A year ago today, my cousin and his wife watched their baby girl born at just 24 weeks. Today as we celebrate this precious girl turning one, Chris willingly wrote a letter to herself and allowed me to share it with you all. Thank you, Chris, for your “Letter To Me”!!
Tomorrow you are going to become a mommy. Right now you are lying in a bed in a hospital and you are starting to have some feelings that will grow over the next year to a point you never thought possible. Tomorrow will start a journey that will be terrifying. You will feel fear on a level that you never thought was possible. Tomorrow you will bring into the world a very tiny 13 ounce baby. It will be nothing like you planned for how a baby should be born. You won’t even get to see her for 12 hours after she is born. You wont even get to hold her for the first five weeks of her life. Matter of fact all the grand parents will even get to see her before you do. Part of you will be really mad about this. But don’t be mad at them. They are trying to make sense of all this too as they see their very tiny grand-daughter lying in a isolet fighting for her life. Please remember that all these people love you beyond measure and they are so scared for you and your new little one as well. Speaking of people who are scared for you, Sam is so terrified and he has no idea what to do. Give him a break and try to love him without getting upset with him. Just like you he had this grand idea of what it would be like to become a parent and this sure wasn’t it. But he loves you so much and being the man that he is he wont leave your side. He will be with you every moment in the hospital. He will wake up in the middle of the night to help you get to the bathroom when you can hardly move. He will do everything you ask without question. Please don’t take advantage of this, but also let him do for you. It makes him feel like he can help and right now he needs that.
In the first week that your daughter is alive you will be told several times that she won’t make it to the next day. I know this is scary and I won’t tell you not to worry. But at least lean on God and your faith through this time. It will be the only thing that is going to get you though this. There will be days that you don’t think that you are going to make it another hour, but He will get you through it if you let him. Your church family and friends are going to come along side you and Sam and show you Christ like love in a way that you have never experienced. It’s ok to let them love you. We both know how your first instinct is going to be to shut yourself up and not let anyone in. Well you need to get past this and let yourself be loved. Its ok and its one of many ways that God is going to provide through the long road you have ahead of you.
When you first see your little girl you are not even going to know what to say. Your mind will go blank and anything that the nurses say to you will sound just like a buzzing noise in the room. Everything that you know as a paramedic will go out the window and you will have a hard time making heads or tails of anything that they are telling you. But in the next couple days it will also become a huge defense mechanism. You will use all your knowledge to try and turn your little girl into a patient that you should be taking care of. You will try and use this to not feel so connected to her as a daughter. DON’T DO IT! It’s a dumb idea. You’re a mom, not her doctor. Be her mom! Love her and care for her like only a mom can do. She doesn’t need you to be her medical provider; she needs you to be her mom. But use the knowledge you have to be an advocate for her. It’s ok to question the doctors and make them explain everything that they are doing to her. She doesn’t have a voice and you have to be that for her.
Speaking of the medical staff, they are going to be amazing! You will see these people that you have worked with as coworkers in a way that you have never saw them up till now. At the end of this journey you will have a whole new respect for the NICU nurses and staff. They will become family. They will cry with you and they will celebrate every achievement with you along the way no matter how big or small. You will get phone calls from them in the middle of the night when things are not going well and they will struggle to tell you really hard news. When that bad new comes, and yes it will come several times in your stay, they will work very hard to make your little one better again. At one point your baby will stop breathing and they will have to work very hard to get her going again. Almost everyone in the NICU will rush to your daughter’s room to help. They won’t do this just because it’s their job but because they truly love your little bundle of joy. When you leave the NICU 160 days from now they will cry happy tears with you thinking that you are starting your life as a family at home.
On day 160 you will walk your little girl out of the NICU and load her into your car and drive her home. You will be so excited finally taking her home with you. You are going to want to be the perfect mom. Matter of fact you will host a dinner at your home on the day you bring your daughter home. Please consider slowing down and not trying to be super mom. I don’t want to scare you but you only have 8 days with her at home before she is going back to the hospital for another very long stay. Enjoy these days with her. They will go by very quickly and it will end very abruptly. Just hold her and enjoy her. Don’t worry about the house. The mess will still be there later. But this time you have with her will pass in the blink of an eye.
When you have to take her back the hospital you will feel like your world is coming to an end. It will be like it is happening all over again and you will want to just fall apart. Again lean on God, I truly do promise that he will get you though this. The next 5 months will take you to different states seeking out medical advice and second opinions. She will get really sick and again you will be told that she may not make it. But keep holding on. Read your Bible and be open with your wonderful husband about how you are feeling. Remember he is your best friend and not your enemy. He loves you and he is going through the same things you are. Love him. He needs you.
The biggest thing I want you to know is that it is ok to tell people how you feel and to let your feelings out. This year is going to be scary and it is going to feel like it will never end. You will go from celebrating a good moment to complete tears and fear, sometimes all in the same hour. You will not have a good nights sleep even once this whole next year. At times you will even wonder if you made the right choice to let her live. You will look at her and think that she has to be in pain and cry because you are not allowed to hold her and you have no idea how to comfort her. Trust me, you made the right choice. That little miracle will be the biggest joy of your life. But you will need others to get through this. God put them there to help you and you need to let them. Let down your guard and let others love you. It’s ok.
Well tonight I am writing you this letter and it is one year later. Trust me I know what you are going to go through. I have been there and I wish I had all the good advice I am giving you right now. I just may have handled the whole situation a little better and learned to love our little miracle a little better and a little sooner. You will make it through this year and you will be a stronger person in the end. Don’t give up. Just keep pushing through. Take each hour one at a time. You have an amazing gift. Don’t let life rob you of it with issues you have no control over. Just love her.
Happy Birthday, Elli!! I thank God for His mercies and grace this past year. I am so thankful to be celebrating your first birthday, even though I am far away. May God continue to help you grow big and strong. I can’t wait to hear all about your years as you grow in His grace. Thank you for being Christ’s ambassador even at this early age and for reminding us that God still works miracles today! Love, Your Auntie Kay