, the tears would stop flowing

and my level of anxiety would dissolve. Having his head on my chest was the biggest

relief and the best feeling. It assured me that he existed; it assured me that I was

actually a mother.

Eighteen days. He spent the first 18 days of his life in hospital, but it felt like an

eternity. During that time you start getting used to machines telling you that your

child is ok; that his heart is beating and he’s getting enough oxygen. This was

something my husband and I had to unlearn. The night before my son was

discharged, we had the opportunity to sleepover at the hospital in our own room, so

we would do just that. We were able to care for the baby on our own, without

machines and nursing care. That was a real gift to ease our minds before bringing

him home.

Fast forward 4 years. My boy marched off to kindergarten. He was so ready! He said

his goodbyes and just like that was on his way. Looking back, on those early days in

the NICU, I’m convinced that they built resiliency in my son. It may sound silly, but I

look at how he successfully handles himself in new and sometimes daunting

situations and I can’t help but wonder….

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