Today used to be a day of anticipation because I love birthday cake and well, tomorrow is my birthday. But 3 years ago these days changed forever for me and I’ll never forget. It was beautiful and sunny and warm, much like it is today. We opted to have a family dinner with Elijah and afterwards John would change the tires on the car. We never missed a feed for Noah during the day. NEVER. One of us was always there, except for the 3am feed. We took that one off in hopes of getting some rest. Well wouldn’t you know, just as John has the tires half way changed my phone rang. I saw it was the NICU and my heart leapt to my throat. They never called us before. A nurse explained to us that Noah just had a cyanotic episode and had to be resuscitated. We were panicked and John got the tires on the car as fast as he could and off we went. Noah was perfectly fine when we got there and we could see the fear and relief in our nurses face. I don’t think that happens very often in our little hospital.
Turns out a nurse who was covering breaks did not feed Noah according to protocol and he must have aspirated. That’s everyone’s best guess. Noah had to be fed on his side on an incline at his own pace. This didn’t happen and our son was the one who suffered for it. So started our NPO journey that we have never been able to shake.
The only “good” thing that came from it was that it finally opened up the Doctors eyes to get us a transfer to ACH. He was fighting our insistence to go until this point. We were told he would be transferred within the day. John never left his side all night and I went home for restless rest. The next morning when I went in to trade places with John we were told the transfer would be happening in a few hours. Happy Birthday to me. I cried even though this was what we were fighting for. John went home and packed my bags and I sat with Noah and waited. And waited. The team was delayed which was fine by me because it was more time to pretend this wasn’t happening. John arrived with Elijah and my car all packed for God knows how long to head 3.5hrs up the highway and we sat in the family room and surrounded our little man with love. My how Elijah loved him already. He gave him kisses and hugs and love and we were told the team would be arriving in 30 and it was now time for Elijah to go for a nap. Plus we didn’t really think he needed to see the rest.
Noah lay on the warming pad with his IV and all of a sudden I hear so many footsteps, voices (happy voices chattering away), vibrating casters on the floor, and rattling equipment. It was like a movie when they turned the corner. I wasn’t expecting so many people and so many questions and introductions. I was overwhelmed. Scared. In denial. Heart broken it came to this. The team moved away from me and Noah so I couldn’t hear as the NICU nurses and Doctors whispered and talked about us and his issues and were making decisions. This was the worst part. The secrecy. Why couldn’t I be included? It’s my son. It’s no secret. Then to make matters worse, they still didn’t know which NICU he was going to. I was to drive to Foothills and if he wasn’t there to go over to ACH but someone would be able to tell me where he is when I get there.
Finally the team came back and assembled around Noah. Hooked him all back up to portable monitors, loaded him into this dark scary looking incubator and wheeled my new baby away from me and closed the door. That was the hardest part. They were taking him from me and I couldn’t go. I had to drive. There was no room on the plane for parents. My shoulders slumped, I took a big breath and let the tears flow. I didn’t make a sound. I just stared. I remember one of the nurses coming over and holding me and then she broke down and headed to the break room. I remember the nurses explaining how RMH works and what I needed to do but I didn’t utter a word. They were concerned about me driving myself to Calgary but I needed to be alone. I needed to be alone for those hours to think about nothing but the road and music on the radio. I eventually muttered a “thank you for everything” and walked out those same doors where Noah just left alone. Without his Mom.
I’ll never forget the year I turned 31, even though every one else did. It’s forever changed “birthday week”. It’s funny how memories and life work. Last year I was able to avoid these feelings because I had another baby about to make his appearance so there was so much to look forward to and it wasn’t a ‘usual’ birthday. So now when people ask me am I excited for my birthday? What do you want for your birthday? Or say, oh yay for your birthday and get excited for me. Forgive me when I stop to catch my breath and say a “I don’t know” or give an awkward grin. It’s hard to be excited when those 2 days brought so much darkness and uncertainty in my life and I’m brought back to a phone call from the NICU. But I try. I’m trying to work through my baggage and be normal and not so awkward about it all. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been there maybe.