This morning, Theodore threw up on me, twice.
Plus when he spit up last night, that’s three times in less than twelve hours. That is a new record for him. I don’t know if he is sick, or if it’s just a coincidence, but I will henceforth be carrying a change of clothes with me because “Baby Puke” is, shockingly, *not* the new Chanel No. 5.
I was slightly later to work than usual. My leg is damp with the 2 ounces of Tide To Go I scrubbed into my black pants. That baby’s biological scent just lingers in my hair and sweater. And on top of it all, I am worried about my baby. I’m at the office, but my heart wishes I was snuggling my baby and making sure he is not uncomfortable. I know he will get sick, eventually, but I would not mind putting it off as long as possible.
That was my morning. But I’m okay, really. Because I have my son. And he is well. And we are well.
In Ohio right now there is a mother and father facing the first morning after their five day-old daughter died.
One of the surprising by-products of receiving the diagnosis of Intrauterine Growth Restriction during my pregnancy with Theodore was joining a Facebook group with other IUGR parents. Before the diagnosis, I had never heard of IUGR, let alone what life could look like due to this condition.
In the group, parents ask questions and tell their stories. I learned of the myriad of outcomes from IUGR, and that no two babies are the same. I learned why it is often safest to remove a baby slightly early from the womb, and how incredibly strong tiny babies can be. I learned how incredibly strong parents can be, even in the most difficult circumstances. We pray for each other, suggest questions to ask our doctors and tests that should be requested, tell each other to hope for the best and be patient, and cry for each other when it’s just too much.
I have also seen pictures and heard stories of babies so small and fragile, they should not be here. Intrauterine growth restriction causes a baby to not reach his or her growth potential. So instead of just being “a small baby” or, “an early baby,” they are developmentally and physically retarded behind their gestational age.
The effect of this condition is that by looking at these babies, it is like taking a look inside the womb, to a place we never or rarely otherwise would be.
My son was born three weeks early. Not technically a “preemie” (at 37 weeks, he is called “early term”), so people are generally surprised at his size and complications. I tell them that although he was only three weeks early, he was the size of a baby six weeks early.
In the IUGR Facebook group, there are mothers whose children were born two weeks early, but the size of a baby eight weeks early. Five days ago, a mother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl ten weeks early, but the size of a baby fifteen weeks early.
She was beautiful.
She was like nothing I had ever seen before.
The lines on the palms of her hands.
She had dark hair.
I imagined all the babies who go full-term and whose mothers never see their baby so small and early in his development. I imagined all the mothers who see a line on the pregnancy test, or the blurry gray shapes on the ultrasound machine and never see the skin and eyes and fingers and toes.
But we have seen them. IUGR and preemie moms have to wait longer to have their cute, pudgy babies so many people crave. We have to wait a little longer to see smiles and strength and visual tracking and rolls.
But we have seen things other mothers have never seen. We have seen life before the laws recognize life. We have seen breath when others see a “lump of cells.” We have literally watched our babies develop in the harsh, heavy world to learn what other babies get to do inside. We have seen incredible things the animations on pregnancy apps cannot show.
Heartbroken, this beautiful little girl suffered brain bleeds in her short life and there was no hope for her. Her parents held her in their arms and watched the angels take her away last night.
This is a gift. There is a reason. But I’m sobbing for them all the same.
My son, my hefty, happy son is two and half months old. Every once in a while I forget how we could have lost him, how small he was, how hard it was. But then I remember and I look at him and just thank God.
This morning, Theodore threw up on me, twice. Plus last night. The smell is there, I was late to work.
But I’m okay, really.