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Aug 8 2013

Six Months After the NICU

By at 10:37 am

Talia and newborn“Where’s my husband?” I asked, panicked, as the nurses rolled me into the operating room.

We had been in the hospital all day, and after being told that I was likely out of danger, my husband had left 20 minutes earlier to go back home and check on our older son. “You need to get my husband!” I was begging them. I was still conscious when the doctor put the knife to my stomach and cut into it. I remember screaming, and she stopped cutting, for just a moment, before the other doctor yelled, “Don’t stop! Keep going!”

It was my second massive hemorrhage within 12 hours, causing me to lose over a third of my body’s blood. Earlier in my pregnancy, I had been diagnosed with complete placenta previa. Yes, I was in danger of dying, but in even greater danger was the baby boy inside of me. When they pulled him out of me, only a minute or two later, I was already knocked out cold–whether it was from the pain of the incision, or the anesthesia that finally kicked in, I don’t know. But both my husband and I missed the birth of our son. He was 3 pounds when he entered this world.

When I woke up after my surgery, I was scared and confused. I didn’t know if I had needed a hysterectomy (I didn’t), if I would be able to have any more children (yes, theoretically), or, most importantly, what had become of my sweet boy. When they wheeled me in to see him for the first time, I was still in my recovery bed. My baby boy was in an incubator with what seemed to be a web of wires attached all over his body. My husband said that until he saw our baby for the first time, he was terrified, so sure that the baby was going to die. But seeing him in the NICU had reassured him, put him at ease.

I reacted differently. The sight of this boy, a tiny alien-like vision of skin and bones, frightened me so completely. What were all the wires for? What was the tube in his nose? The line in his mouth? The blue light he was under? How could this little creature ever be a healthy, normal, boy? It was a full day before I was able to touch him, and four days before I was allowed to hold my son for the first time. And there would be many more days over the next weeks when I wouldn’t be able to cradle him in my arms. Asher Avior spent seven grueling weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit where he learned how to breathe and eat and retain his body heat. And he came home on Erev Passover–forever changing the meaning of the Exodus for our family.

Talia at 6 monthsIt was six months ago today that Asher was born. Those first few days, when I wasn’t able to hold my son, I thought I would never survive this experience. But then I met mothers in the NICU who weren’t able to hold their children for weeks. During my hospital stay, I met mothers who were able to hold their children, but only briefly, before they were taken away forever. We had so many blessings that day–I had already been in the hospital when I had my second bleed, giving the doctors enough time to provide me with vital medications for the health of my baby, and allowing me to be on the operating table within minutes. Although it sounds implausible, 3 pounds is a fantastic weight for a baby born three months early, and Asher came into the world crying, proving good lung function.

A couple of weeks ago, we returned to the hospital for Asher’s second post-NICU high risk follow-up, and when we left, I knew for the first time in months, that everything was going to be okay. He was hitting all of his milestones for his adjusted (or “corrected”) age, he was growing at a steady rate. Today, at 6 months old, Asher is over 11 pounds. He sits in his Bumbo and he smiles and coos. His eyes follow us around the room. He is healthy.

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