A Tale of Two Sisters- and their babies

When your baby was born sick, and hers perfectly healthy, what do you do when you are overwhelmed with grief and joy at the same time?

I had a baby 6 years ago

and my sister in law, the adorable blonde in blue,

JUST had a baby 2 days ago! 

Her baby, Brooklyn,

is perfect and she is healthy!

Praise the Lord.

I am so proud to be Brooklyn’s  Aunt, so very proud, and yet

at the same time

I am PROFOUNDLY overwhelmed with grief.

The difference in our pregnancies, births, and days after

are very different stories. 

As my sister in law labored I pleaded with God for her child be

born healthy… everybody prays that… but as a mother who spent

2 and a half weeks in the NICU with her own child…

I might have prayed it differently.

I know, all too well, that the NICU is only

three doors down from Labor and Delivery…

The grief hit me when I saw my sweet sister-in-law just 25

minutes after her baby was born.

There they were together.

Mother and Child.

They were skin to skin.

They were happy.

I was happy.

It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

It was something I never got to experience.

I did not get to hold my son for 5 days after he was born.

I did not change his first diaper.

I did not give him his first bath.

Yesterday, I came to visit my sweet sister-in-law and her

brand new baby in the hospital.

My in-laws were there snuggling Brooklyn and my sister.

Everyone was happy and smiling and full of joy.

My father-in-law gave me a great big hug and said,

“We didn't get to do this with you and Jackson.”

His words hit me like a freight train.

He's right.

They didn't get to visit us as a happy family in the hospital.

They didn't get to embrace us with over exuberance.

No one popped open a bottle of bubbly.

Instead, they would meet us in the NICU waiting room, and we

would take turns going in to see our very sick baby.

I swallowed my grief but everyone could see it.

No one high-fived me.

No one congratulated me.

Everyone who looked at me pitied me.

My family came to visit me in the hospital

and they would weep the minute they stepped in my room.

I was “The Sad Mommy”. We were a sad family.

We were not without hope and faith, but stricken all the same.

The nurses would talk outside my door, during their shift changes.

They would speak in hushed tones about

“The mommy who didn't have her baby-the NICU mommy”.

I would lay awake in my hospital bed and hear 

the other babies cry and then I would cry.

Doctors came into my room in the middle of the night to tell me Jackson

was getting worse and no longer had the strength to breathe.

I could see in my mind’s eye the vision from earlier in the day…

his tiny body covered in sweat as he tried to breathe with the aide

of the C-PAP machines.

The doctors continued asking …

"Would it be OK to sedate him and intubate him?" 

"Would it be ok?"

I didn't know.

They had to ask a few times…until I realized that they 

want an answer from me.

I made these decisions alone in the pitch dark hospital room

because my husband was not allowed to stay with me.

"Normal Daddies" can stay if the family is together…

 but not a NICU Daddy.

It was the darkest night of my life.

 Followed by the darkest days,

of leaving the hospital every day without him.

He was, by far, the sickest little baby in the NICU.

He had heart issues, lung issues, a wall of X rays, and IV lines

 in his head, heart, belly button, feet, hands, and forearms.

I can still see the IV line scars on his hands and arms

I kiss them when they catch my eye. 

My husband and I agreed we would not post the pictures

from the darkest days. They are too horrible, too raw, and

honestly too gut wrenching to share.

 In this photo only his breathing tube shows and  

the IV line from his tiny skull had been removed, so we went with it.

About me 8

Social workers hounded us about our non-existent drug use,

and questioned if we had a nursery prepared yet.


“Do you even have a crib?” they would ask.

This nursery awaited our baby. I painted every polka dot and letter.

Yet, social workers looked at me like I might be a criminal.

Surely we must be really crappy parents to produce a NICU baby…

Erma Bombeck wrote this poem about preemies and their mothers.

I am substituting NICU baby for preemie baby…

because mine was not sooo early at 36 weeks,

but he was sooo sick at 36 weeks.

Did you ever wonder how the mothers of NICU babies are chosen? Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation.As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger. "Beth Armstrong, son. Patron Saint, Matthew. Marjorie Forrest, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia.  Carrie Rutledge, twins. Patron Saint ... give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. "Give her a NICU baby." The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy." the angel asks. "Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a NICU baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel."

"But does she have the patience?" asks the angel. "I don't want her to have too much patience, or she'll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it. I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a NICU mother.

You see, the child I'm going to give her has a world of its own. She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect.
She doesn't know it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says 'mama' for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see – ignorance, cruelty, prejudice – and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life.”

“Why us? Why did God chose us for a NICU baby?”

Maybe Erma is right, and He saw in us what it would take.

Maybe He saw in us the faith to get through it, and

He knew we would hold onto Him for dear life.

Maybe the NICU nurses needed to see a mother and father

who were in an intact family, loved their baby, and

didn’t “do” anything that put their child into the NICU.

One nurse confided that we [my hubby and I ] were an anomaly.

She was used to crack babies… I guess social workers are too.

17 days later…we brought our sweet NICU boy home.

But all too soon the happiness of bringing him home,

faded into the understanding that he was not progressing.

He was physically delayed and at 4 months

he could not lift his head.

I fought to get him tested, and indeed he needed help.

My son did not meet a single milestone naturally.

He screamed and vomited through learning to hold his head up.

He sobbed through knee and hand placement to learn to crawl.

He wept through hip maneuvering to learn to walk.

I was there with him, choking back my own tears,

sometimes leaving the room to cry in private.

These are the things that I don’t allow myself to think about.

There are so many happy and relevant things to think about.

I shoved it away until,

the reality of “new baby joy” bubbled up, burst out,

and brought with it the things that God wants to heal.

I don’t often go to this place.

I surely don’t post like this on my blog.

I don’t have a freebie to give away today,

but I would love a prayer or two as God heals

these places within me.

Psalm 55:22- Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

I would also like to  join with you in prayers of thanksgiving for

two special kids- Jackson, who is healthy, happy, and meeting

milestones at a normal rate without interventions,

and for sweet Baby Brooklyn who will  continue

to be a great source of joy for all of us!

Jackson holding Brooklyn for the first time.

As for a tale of two sisters… our stories are very different,

but our hearts are the same.

We love our children, we love the Lord, and we love each other.