When I was 27 weeks pregnant, I was crawling into my third trimester – wondering when I would start feeling pregnant. I was barely showing and the doctors were still undecided about my baby’s gender. The odds-on favorite was girl – but it was hard to tell given the baby’s small-ish size and position. Deep down I had always felt I was having a boy, but I kept that to myself.
Every week I kept promising myself to just get through that week, just a few more weeks and things will calm down, the holidays would be here and work would slow down. Then I’d be able to rest and take care of us. But every week, there was a new business pitch, a client meeting, a proposal to be written or the demands of my new position.
Then one day in November, everything came to a stop and finally all eyes were focused on the much too small baby growing inside of me. The tiny little life struggling to grow and survive while my body battled with itself and severe preeclampsia. And just for kicks, my liver got in on the action too and brought a little HELLP syndrome to the party.
No one saw it coming. Not me, my OB/GYN, or the high-risk specialists who scratched their heads over my pregnancy up until this point… No one.
And for two indistinguishable days, I lay in a hospital bed on anti-seizure medication – unable to move my body while my mind whirled at full speed trying to absorb this new development. Hour by hour we were marching toward the inevitable conclusion of my baby being taken from my body so we would no longer harm one another, and so “she” would have the chance to thrive outside of my womb.
My son was born, all 543 grams of him, on a Saturday morning before Thanksgiving. I remember feeling his first breath and hearing his beautiful cry after he was born. I wouldn’t hear that voice again for many long months until a breathing tube was removed from his tiny body.
All the while, I never doubted that he would be OK. We had a long, long road ahead of us, but I never doubted that he would be OK. That everything would work out fine. I just had to be patient. It would be OK.
All of that winter we drove everyday to the hospital and spent hours in the NICU; staring at monitors and learning our new baby in a way that very few people get to experience in the last trimester. I did what came natural to me: I read and learned everything I could, asked millions of questions, quizzed doctors and nurses all the way through – desperate to have some feeling of control and reassurance that things were well in hand.
We brought our son home on the last day of February, two weeks past his due date. He weighed less than 5 pounds and he brought with him oxygen and apnea monitors, medications that needed to be compounded every week at a pharmacy miles and miles away. But he was home and this was the beginning of a new chapter of our very long journey that I just KNEW would have a happy ending.
And it does. True to form, the first two years were rough. He fought for every milestone, every beautiful metric of health and development; and by the time he was two, he was healthy, walking, talking and perfect. A little small, but showing no lasting effects of his premature birth.
I did take my schedule back to three days a week, and we were blessed with the help of family members to care for him when I was in the office. I eventually left that VP title and laid low in a middle-marketing, job-share position for a Fortune 500 company.
My life was balanced, My family was healthy. And I was hiding.