Friday, February 24, 2012

Too Close To Home

I nearly gave up Grey's Anatomy for good, once I saw that tiny "micro-preemie" baby.
In fact, any time they have a show with one of those kids as a large part of the episode, I can't watch.
Maybe it's ridiculous after all this time, but all it takes is a few minutes of seeing one of those little one-pounders to make me feel right back there in the NICU.
After 17 years, it still seems like yesterday, like last night, like an hour ago.
My babies were 24-weekers, one-pounders...they were utterly frightening and sort of gross looking. I mean their EARS were still folded down like ... like little bat wings. Their lungs were not fully developed and their tiny little limbs were so small that it seemed like the IV needle would go straight through and come out the other side. Full of tubes and IV lines, covered in sticky tape and dependent upon beeping machines...well, watching that on TV just sort of stirs it all around.
The overwhelming despair and helplessness mixed with the relief and tiny sparks of hope every morning that they continued to live. The aching feeling of not being able to hold your own baby (or babies, in my case). When life is counted minute by minute and ounce by ounce.
When some days your life is less about living and more about just surviving.
Watching your baby struggle to survive one more second...minute...hour.
Dreading night-time phone calls regarding worn-out hearts and scarred, liquid-filled lungs.
Hearing all the damned PERCENTAGES.
And the feelings that come when you wish yourself far far away, the need to run away to anywhere...and the crushing guilt that layers on top of that, for even allowing yourself to think of it, consider it, for a single moment.
Envy of parents who just take their healthy, normal babies for granted. Their healthy, normal babies that have more than just a 25% chance of growing up into healthy, normal children.
And the flickers of resentment, quashed by more guilt.
Oh don't get me wrong - I didn't (and don't) resent my children at all, just the situation. My children are blameless - if anything, I am to blame.
I was taking a thyroid medicine and propranalol when I was pregnant, but I was so sick that I threw up my meds a lot of the time. So my body was in a thyroid storm and the doctors told me that may have contributed to the 3-month-early birth.
My own mother even told me it was my fault.
More guilt.
It's weighty. And stressful.
You know, you never realize the extent of the toll that stress takes on you, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. It has shaped me in many ways - did you know, I used to actually be sort of pleasant to be around? I KNOW. It sounds unbelievable to me, now, too.
It's hard to adequately express the feelings, and harder to understand if you've never been in a similar situation - whenever I try to talk about it I feel as though it sounds melodramatic to the person listening, although what I manage to tell is actually far LESS impactful than the reality.
17 years later and it's still fresh in my mind and my heart.
But the good part? It's 17 years later.
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