Filed in : Personal

It has taken me years to gather up the courage to sit down and finish typing out the story of Reed’s birth. I always knew I would, but to be honest the thought of writing out what happened was so unbearably overwhelming, so I kept putting it off.  I would write a little here and there and even had a reminder in my phone that I kept snoozing because it seemed like such a draining task.  But as the months went on, the memories began to fade, and I didn’t want to forget —even though reliving the memories is not a pleasant experience. So here I am, sharing our story.  I hope that by doing so, I will help those women who also didn’t have an ideal birth and provide hope that healing does happen.   I so closely documented the birth of our first son, Gatlin, I wanted to make sure I did the same for our sweet Reed. You can read about what happened with Gatlin here if you would like some backstory.

Because my first pregnancy was so high risk (he was severe IUGR, born just under two pounds) from the start of Reed’s pregnancy, I was being closely monitored by doctors and my perinatologist. I always wondered if this pregnancy would be the same. Would my body hold out longer? Would we be diagnosed with IUGR again? Would I be able to carry this baby to term? As the weeks went on, things were looking good. Reed was measuring small but not anything for concern until around the third trimester. His growth started slowing down and it seemed very unlikely I would make it to term with him. This was something I was all too familiar with, but in comparison, I was doing a lot better than in my previous pregnancy. We were counting our blessings and taking it day by day. My MFM doctor knew I was hospitalized for 6 weeks with Gatlin, so he did everything he could for me to be monitored outpatient allowing me to be at home for as long as possible. It is also a different story when you have a toddler to take care of.  I needed to be taking care of both my babies.

My MFM doctor was working closely with my OBGYN with ultrasounds, tests, appointments, labs —you name it! The plus side was we got to see baby Reed very often and check in on him. Once it became apparent that he was falling behind in his growth, I was put on modified bedrest and I did a few other things in hopes to help him grow, like upping my protein intake. I am telling you, I still can’t look at a protein bar without feeling sick, that’s how much protein I was eating daily. I was doing anything I could to give him the best chance to stay in as long as possible.  Our doctor also had me get the steroid shots for his lungs just to be extra safe.  I felt like we lived at the high-risk doctor’s office. Each appointment caused an immense amount of anxiety. Once I passed 29+6 (which was when Gatlin was born) I felt so much relief.

When I was around 33 weeks, the doctor noticed protein in my urine, so he ordered more tests —his concern being preeclampsia. Things quickly took a turn in a downward direction. It went from, “you might be able to make it to 36 weeks and have no NICU time, just a small baby” to “pack your bags to each appointment because I could be sending you in to be delivered any day.” That uncertainty was extremely unnerving but again…day by day.

At the beginning of this pregnancy, I had to find a new OBGYN because mine was retiring. I ended up finding one I loved, and she was full of compassion and seemed to truly care about our story. She acknowledged the trauma I experienced with my first birth and really took care of me in all regards. I knew again that this birth was not going to be your “typical” labor and delivery story, but I was looking forward to at least having my own OB there to deliver Reed, and that would help calm my nerves.

It was May 17th, 2022 (34 weeks exactly) and at this point my MFM doctor was wanting to see me daily. They were estimating Reed was about 4 pounds. My dopplers were deteriorating and it was apparent that Reed’s growth had pretty much halted. I was beyond grateful to have made it to 34 weeks, but regardless, my baby was very small for that gestation, and also that is still 6 weeks early.  After much discussion, I was told that a c-section was the safest way to get our son out. IUGR babies typically don’t handle labor well and it could be risky to induce with him already struggling in the womb.  If he couldn’t handle the contractions, it would become an emergency to get him out which could quickly turn into a scary situation, with a grim outcome.  My MFM was very firm in this recommendation and although it was hard to accept, I would of course give that up to make sure my baby could make it into this world in the safest way possible.  At my MFM doctor’s appointment that day, the ultrasound didn’t look great. The office was very busy with other mama’s scheduled, so my doctor wanted me to come back before they closed so he could spend more time with me and repeat the ultrasound himself, as well as do another growth scan. We had about one hour to run back to our house, frantically pack for the hospital, kiss Gatlin goodbye, and get back to my doctor’s office. I knew in my gut we wouldn’t be sleeping at home that night. When we went back and my doctor took another look, he got on the phone with my OB.  Soon after, a nurse came in and asked me when I had eaten last —I knew what that meant.  This was all happening so quickly. I was hoping to make it a few more days because that was when my OB was available to do my delivery. But once the MFM doctor told us that his recommendation would be to deliver the baby today, we trusted his advice and took it. We hugged the staff goodbye and headed to the hospital. On the way there, my OB called me and said, “I hope May 17th is a special day for you! Mallory, I want you to be prepared to deliver today. You aren’t driving to the hospital to be monitored or watched, you are on your way to your son’s birth.” There are so many factors that they consider when making these calls. There was some back and forth but ultimately it was decided to get this baby out safely and to the NICU. I have always followed the recommendations of my doctors and I couldn’t take any risks by playing the waiting game being so high risk. On the car ride to the hospital, my OB also told me the very sad news that she wouldn’t be able to go to the hospital to deliver me. I was devastated. She had told me in the past that she does everything she can to be there for her patients and she becomes very invested in her cases, but she didn’t have childcare that night and she wasn’t able to make it to the hospital. As hard as that was to hear, I understood. In all the uncertainty, she had been my constant support and I really wanted her there to help hold my hand through it all. But I had to do what was safest for my baby, and that was get him here quickly and safely.

I vividly remember parking our car in the structure and walking into the hospital. I felt numb. I was in survival mode. I started going through all the motions which I was all too familiar with.  We took some moments just Jared and I to try and process what was happening.  We called our families to give them the news and began the journey of meeting our second son!

With my last c-section, my spinal failed and I was put under general anesthesia, so I completely missed my son’s birth. As nervous as I was to be awake during the surgery, I wasn’t going to miss Reed entering this world! I was determined to have that experience. We got to the hospital around dinner time, checked in, and began our wait. They had us waiting in recovery, so I kept hearing new baby cries and mamas coming out of surgery. I got to meet with the anesthesiologist who gave me confidence he would be able to make sure I was awake during his birth.  This was a new hospital for me so even though most protocols were the same, in other ways I felt very uneasy and unfamiliar.  With each moment that passed, we were closer to meeting our baby, but I was in such shock and was still trying to process all that had just happened.  It was a busy night so we had no idea when we would be taken back to the OR.  As the night went on and we approached midnight, we started to wonder if Reed would be born on the 17th or 18th. My birthday is September 18th, so I thought it would be special to share that number with him, but it was out of our control. Before we knew it, the clock hit midnight, and we knew what his birthday would be.  That was a special feeling that drew up some excitement. Around 2 am it was finally our turn, and they took me back to get my spinal. Many pieces of this experience were very triggering for me since this was when things got really scary during Gatlin’s birth. Leaving Jared was especially hard because he is my biggest supporter, and I was so afraid my spinal would fail again and we would both miss the birth once more.  I tried to take a deep breath, and trust that everything would happen how it was meant to.

I was wheeled away and was just praying my spinal would work this time and I would see Jared in the OR.  I entered the cold, and very bright operating room.  They sat me up and began to start the spinal procedure. At first, the anesthesiologist seemed to be having a difficult time getting it to work.  I could feel his confidence deflate as the tries went on. The sensation was so familiar.  “You will feel a small bee sting and then some pressure” they would say.  I would feel the prick and them moving around the needle, but it didn’t seem to be working.  I wanted more than anything to be awake during Reed’s birth.  Finally, he said he got it and I suddenly began to feel the medicine rush up my legs.  This was a new sensation for me so I remember feeling confident that the medicine was working, and I would be numb for the surgery.  They brought Jared in the room, and I immediately felt just a little less anxious.  In my last c-section, I they were almost going to start the surgery before I was numb so this part was bringing up a lot of feelings.  The anesthesiologist this time kept poking me in different spots, asking if I could feel it.  It was the strangest sensation because I could feel pressure but no pain, which made me nervous for them to begin.  When the doctor got the go-ahead to begin I had to just trust that I wouldn’t be in pain.  As intimidating as this was, we were about to meet our son —I kept thinking about that.  Even though we were parents already, what lied ahead of us was something we had never experienced before so there was a lot we were both taking in.  To be honest, I had a lot of anxiety about being awake for such a major surgery, but I kept trying to focus on meeting Reed and that helped a lot.  I remember being surprised with how much you could feel.  I am sure each woman’s experience is so vastly different, but I definitely felt a lot of pressure, tugging etc.  Jared and I were curious how he would be when he came out.  Would he need lung support?  Would he be crying?  Who would he look like?  How much would he weigh?

Within a few minutes, he was here!  The team of NICU nurses immediately assessed him.  I couldn’t see him yet, but I have a distinct memory of when they brought him around to me.  He was all bundled up and just so content.  I remember thinking, “gosh he is just so chill” which now knowing him today, is so 0n point.  He is my “go with the flow” content baby.  I was immediately in love with his sweet little soul.  Getting to meet your baby as soon as they come out was something I had never experienced before, and I was so beyond thankful I will always have that as a part of our story.

I remember Jared and I being stunned that he didn’t need any respiratory support.  He came out breathing completely on his own and never ended up needing any support, which we were so grateful for.  After a few minutes, they needed to take him down to the NICU.  We wanted to make sure one of us was always with him so Jared left to follow him.  I was in the OR by myself to finish the surgery (which actually took a lot longer than I thought it would).  This was a time I felt very alone.  I just wanted it to be over.  I wanted to be with my baby.  I remember feeling the strangest sensations, but I just tried to get my mind off of what I knew was going on.  A few days prior, my perinatologist had ordered some more extensive testing to see if I had preeclampsia, but I hadn’t gotten the results back before all this happened.  I remember the anesthesiologist telling the OB, “she is acting preeclamptic” when he was watching my vitals during the end of the c-section.  From what I understand, when you are given medication during a big surgery like this, your blood pressure typically drops and so they have to bring it back up, but I guess mine was staying high so he felt I did have preeclampsia.  They both agreed to treat me like I did have it moving forward in my postpartum care.  Once I was closed up, they moved from the operating table to a recovery bed.  I remember being wheeled out to the area where I was before (not a room) where there was one nurse at a station far away watching my vitals.  Because it was in the middle of the night at this point (probably about 4am) no one else was around.  Being a mama to now two preemies, wasn’t my first rodeo —I knew how vital it was to make sure I pumped within 30 minutes after birth for my supply.  I asked the nurse for my pump and was told it was coming, but I was alone at this point and I had no way of contacting Jared to grab it. The nurse wasn’t getting me the pump and I remember becoming pretty frustrated.  I felt so alone and isolated.  I had just gone through a major surgery, haven’t even held my baby yet, and no one was around.  Somehow, I eventually got my pump and started using it as fast as I could because it made me feel like I had a job and could help the situation.  Jared got to show me photos of our sweet baby boy from when they took him to the NICU.  I desperately wanted to go see him.  It felt like hours had passed and the nurse was following protocol by having me stay in this recovery area, but my mama instinct was coming out and I was getting quite angry they wouldn’t let me go down to the NICU.  They kept giving me reasons why I couldn’t but after a while I had Jared go over to the nurses station where the once nurse was, and basically demand that I go see Reed.  I had waited long enough and I know he needed me.

They wheeled me down to see him and he was sleeping in his isolette.  He was absolutely precious.  I wanted to hold him so badly, but when I asked, they said they only wanted to disrupt his sleep if I could have held him for over a certain amount of time, and since my health still needed to be watched closely, they needed me up in my room soon.  I was heartbroken and looking back I wish I would have just said “no, I will hold him.”  I’ve since learned in therapy that during these intense and traumatic experiences we are in fight or flight mode, and it is hard for our brains to think clearly, so I can’t beat myself up about it.  I also tend to not want to go against what medical professionals are saying.  Especially since I know in many ways my boys are here in this world safely because I listened to the medical professionals around me.  But after a few minutes, they wheeled me to my own room to get some rest, and Reed continued to sleep.

I was able to Facetime Gatlin which brought me joy during this time I was separated from Reed.  Nurses were coming in often to check my vitals and to take my blood pressure.  It was definitely elevated which they were watching.  My heart kept wanting to go down to see Reed again.  Then I received some terrible news that was intensely triggering because of what had happened with Gatlin’s birth.  They wanted to put me on a magnesium drip for 24 hours because of the preeclampsia.  I was crushed.  I remember feeling like room was closing in on me.  This couldn’t be happening again.  This was one of the worst experiences I had with my previous birth.  Magnesium made me feel absolutely terrible.  Last time I was on it I was vomiting, felt super hot, would sweat profusely, had a massive headache, my eyes would sting plus I had blurry vision.   I do feel I have a high pain tolerance, but this was something that took me down.  Knowing I had to face this again was the last thing I wanted to hear.  I remember just breaking down in front of the nurse, even though I was embarrassed to be so emotional, it felt impossible to hold in.  I said to her, “but I will be able to take my IV and go down to the NICU right?” and she replied, “unfortunately no…you will have to stay in this room for 24 hours.”  That was it for me.  I lost it.  I needed to see my baby and now I wouldn’t be able to see him for another 24 hours, which felt like an eternity.  He needed me.  But my health was at risk too and I told myself I need to make sure I am healthy so I can be there for him in the long run.  Throughout all this, I was still pumping every two hours or so to try and get my milk to come in.  One sweet nurse came into my room and tried to see if she could get me down to the NICU to squeeze in one last visit before starting my magnesium IV drip.  I was on a strict schedule of checking my blood pressure.  Right before heading to the NICU she took it again.  She told me to take deep breaths and try to relax.  I could tell she really wanted me to be able to see Reed, which meant a lot.  But again, it was high.  I then started getting worried and they actually brought in seizure pads to put on my bed in case.  My gut was telling me, this was nothing to mess around with, and it was the first time I got a little scared for my own health.  I made the call to not go down to the NICU and to just start the magnesium so that I could be done as soon as possible.  The nurse came in and hooked me up.  I remembered the color of the medication, I remembered the initial feeling of it going into my bloodstream, the sensations of feeling like you immediately have a heater inside your body.  I became so nauseous, couldn’t even open my eyes.  They put a cold rag on my forehead and I just kept watching the clock, counting down each minute.  How was I supposed to do this for 24 hours.  How? When my tiny little baby needed me on the next floor.  Couldn’t they bring him up to my room?  Or wheel me down to be next to him?  But that wasn’t protocol, so I just kept going and pushing through.  The only way through is through.   I remember asking each doctor I came in contact with if I could be taken off it.  Finally, one doctor cleared me to come off and I was able to go see Reed and hold him for the first time.  My heart was so happy.

We knew the NICU life so well since we were there for 64 days with our first son.  But again, this was a different hospital so it’s like we were somehow confident and not at the same time.  I remember getting to hold Reed and do skin to skin.  I got to see his beautiful dark hair which I had guessed he would have when I was pregnant.   He was a dream.  The sweetest little guy.  All I had endured didn’t matter, because of this moment with him.  The next few hours were spent getting to hold him, know him, learning about how he was doing, getting to know NICU nurses/ doctors, etc.  We were back and forth between the NICU and my postpartum room, trying to heal and move forward.

What became our reality next was something I couldn’t have thought of in my worst nightmare.  We found out the worst news —a family member who was watching our older son Gatlin tested positive for COVID.  With us having a three-pound baby in the NICU, this was just devastating, and the last thing we wanted to hear.  Jared had gone home the night before because Gatlin was missing us, so he gave him a bath and put him to bed.  This meant Jared was exposed.  We were about to go down to the NICU to be with Reed, but I couldn’t knowing what we had just found out.  I was absolutely crushed.  I had fought so hard to be able to see him only to have that taken away again.  I needed him, but more importantly, he needed me.  We informed the hospital about what we learned but of course, it was a Friday afternoon, and the team we needed to talk to about protocol wasn’t going to be opened until Monday morning.  We weren’t allowed to visit him in the NICU and it was still up in the air for how long.  They had told me possibly 3 days or so to see if one of us got it.  The thought of not seeing Reed for three days made me physically ill.  I felt like I was living out the worst nightmare I could ever imagine. Little did I know what would unfold in the next few days would become even more heart-wrenching.

We decided to leave the hospital since they wouldn’t allow us to see Reed and I was still recovering from major surgery.  I still remember that moment of driving away from the hospital.  Knowing I was getting further and further away from him with each passing moment.  Jared and I labored back and forth with the decision of what to do and where to go.  Do we go back home to Gatlin but he could end up being positive and then we wouldn’t be able to see Reed for even longer?  Jared was technically exposed but hadn’t shown symptoms.  We thought about staying in a hotel and seeing if he eventually got it, but there was also a chance he wouldn’t.  We also didn’t want Gatlin to be without one of us for much longer since we had already been away for days.  I thought about getting a hotel just for myself since I wasn’t exposed (other than interacting with Jared who was).  But Jared wasn’t comfortable with that since I was pumping around the clock, couldn’t drive, and couldn’t move well on my own because of the c-section —so that didn’t feel safe.  I remember being so angry and I desperately wanted to see Reed —more than anything in the world.  I am naturally a problem solver and when I get my mind stuck on something I will find a way to achieve it.  But no matter how my brain was desperately trying to find a way to see Reed, I couldn’t seem to find a rational solution.  We drove home, and I remember sitting in the car, parked in the driveway, contemplating what to do for about 45 minutes.  Once we stepped foot in the house, then we would be even more “exposed,” but at this point, we couldn’t predict how the future was going to unfold.  Jared kept saying “we all need each other in this moment” and my response was “what about what Reed needs? He needs me!”  It felt like an impossible decision because there as no way to know who was going to get sick, if anyone at all.  So, we made the best decision we could at the time, and decided we would go inside, but all wear kN95 masks and I would isolate in our master bedroom.   Looking back, I am glad I didn’t choose to stay in a hotel alone because that night I was in some of the worst pain I have ever felt.  I was just on over the counter pain meds and recovery was very difficult.  Jared was there to take care of me.  It was so hard —I wanted to give ourselves the best chance of being able to see Reed as soon as possible, while also still caring for our two-year-old and taking care of myself as well.  Jared would have to drive me to the hospital to drop off my milk so they could use it for Reed.  The only way I could see him was through a camera on my phone.  I didn’t know the nurses holding him, changing him, feeding him.  I don’t even have words to explain that pain.  It was supposed to be me, I needed to be there.  Even though Jared and I were still not showing any symptoms, something told me to wear a mask in the car when we would drive together. 

The next day, it happened…Gatlin started showing symptoms.  Because he was a preemie, we had been so extra careful with not letting him get sick.  In fact, up until this, he had never been sick before.  He was days away from turning two and never once been ill.  We always knew how scary it could be if he did, given he was born at 29 weeks.  His NICU doctors had told us, to just try to avoid sickness until two years of age for his lungs to have time to develop and grow.  Now here we are, with our 29-weeker having COVID and a 3-pound baby in the NICU that we aren’t allowed to see.  I am still recovering from a c-section and pumping every 2 hours, isolated in our master bedroom.  Gatlin started really not doing well, so we took him to the ER.  They tested him for COVID, and he was positive.  I still remember hearing that he had COVID.  My little baby who I had worked so hard to make sure he would stay healthy had…COVID.  It was very shocking.  The next day, Jared started showing symptoms.  My mom, who was staying with us also ended up getting it a few days after Jared.  We were updating the NICU with what was unfolding, and we got the devastating news that we now couldn’t see Reed for 10 days since we had someone in the household that was positive.  This absolutely destroyed me.  I am sitting here thinking of what words to use to describe this pain, but nothing I type does it justice.  Nothing I type can convey the deep pain and desperation that so suddenly consumed me.  Because we were so sleep-deprived from the birth, Jared got hit really hard with the sickness.  He was sleeping on our couch while caring for Gatlin who was fighting this awful virus too.  Thankfully, this was around the same time I was producing colostrum, so I gave some to Gatlin to help his little body fight.  I felt so guilty taking that from Reed, but I was so torn trying to take care of both my babies, instincts kicked in.  After giving him some colostrum, Gatlin turned a corner, so I like to think it was because of that.  The main problem was, if I were to get it, that would reset the clock on the 10 days.  I was diligent about staying in our bedroom, wearing a mask, washing hands, and only coming out to put my milk in the fridge or to eat.  We ended up just eating most meals outside to reduce the risk of getting me sick.  It was such a strange time.  Because we ate meals outside in our backyard, we were surrounded by beautiful nature.  We would hear birds chirping and get to breathe fresh air.  It was such a dichotomy and hard to process the horrific reality we were living.  I remember looking around in our backyard and telling Jared that after all this was over, I just wanted to move far, far away.  I associated our home with the pain I was living and wanted to get as far away from it all as possible.  I almost wanted to start a new life to erase the memory of this one.  Looking back, I realize that was a trauma response, my brain trying to escape my reality somehow.  However, once things settled down, those feelings subsided, and I actually found peace and comfort in our home that we had lived in for so many years.

Those days in my bedroom were some of the darkest of my life.  I would fall asleep with my phone on next to me playing the live view of him, just so I could feel even the slightest bit more connected to him.  We would call multiple times a day and even throughout the night to check on him.  I had to trust these nurses that I had never met.  Now I know NICU nurses are angels, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had barely even held my own baby and now I was watching others do it on a camera.  I missed so many “firsts” that I will never get back.  All I had control over was pumping and making sure I could build my supply.  I was terrified at the thought that this would hurt our chances of nursing, but the only choice I had was to hold on hope.  I also had to do this without my husband by my side because he was very ill with COVID and I couldn’t risk restarting that 10-day countdown.  I still technically was being exposed, so every day I was praying that I would stay healthy and test negative.  What crushed me even more was that Gatlin wanted mama.  He would cry for me from the backward through the cracked window of our bedroom.  It was absolute hell.  I felt so helpless.  As a mother you want to be there for your babies, and I couldn’t be with either at a time where they needed me most.  We fought with the hospital to let me see him.  I had thoughts of wanting to just walk in there and take him.  But he was there for a reason, and I know he needed to be in their care.  After all, he was not even four pounds.  I had witnessed the NICU life with our first son, and I know these babies are so fragile.  My brain was desperately trying to think of any logical way I could be with him.  Could they put me in a room with him that was private?  Could I make sure I tested negative before seeing him? Wear a mask? But they had their strict rules, and they were not budging.  I also would have been so scared to infect him.  He was so delicate and had just entered this world.  This couldn’t be truly happening right?  This was not my life?? Surely it was a horrible nightmare I would wake up from.  But no, each minute felt like a week and each hour felt like a year.  The pain was the deepest I’ve ever felt.  When you have a second child, it’s a bit different than your first.  You go into it knowing the amount of love you are capable of, which made the separation even harder. Below are screenshots of the only way I could see Reed for those days we were separated.

Each day that passed when I didn’t get COVID was a huge win for our family.  Thankfully there was one nurse who was so kind and would print out pictures of Reed for me to grab when I would drop off my milk.  Those gestures meant more to me than she will possibly ever understand. I did those drop-offs pretty much daily.  I loved driving to the hospital because I felt “close” to him.  I knew our bodies and souls were within reach of one another, and I hoped that he could somehow feel my love.  I wasn’t even allowed to give the NICU a blanket with my scent for him to snuggle with and smell me, because of the potential risk.  I would call the nurses station when I was pulling up to the hospital.  When I arrived to the drop off location, I would wear a mask, and the nurse picking up the milk would also be wearing a mask and grab my milk that was in a plastic bag.  It was dehumanizing.  But that was the only way I was allowed to help.  When I would get pictures of him, it was how I could learn about him, my sweet baby.  Who did he look like?  He was changing so much each day.  I needed these days to pass.  I just needed this nightmare to be over. No mother should be separated from their baby, but more importantly, no baby should be separated from their mother.

I am not sure how, but we somehow made it through.  We were told that Reed was ready to come home.  It was coincidentally the same day that we would be allowed to see him again, and those 10 days were up (10 days for COVID protocol, but 11 total we weren’t able to see him).  We missed it…we missed his entire NICU stay.  How could that be?  We were there every day when Gatlin was in the NICU.  All 64 days, and we couldn’t be there for Reed.  It was a horrible feeling.  We completely missed the first 11 days of his life.  I’ll never get that back.  How would I ever heal from this?  Was he wondering where his mama was for those 11 days?  Would he remember me?  We were allowed to see him at midnight on June 1st…and you better believe we were driving up to that hospital at midnight.  I wasn’t going to miss out on any other time with him.  My dad came to stay at our house so Jared and I could be there right at midnight.  In fact, they called earlier that day and said they needed to move him from the NICU up to the nursery, which wouldn’t have a camera on him.  That had been my lifeline for the past 11 days so to not have that felt so scary.  I wouldn’t be able to watch him for those few hours.  But I knew he would soon be in my arms, and all of this would be over.

Driving up to the hospital felt so surreal.  When we walked into the nursery, I wasn’t even sure which one was our baby.  I remember them saying “here he is” but he had changed so much over the past 11 days it was hard to recognize him.  You better bet I held him right away, and then Jared had a turn too.  I was almost in shock; it didn’t feel real.  The only good thing that came out of those 11 days was that Reed was so healthy and progressing so quickly.  I was beyond grateful for that.  We had to watch a safety video, and he had to pass the car seat test, but then we were on our way home!  Honestly, thankfully this wasn’t our first preemie because they sent us on our way so quickly.  He had to be at least 4 pounds to come home, and he had juuuust hit that mark.  I remember driving home being absolutely terrified because he looked way to small to be in that car seat.  Thankfully it was in the middle of the night, and there was barely anyone on the road.  I just wanted to get home as soon as we could.

We did it —Reed was home with us.  The next day he got to meet his older brother and our lives as a family of four began.  We did so much skin to skin to make up for lost time.  I am happy to say we had a successful nursing journey, which I am so, so thankful for, given all we had against us.  That helped to mend my heart and also undo some of the hurt from us being separated.  It connected us and helped with healing.  I cry tears of joy almost every day from the smallest of things.  Whether it’s rocking my boys to sleep and feeling their soft breathing, cheering them on when they achieve any little thing at all, holding their tiny hands, watching them grow and explore the world, witnessing their joyous smiles, and seeing how truly happy they are to be living. It’s almost like I get a quick flashback (like the ones in the movies that show 50 frames in a few seconds) and it jolts me and quickly puts life into perspective. I am not here to say that because of what I went through, I appreciate motherhood more than anyone else, but I do feel deep within my soul that I appreciate it more now than I ever would have if I hadn’t endured what I did.

Doctors still are unsure of why this happens to me during pregnancy.  I was told after Gatlin, that I had a 30% chance of something similar happening again.  There are many causes of IUGR, but it seems as the cause for our boys being born so early were my placentas, they were not functioning properly.  Thankfully Gatlin and Reed are both very healthy and did great once they were in the NICU.  It still is hard not knowing how or why this happened to me and my babies, but I am truly overflowing with gratitude that they are running around —healthy as can be.  I describe the feeling as robbing a bank and getting away with it.  My mom says my boys are my “loot!”  I wasn’t supposed to have this kind of outcome.  With the amount of risk involved, I didn’t expect to come away with these two pots of gold! 🙂  They are my greatest blessings, and I am so proud to be their mama.

My dearest Reed, my littlest love:  I love you more than words can express.  Please know that the infinite number of kisses I’ll be giving you for the rest of your life won’t ever make up for those 11 days away from you.  As painful as it is that this is our story, our connection despite what we went through amazes me every day.  One day you will be old enough for me to be able to talk to you about your birth story and share with you just how strong you are.  Even though I know the reality is we will never get those 11 days back —please know, I will spend the rest of my life being there for you, and I will never stop telling you how much you are loved.

Reed’s Birth Story

May 18, 2024