As someone who was once raped and held hostage at gunpoint for 36 hours, I learned from an early age that life is too short to allow yourself to sweat the small stuff. After all, stress is a killer. That’s why I’ve always strived to only stress about the really big things in life. Like when my husband cheats on me in a dream.
Enter: Paranoid Preemie Mom.
The stay in the NICU was emotionally taxing, and I knew to expect as much. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the anxiety that taking her home would bring. It’s one thing when a team of medical professionals is responsible for the well-being of your 3-month-premature child, but it’s another entirely when that responsibility falls to a woman who can’t even remember whether or not she’s wearing pants. Spoiler: You can just look down. Anyway, the responsibility was seemingly more than I could handle. When Brooke came home, I thought I managed it relatively well for a first time mom. When Blake came home, all hell broke loose — at least in my mind. For context, this tiny being was supposed to be in my womb for yet another month still. For the 44 days prior, she had been waited on hand and foot by people with intensive medical training. The only medical training I had ever received was in 9th grade biology when I was told to dissect a frog. And in case you were wondering, no, I couldn’t do it. In any event, I was concerned about my ability to care for her in the manner necessary. Worried that I might miss some critical sign of distress. Hoping that the NICU was right; that she really was ready to come home.
My natural inclination was to stand over her 24 hours per day, creepily watching her sleep. Much like how I imagine Ashley S. from the Bachelor treats all of her boyfriends. But with a rambunctious toddler to care for, that wasn’t going to be possible. It’s hard to devote the amount of attention you’d like to your premature newborn when there’s a one-year-old crawling around, trying to eat her foam floor tiles. It’s hard not to yearn for the days to come. For the time when I’m only like half responsible if they kill themselves. The other half being Darwinism. I’m sorry, I know that there’s nothing funny about dead babies. Except really good dead baby jokes. You know when a joke is so wrong that you’re trying not to laugh, but just can’t help yourself, so you invert your lips, tucking them into your mouth, so as to prevent a smile? But then the corners of your mouth start to twitch like a man on amphetamines, and your smile breaks free like Ariana Grande? That’s how I feel when I read a good dead baby joke.
I wonder if they serve Chipotle in hell.
Anyway, point being, I was really worried about Blake, but it honestly hasn’t been that bad. The NICU nurse told me to treat her as though she were a regular newborn, and I’ve been trying my best to obey. And in most ways, she is like a regular newborn. She drinks, sleeps, and looks at boobs all day. She’s like the world’s tiniest college student. And luckily, she’s taken to breastfeeding rather well. We hadn’t done it successfully while in the hospital, so I was worried that it may not be something we would ever be able to achieve. But then the day after her release, she was sleeping on my chest, and out of nowhere, she slowly started gravitating down toward my boob. Before I knew it, she had firmly latched on and was sucking away. It caught me by surprise. I hadn’t seen someone that thirsty since Kim K. posted her latest nude Instagram. In any event, it was a success, and in the days since, she’s continued to do well. Sure, she’s still extremely small, and thus, infinitely more fragile. I often look at her and think that she could just snap at any moment. Like how my husband must have felt when I was waiting for him to propose. But she’s gaining weight and filling out a little more every day. Her hair line is receding; she has random periodic outbursts; and she flails her arms in the strangest of fashions. She’s my little mini Donald Trump. And the only real challenge we’ve faced since she came home a week ago was that I got sick immediately upon her return. A happening, which obviously prompted a frantic text to her pediatrician, asking what I should do.
Me (at 5:00 a.m.): I hate to text you in the middle of the night, and I hope this doesn’t wake you, but I just wanted to ensure that you got it as soon as you woke up. I woke up about an hour ago with a very sore throat, and I think I might be sick. I’m terrified, because I’ve obviously been around Blake, and I’ve been kissing the top of her head. Please tell me she’s going to be okay! Signed, Paranoid Preemie Mom
Pediatrician: No worries 🙂 How are you feeling? Sore throat? Fever?
Me: No fever, just a bad sore throat and a little bit of sinus pressure.
Pediatrician: Oh, it’s just a cold! This is okay. She will be great. But you can get a little mask if it’d make you feel more comfortable.
Me: Oh, haha. I may be a little paranoid, but I’m not that crazy. That totally won’t be necessa…
Yeah, okay. Moving on.
People now ask me what it’s like to be a mother of two. They ask if I feel any different. They’ve even asked if I have a favorite child. Which is honestly just the most preposterous question ever. Of course I have a favorite child. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade, Blake right now has all the personality of a pretzel. She has two facial expressions: sleepy and pooping. Oh, and Blue Steel. Evidently, she’s anxiously awaiting the release of Zoolander 2.
No, but really, I love both of my girls. To be honest, I love Blake at this stage far more than I did Brooke when she was of a similar age. Mostly because I now know the awesome things that are in store. When you’re a first time mom, dealing with the challenges and perils of having a newborn, it’s sometimes hard to envision life in the future. But it’s far greater than I ever could have imagined. In that way, Brooke has done Blake the greatest of favors. She’s shown me how much a year can change. I’ve watched her personality grow into the hilarious, affectionate thing that she is, and it makes me excited for the next year with Blake. I know that I’ll only continue to love both of them more with each passing day.
As far as how my recovery is going, I feel great. Outside of some sensitivity at the incision site and the occasional tingling in my legs, I’m almost back to 100%. And I have to say, my body has bounced back pretty quickly as well. Outside of my scar, there’s almost no evidence that I ever even bore a child. Well, except for the stretch marks on my hips. They, unfortunately, did not escape unscathed. I now know where they get the term, “earn your stripes.” Oh, and let’s not forget the lactating. One cry from my baby, and I immediately start dripping at the breast. Unfortunately, that biological reaction also extends to other things as well. I never knew how much running water sounded like a baby’s cries, until my boobs told me so. The other day, I even lactated during sex, which was kind of awkward, but also new and exciting. I like to keep things fresh.
So yes, life is a bit different these days. I’m still working to establish a routine and adjust to my new normal, but we’re getting a little closer every day. I have no idea what the future has in store for me and my family, but I do know this: I’m, hands down, the luckiest woman in the world.
But if anyone has some good stretch mark cream, holla at your girl.