Sunday, May 4, 2008

Count Your Many Blessings --- Life

Although we face trials, as does everyone, we have many things for which to be thankful. This is the first of what I intend to be regular entries about our blessings.

When the babies were born last year, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief at their lives. They (especially Sophia) had come so close to returning to their creator, that when they made it past their first hurdle of survival, it was easy to look at them and recognize the miracles that they were.

Even as time passed in the NICU, however, life crept into that miracle and I found myself forgetting a little. Gratitude left one day as I overheard a couple in the pod across the room. I learned that this couple lived in the same town I did. Their baby was unexpectedly born a few weeks too early, and they were devastated to have him in the NICU. My babies had been there for weeks, and I was yearning for some socialization, as much of my time had been spent alone with my babies, curtains drawn, “kangarooing” (holding the baby skin-to-skin, which is supposed to be good for preemies). I wanted to say “hello” to them, commiserate with them, and provide sympathy for each other, as some of our circumstances were similar. Instead, in their grief, they never made eye contact with me. One day, as they both wore sweatshirts of the college from which I graduated, I heard them complain to a nurse, “We live so far away! It takes at least an hour to drive here and an hour to drive home. Our baby has been here so looooong. When can we take him home? We have a two-year-old who has to stay with grandma when we come here, and he doesn’t know what is going on, and it is so difficult for him. My husband has to work, and can’t come quite everyday.” These people’s baby was in the NICU for less than five days.

I soon realized that this couple deserved my sympathy, as having a baby in the hospital is difficult whether it is for one day or one hundred days. However, before I came to this realization, I mourned my own. I lived just as far away. I had three other children, including one not yet two years old, who were lucky to stay with grandma, yet also were having a difficult time. My husband had just opened a new business (it opened the day before the babies were born, while I was in the hospital) and so was working two jobs. I had to work once a week so he could visit the hospital at all. My babies had been there for weeks, and would remain for many more weeks.

Not too many weeks passed before I was given a strong reminder of how grateful I should be. The entry to the NICU has a washing station, and everyone who enters spends three minutes scrubbing hands and arms. In my new need for contact with other parents, I greeted a couple washing next to me and asked about their baby. It turned out to be a mom and her brother, and she had a beautiful but sad smile as she told me that her daughter had been born a few weeks too early, but just needed to grow and eat and was doing well. They finished their washing before mine, so I was surprised to see that their baby was in the same room we were. I nodded and waved as I passed their pod on the way to see April and Sophia.

Either later that day or another, they approached me and asked whether they could see my babies (privacy is a big issue in the NICU, so people must ask permission to approach another pod). Glad for the opportunity, I smiled and welcomed them. The woman commented that she had heard from a nurse that I had twins. She admired them and told me they were beautiful. Then, I heard her softly comment about her twins. Realizing that this was emotional for her, I thought that perhaps she had had twins a few years beforehand that did not make it. I gently asked, “Twins?” Then, tears freely falling, she told me that her baby who was across the room had been a twin. Her sister died shortly before she was born. I put my arm around her and struggled for words of comfort. Here were my twins, right in front of her. Life is not always fair. This woman taught me much about gratitude, because, aside from that and another encounter, all I ever heard her talk about was how much she loved her surviving daughter, how well she was doing, and how much she looked forward to taking her home. Her daughter was beautiful, with the perfect color of soft, reddish hair. This woman who had faced such a major trial was optimistic about her baby and their future together.

I think that baby and her mother were there for two or three weeks. I wanted to give her something to let her know I was thinking about her. I struggled from the time we first met until nearly the time she left to think of something suitable. I finally settled on a beautiful journal, in which she could write her thoughts, or notes to her daughter, or whatever she chose. I wasn’t sure this was the perfect gift, but a friend had done that for me when I first entered the hospital, and I appreciated it greatly. A day or two before they were scheduled to leave, I approached the woman and her baby. She rose and met me in the middle of the room. “I have something for you,” she said to me. Surprised, I answered, “I have something for you too.” What she gave me will forever be a reminder to me to be grateful for April’s and Sophia’s lives. “My brother gave these to me at my baby shower,” she explained, tears wetting her cheeks. Her gift is pictured below. Cute onesies that were meant for her twin daughters had been generously, unselfishly, and lovingly passed on to mine. I am eternally grateful for April’s and Sophia’s lives.

(Photos, top to bottom: 1. April & Sophia today, 2. April, top, & Sophia - 8 days old -- 1st picture together, 3. The family, about 3 weeks after babies' births, 4. April & Sophia 1-1/2 months old, 5. April & Sophia today)


Julie said...

These stories are precious. It brings me back to when my youngest- Dallin was born. He spent only five days in the NICU which was only a few minutes away. He was born six weeks early. I can't imagine having to travel/stay so far from home let alone caring for two little babies. You did an awesome job and I'm sure you learned a lot! I think that the Nurses in the NICU are angels. I actually kind of liked being in the NICU and became dependant on the instruments to tell me how to hold Dallin. His oxygen would drop and the alarm would sound and then I knew to position him better. I began to think that having a "normal" baby was kind of boring. I guess I'm weird that way. I've actually thought of becoming one of those Nurses that works with preemies- but I still tell people I don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

Ditto Family said...

Andrea- I hope you don't mind that I took a peak into your life today. I clicked on your name through a comment you made on Kim's blog.

Your girls are beautiful!! I have been secretly keeping tabs on you and April and Sophia since their birth a little over a year ago. I think it is wonderful that you are recording your journey as the mother of these precious girls.

love, Sara Ditto (Sherry)

Satina said...

Thank you for coming over to help me today. I went to lay down after you left but couldn't focus on my book because I remembered I wanted to check your blog.
These are amazing stories of strong remarkable mothers, YOU are a strong and remarkable mother. You made me cry, again! I cry because of empathy and I cry because I feel so inspired by your strength.
I look up to you in so many ways and am so grateful for our friendship! I love you and I love your family. Thank you for doing this blog and reminding us all how to count our blessings!

kg said...

Andrea, I cannot believe I found out from someone else you had a my rush of checking comments it didin't dawn on me to click on your name as you have left comments before.

What a special blog this will be to record life. I have always enjoyed our conversations in depth and just for fun. I loved reading your posts, I love you thoughts, you are a strength to me. I love all your little girls and can't wait to see them again, possibly photograph them? What a kind Heavenly Father to send you these two precious souls. How lucky they are to have you for as a mother.


Cami said...

Andrea, what stories. I agree with Kim, how lucky your girls are to have you as a mother.

Crystal Lynn said...

Hello, I found your blog by accident from Tami's blog. I know you posted this over a month ago, but it was something I think I needed right now. I just gave birth to premature twins two weeks ago and they have been in the NICU since. I have been lately having a hard time with it. Your post was good for me to read to get some perspective, it wont always be like this. My girls will come home soon, just like yours did. Its good to know someone out there has felt what I am going through, even if we dont really know eachother. Thank you!

Michelle said...

Andrea, it's your cousin Michelle. I found your blog from Kim's. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience. It really touched me. We all need to remember how blessed we are. Your girls are beautiful.