The Re-Read

I have tried 3 times now to sit down and write a post about Abigail’s Birthday and what exactly that means for us. And every time I tried to express my feelings, it came out wrong, or didn’t feel right, or… I don’t know, it just didn’t work. It was like when a character has writer’s block in the movies – they type something they think they like, they smile thinking they’ve finally won, and then it turns out to be rubbish. Then the writer frustratedly balls up the paper and chucks it at the waste paper basket, inevitably missing because it bounced off the rim.

For almost a month, I’ve been chucking the proverbial paper ball in the waste basket over and over. I couldn’t figure out how to get my thoughts in order or my words to make sense. But for every writer, there is a muse. I had a turning point tonight, when I re-read this blog post (by Brienne Shepard of Brienne Michelle Photography) again, for the first time in almost 6 months.

Bree – if you are reading, please know that you, and your photography, is often the source of my inspiration. You’ve captured my daughter, and our story in a way no one else could. For that, I am truly thankful.

I re-read the very first post Brienne did about Abby, just over one year ago. She was less than 48 hours old, and we were up to our elbows in hospital bracelets, tangled wires, ear-splitting alarms, and the gut-wrenching truth that our baby girl shouldn’t be alive. But there she was, living. Breathing. Defying all the odds.

Our story is such a crazy one. A baby that could fit in the palm of our hands. A hospital stay that cost over ONE MILLION dollars (yes, you read that right, and THANK GOD for good insurance!). The ups and downs of an 83 day NICU stay, and the aftermath of raising a baby that breaks all the rules. But when I read that first post again tonight, I saw it in a different light for the first time. That post, when it was written, was all about the unknown. It was about what had happened, and how none of us knew how to deal with it. It was about the first steps of a journey that was complicated and scary and unique in a very lonely sort of way. But looking back on all that has happened this year, Anthony and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Once again, I have to throw some statistic-y notions at you. You see, even though Micro-preemies are not “normal” there is a “norm” per-say, as to how their life goes. We were warned from the word go that this was going to be complicated. It was going to be hard work. And there were an exorbitant amount of things that could go wrong for us. We’ve been told to expect delays, even further behind what the “text books” say we should hope for. We’ve been told that it wasn’t about if she had a problem, it would be what and when. And the one thing that stuck with me from the very beginning was when Dr. Ben-Avi (one of the Neonatologists) told me I wouldn’t really be able to breathe a sigh of relief until she turned one.

With MOST Micropreemies, we deal with delays, internal problems, illnesses, aversions, and a slew of other oddities that the general public has a hard time wrapping their head around. Anthony and I prepared for the worst. But I have to say that from that very first piece of good news we got just 2 days after she was born (No blood pooling in her brain) we’ve gotten good news after good news after good news. And even when the news was bad (serious intestinal infection in the NICU, or RSV in January for example) we still were told that the situation was nowhere near “as bad as it could have been” and eventually, we all came out on top.

They compare the NICU experience to a roller coaster. And they compare that first year of a Micropreemie’s life to that of a marathon. Patience, endurance, hard work, blood-sweat-and-tears, but in the end you finish the race. Well folks… we finished.

The day of her birthday, we were traveling to San Diego, as Anthony and I were both in a wedding that weekend. But all day, I was insistently, almost obnoxiously keeping track of the time. I REFUSED to miss the moment Abigail turned one. And at 1:30pm on the dot, Anthony and I, plus her God Father (the groom) and the bride, and a handful of other friends sang her Happy Birthday. I cried. But they were tears of joy. And tears of relief. As her God Father picked her up to play, I had a chance to spend a moment with Anthony. We hugged like we’d just won the lotto or something. We’d finished the race. I said, “We made it!” and he smiled back and said, “We sure did.”

I could sit here and re-cap the whole year. But I don’t want to. Re-reading that post made me realize just how long ago that was, and just how far we’ve come. I’m done holding my breath. I’m done worrying about the crazy little things. I’m done looking at Abigail as a special needs baby. Instead, I wanted to tell you all that Abigail is doing incredibly well. She may have started out at just a pound and a half, but as of today we are OVER 19 POUNDS and looking into forward facing car seats. She may have started off small enough to fit in our hands, but as of today we are on the verge of growing out of 12 month size close, we’ve moved on to size 2 shoes, and we’ve upgraded to size 3 diapers. We may have started feeding her through a tube, but as of today, she is holding her own bottle, eating tons of fruit and veggie purees, and chomping away on crackers, puffs, and yogurt melts.She has 8 teeth! She drinks water from a sippy cup, she babbles, she plays independently, and…. wait for it…

SHE IS CRAWLING!!!

Like a mad woman, actually. Holy cow, can that girl move!!! It’s incredible.

The truth is that we still have a long way to go. I can’t ignore that. But I can tell you that she is doing so well that her therapist actually wants to use her as an example of what proper health care, proper therapeutic intervention (like occupational therapy), and hard work from a loving family can do for a baby that was born so early. Her therapist calls Abby her Star student because every time she gives us something new to learn, Abby’s got it down by the next session a week later. Her therapist says that if she didn’t know, she would never have guessed Abby was a Micropreemie.

I feel like I’m rambling a little, so I’ll get to the point. The point is, I realized a few things tonight. First, I realized that a year goes by in no time flat. Second, I realized just how blessed I am to be living the life I’m living. And third, I realized that all I really care about is that Anthony, Abigail, and I are home, together, where we belong. We are growing as a family of three. We are raising a smart, charismatic, beautiful child. And I truly, truly could not ask for more.

Thank you for all of your love and support over the last year. You’ve all been amazing. God Bless.

-Jen

Abigail on the day she was born.

Abigail on her first birthday.

“Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about how you deal with it.” -Anon

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4 thoughts on “The Re-Read

  1. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Wanna know a secret? I realized at just a few minutes past 1:30 on her birthday that she was one, and I cried a little too. She has changed me. You and Anthony have changed me. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

  2. You know what is so interesting about Abigail’s First Birthday to me? Most parents (like me) are sort of dreading their baby’s first birthday. It means the year of the baby is over and you start thinking about the Terrible Two’s and potty training and such. I mean, I am looking forward to EVERY day with my little girl, but I just keep looking at her and I can’t believe how big she is and how we are getting here SO FAST. But for you guys, Abigail’s First Birthday wasn’t the milestone you wished was just a little further out of reach, it was the milestone that you were sprinting towards during your marathon. I bet you couldn’t wait to breathe that sigh of relief and say, “we made it.” You know, Abigail was due AFTER Mikayla, and Mikayla’s First Birthday is still two months away. I will NEVER forget the impact this amazing little girl has had on my life, just by seeing Brienne’s first photos a year ago..

  3. Patricia Sentianin says:

    I think I took that picture on her first day of life. Wow she is a miracle considering that of the 4 micro premies born around her time in the NICU Abby is the only one still on earth. She did beat the odds and God must have a bigger plan for her. I’ll never forget being able to sing happy birthday to her on her first birthday since I was at her birth, that was a first for me. thank you for your blog and for allowing me to get to watch her grow up!
    Patriciaq

  4. Mindy G. says:

    Just beautiful!! God is an Awesome God!! Abigail is incredible and beautiful. You are amazing people and parents. Happiest of birthdays, much love, and continued blessings to all of you always. ❤

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