This past Saturday was the March of Dimes’ March for Babies event at the Sparks Marina. I’ve been telling myself since the kiddo was born (7 weeks early) that I wanted to do what I could for this fantastic organization. And this year, I finally participated!
I raised $260. And I’ve already got plans to create a team for next year’s event.
Because I could have tried a little harder in the donation department. And because I know quite a few people who would join my team and help me raise even more money for the March of Dimes. Like my friend who had preemie twins just a few months ago. She already told me they’ll do the walk with us next year.
So, the kiddo and I got to registration just after 8:30am. He’d been complaining that his belly hurt that morning, but I just assumed he was hungry. He only ate half a waffle for breakfast. But he told me he didn’t want to eat. So I threw a few granola bars in my purse and told him to let me know if he got hungry.
But while I was handing over a few checks, I felt a tugging on my arm. I looked down, and he was crouched on the ground puking. He finished up pretty quickly, drank a little bit of water, and then declared that his belly felt much better.
Then he saw the bounce castle.
And I said no. Not right away. So we sat on the grass, him on my lap, and people-watched for a little while.
He got antsy.
So I told him he could go play in the bounce castle but if his belly felt even a little bad, he had to get out. He practically rolled his eyes in a “mo-o-om I feel fi-i-ine” sort of way. Then he kicked off his shoes and ran off.
And he didn’t puke again. With all the bouncing and sliding, he was fine the rest of the day.
He did take about a five minute break from the bouncing and sliding to get his face painted.
Everyone else was getting hearts, flowers, walmart smiley faces (there was a team from Wal-Mart). One woman got the name of the baby she was walking for. What did the kiddo want?
A jack o’lantern.
And then he ran off to bounce some more, where the jack o’lantern’s face was immediately rubbed off. The pumpkin remained though.
So while he was playing around, his grandparents showed up. My ex-in-laws were in town from Oregon visiting, and had decided to do the 2-mile walk with us. Then my friend, Jamie, showed up with her son (7 month old). And then it was time for the walk to begin.
It was a good walk. The kiddo ended up getting a ride on my back for part of the time, and then rode in the baby’s stroller for another part (Jamie carried the baby in a front pack).
But my favorite part was when I hoisted him into my arms at one point (because eating a granola bar and walking was quite difficult for him) and told him the story of when he was born.
I’d only realized that morning that I had never told him anything about his birth. We were lying in bed that morning, trying to convince ourselves to get up. I was telling him about the walk, and how we were doing it to support research that will help all babies be born healthy. He nodded and that was when I realized, he didn’t even know that he was a baby who wasn’t born healthy.
So I took the opportunity while we were walking to tell him.
I told him that he was born early, which means that he didn’t have as much time to grow as babies really need. I told him that he had some trouble breathing when he was born. He had a tiny problem with his heart that turned out to not really be a problem, because it happens to lots of babies (some who were even born full-term). I told him how he had an intracranial hemorrhage, which basically meant he had some blood in his brain where it shouldn’t have been. He was a little worried at this point that his head had been broken, but I assured him it did not break. The blood was on the inside. And the doctors did scans on his head to show that the blood all went away eventually. I told him about how he had to stay in the hospital for 78 days because of these problems, and because he had a lot of trouble learning how to eat and gain weight. I told him that he was finally able to come home two days after Christmas, but even then he had to come home on a monitor because he would have episodes where he would stop breathing, or his heart would slow down a little too much. I told him that the state provided these wonderful specialists, who would come to our house to check up on his development. I told him that one of these people was Gabby. Gabby came to our house a lot. She would play with him, joyfully declare how beautiful and smart and wonderful he was, and then she’d give me the next developmental milestone to be keeping an eye out for. She gave us exercises to do with him, to encourage basic development. I told him that I wish we could get back in contact with Gabby. She cried the day she told me that we really didn’t need her any more. He was growing so wonderfully, meeting all the milestones. He wasn’t having the troubles that she saw with her other babies. Early intervention services are typically given to preemies until they are 5. He didn’t need their services for even half that amount of time.
I didn’t tell him that he had the greatest nurses taking care of him during those 78 days. I didn’t tell him that I still remember most of their names, that I can still see their faces. I didn’t tell him about the one who cried the day he left, and gave him a stuffed dog (something, she declared, she’s never done before for another patient). I didn’t tell him about the elderly women who would visit the NICU babies and hold them, rock them, when the parents couldn’t be there. I didn’t tell him about the people who sent knitted hats to keep the baby heads warm – several of which I have packed away in a box. I didn’t tell him about how everyone kept telling me that white boys stayed in the NICU the longest. I didn’t tell him about how hearing that, over and over, didn’t make me feel any better about not having him at home. I didn’t tell him about the set of triplets who were born some time in November – one of them didn’t survive, one of them went home right away, and one of them graduated the NICU shortly before the kiddo did. I didn’t tell him about how, even at so young, he would flirt with the nurses. I didn’t tell him about how we had to “room in” at the hospital twice, because the first time he had a bradycardia episode and the doctor didn’t want him to go home quite yet.
There’s a lot I didn’t tell him, but I will. Every time I tell somebody about our experience at the NICU, I walk away from the conversation and remember a detail that I feel I should have mentioned. There was so much that happened during those 78 days (and beyond!); sometimes it feels impossible to remember everything. I often get upset with myself that my journals are so empty during that period of time. But I can always forgive myself. It was a dark time for me; I was quite possibly suffering from post-partum depression. I curled up at home and slept a lot, when I should have been sitting in the NICU holding on to my little man. I watched a lot of A Baby Story on TLC, and felt sorry for myself because those women all got to take their babies home days after their birth. I didn’t write at all. So everything in my stories is from my terrible memory, and from reading through the hospital discharge papers.
I want him to know the whole story. I don’t want to forget any detail, because this is his story. It’s his birth, his journey, the story of how his life started.
So whenever I remember little details, I write them down somewhere. And now he knows a little bit of the story. I’ll fill in more of the details as he gets older, and better able to understand.
I think he’s got a pretty good grasp on the basic idea, though. He told me later that he liked the walk. And he hoped that all the babies were healthy now, because he’s healthy now.
They might not be, but with the help of great organizations like the March of Dimes and their millions of supporters, maybe one day they will be.