NewsRadio Savannah and our sponsor The Dewitt Tilton Group introduces you to the Armitage family and their Ronald McDonald House Of The Coastal Empire experience:
Where do you even remotely begin to tell people about how being in the NICU feels? How can you explain to them that even after being gone it’s like a part of you never really came back from it? When is it ever really over for a momma to not look at her NICU warrior and think back to the time spent there? Before you were born, I went to all my appointments excited and happy because I never got to see you often. The waiting for ultrasound days felt like forever but with every visit I was told you were getting big, and you were healthy. Time progressed as it always does, and everything seemed to be going the way it should. I got sick, and I had to make sure you were good because something in me did not feel right. From one day to the next you went from being a healthy 1-pound baby to a 12 ounce baby that was one month behind development. I got sent to a new city one I’d never thought I’d ever get to see because I never had the “time.” Getting sent to a new city with unfamiliar faces and having those strangers tell you that you wouldn’t make it hurt. It hurt in places of my heart I did not know I had. I did not even know your gender. I was so excited to find that out 3 days prior and then there I was with IVs in my arms being asked which heartbeat recording sounded better in the teddybear for me to keep forever.
The hospital was one of the best ones I’d ever been to. It was comforting but only for the physical part of me. They did their best to acknowledge my feelings and to help ease my mind, but you cannot do much for a mother who has been told they were to brace themselves for a loss of a child. I had everything I needed and was comfortable as far as the eye could see but inside, I was dying. I didn’t even have a name picked out for you. I remember the nurse who came into my room to record your heartbeat, she walked in so gently and so quietly and she spoke so softly on how I could keep this keepsake with me forever. What she didn’t realize was how loud her words really were. One of the moments that will live in my head forever is when I was moved from a regular patient room to a labor and delivery room. I will never forget being rolled into this room and being put on a bed next to an incubator. I will never forget how hot my cheeks got when the nurse left and all I had to hold onto was your heartbeat. I recall laying in that bed after being told you had less than a 1% chance to live. I remember I heard the lullaby playing over the intercom and feeling so much pain and hate in my heart. I remember being so jealous of the momma who just had her baby and was going to get to hold it and love on it and go home with the best piece of herself. I lay there in so many feelings that I could not possibly begin to describe to you what I felt. I remember just laying the dark room with the softest most beautiful glow of blue neon light to the right of me. The baby bed was the only light in the room. All I could think of when I looked at it was all the stuff at home, I had so excitedly bought for you. The stuff I would never get to use. The stuff that I reorganized my whole room around for and how you wouldn’t
use it. I saw you in the crib and in your clothes and holding your toys and then I also saw me boxing them up and putting them away and never getting to use them. I had never felt such a hollow space in my chest as I did that day. I was surrounded by so many people yet I felt the loneliest I had ever felt in my entire life. I loved every single staff member who came in and tended to us. That hospital was one of the bests things to ever happen to me, to us. I did not know it then because at the time I was hurt by what they were telling me, but they came to be one of our greatest blessings.
You were born at 24weeks and 4 days. You measured a 21 weeker in size. You were a hefty 12.70z almost a whole pound. When they talked of you to me, they told me all of the bad and the ugly. They said that you would not make it due to my contractions. They said that you would have major life complications. I talked to you in my belly and told you that I was willing to fight if you were. I told you that I would be with you every step of the way, even when it hurt. I told you that if you did not want to fight that I understood and I would accept what you wanted. It would hurt but I would accept it. You were born with one of the greatest wills to live and when the doctors asked me if I wanted them to do everything, they could to save you I weakly nodded. We were doing this, and this was going to be our journey.
The Ronald McDonald house was mommy’s haven while you got better. I called it home for a very long time while you grew and healed. It was where I went to rest my head when things got overwhelming. It was where I could talk to the members of the house and other families and feel not so alone. It was where I could come and cry for hours because it was such a mentally exhausting journey. It is where I went to nourish myself to continue to be next to you. It was a really big house, but it was so small and comforting all together. Even on bad days I would go home to the house and know that there was always a spot for me at the table and there would be people who loved and supported our journey and who did everything in their power to make you feel better. Even them just listening was more than enough. It was the parents of your NICU friends, and we would come together and talk about our milestones and weight gains and successful surgeries and procedures. It was where I made friends that I will always share an experience with who will know the pain that I went through. On the rough days we would come together and talk about the good. The Ronald McDonald house has seen and heard so many laughs and so many cries and I’m sure its walls are filled with so many prayers and so many pleads and so many hopeful words spoken through its halls. It was a literal home away from home.
Our journey was 4 months and a half of blood draws, IVs, breathing machines, tubes, wires, transfusions, resuscitations, surgeries, procedures, meds, weight loss/weight gain, relapses, etc. but I think the scariest part of it all that I thought would be the happiest day for me was going home. I thought I was going to be fine but coming home was one of the hardest days that I had waited so desperately for. It was doubting myself as your mother and as your caretaker. I thought it was what I had waited so long for but part of me was terrified. I wouldn’t have you on a monitor or a professional on call when I thought you were not doing ok. The first month was the hardest because of your apnea monitor and oxygen machine. Often times I felt it would be best for you if I disappeared that way you could be put in a place that would care for you and be better abled than me. I was desperate. I had no one when we came home. It was just you and me. I talked to your daddy late at night while you slept, and I would tell him how much I wished he was still here with us. I cried and told him I did not feel able to care for you. I told him that I did not feel like the mother you deserved. I cried to him and asked him to always be with you. I told him that I would tell you about him when you got older and how much he would have loved you but, in the moment, I was not seeing the light of any of it and I felt so guilty for it
because you fought so hard to come home. 3 months later and we are doing so much better now, and we have both grown and adapted to you and your needs. It’s not so scary anymore but I am still learning with you. One day you will be the best version of yourself and until then I will try my hardest to help you get there. I love you, Emilse Lorelei.
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