"Happy Ending" Envy
It is a heart wrenching thing to leave the hospital without your baby. After a 9 day stay in the hospital, it was time to go home. But my baby was staying behind. At just 2.5lbs and attached to a multitude of wires and cables, he would remain in the NICU for a long time to come.
I remember leaving the hospital feeling bitterness and failure. I wondered why my body had betrayed me and put us in this situation. Of course I could not share these feelings with anyone, I was supposed to be happy! I was a mom! God forbid they might think I had postpartum depression or suspect that I wasn’t actually as strong as I was pretending to be.
As I walked out of the maternity ward, I passed by other new moms in their wheel chairs holding their healthy babies in hand and balloons at their side. I couldn’t help but feel what I describe as “happy ending envy.” I wanted nothing more than to be like them. It felt like a knife in my heart that day and quite frankly every day that I visited my son in the NICU and had to leave him behind. I was grieving for the experience that I thought I was going to have, the one I had always dreamed of.
On the day that my son was born I was very sick. My blood pressure was ridiculously high and they were pumping me with medication to prevent me from having seizures or a stroke. Not to mention the spinal tap that I had to get before the C-section. When he was born, they immediately took him to check vitals before brining him to me briefly. He was then whisked away to the NICU. I remember giving him a kiss on his head, but it’s all very blurry. My husband went to the NICU with the baby and to update our family, but I was left alone, alone and feeling terrible. Since they were not able to get my blood pressure under control I remained in post-op for hours and hours on end! There are no visitors allowed there so I remained all alone, except for occasional checkups from my husband who was busy in the NICU.
Doctors came in and out to check that I was getting feeling back in my legs, of course this took longer than usual, causing even more panic and worry. When I was finally taken to a room, the anesthesia started wearing off and I started to feel pain. I never knew that a C-section was this difficult, I always kind of saw it as an “easier way out.” I was not even able to get up to go to the bathroom by myself. My husband came back and forth between my room and the NICU, but I felt extremely alone in my despair. I had not even gotten a chance to hold my baby yet. I was a mom, but I didn’t feel like one. I thought that something must be wrong with me. Wasn’t I supposed to feel this immediate amazing connection with my baby? It was almost as though he was just someone made up in a far away place. I finally fell asleep, but when I awoke the next day things weren’t any better. I could barely move or talk, my speech was slurred and my vision was blurry. I felt that I must have had a stroke. I kept telling the nurse that something was wrong, but I couldn't quite verbalize what that was. When the doctor finally came he ordered blood tests and discovered that the level of medication in my blood was way too high. He immediately discontinued the medication that was causing me to feel so dreadful and said that I would be able to visit my baby in the NICU later that day. But first they had to remove all of the iv's etc and I had to be strong enough.
Later on my mom and sisters came to visit. While I was happy to see them, it was difficult. They didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know how to tell them how I felt. I didn’t want to let them know how terribly sick and awful I was feeling, so sick that I couldn’t even think clearly. I couldn’t convey in words how traumatized I was. How could I sit and chat with people when I hadn’t even had a chance to see my baby. I thought that if I tried to explain I would break apart into a million pieces and I didn’t want them to see me so vulnerable and so weak. I didn't want them to worry, especially my mom. So shockingly I asked them to leave, most definitely hurting feelings, but I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t last another minute without breaking down.
I cried after they left, until my husband came and finally I was going to the NICU. My husband wheeled me up and when we got there we had to scrub our hands from fingers to forearms for two minutes and put on fresh gowns. It was then that my germophobia was born as everything and I mean everything was considered contaminated. Then the moment came. There he was this tiny little thing wriggling around. His eyes were covered with a mask and he was in what they call an isolette. It was an amazing but scary moment. He was hooked up to so many things, it was evident that the road ahead of us was long. The truth is I was so exhausted, emotionally drained and ill at the time, I couldn’t really enjoy our first visit. I still felt disconnected. In some way I felt that he wasn’t yet truly mine. He belonged to this place and I was on the outside looking in.
I slowly began getting back to health of mind and body. It took a while and I am definitely still healing emotionally. I never got to sit in a wheelchair with my baby and balloons at the door, but that’s okay! I realize now that life is messy. Things don’t always go according to the typical societal plan and that’s alright. Everyone’s experience is different. Thinking about it now i’m sure almost every mom finds some part of their birthing experience traumatic, the degrees just vary. We had so many happy moments that are “unique;” changing his diaper for the first time and caressing his little pea sized head through the holes of the isolette. Finally, five days after he was born, I got to hold him….best.moment.ever! When we finally got our “happy ending” 3 months later, I didn’t need to be carried out in a wheel chair with balloons. He was all I needed. We walked out nervously with our little miracle in his car seat. He looked so happy, I think he knew he was going home too!
© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.