Last week, we celebrated Lexie's first birthday. She didn't really pick up on it, of course, but it was another milestone we weren't sure we'd ever achieve when I went into preterm labor at 22 weeks.
We kept it all low key. I didn't want to make a big deal out of the day, because it's not the same for preemie parents. I don't think back to the day of her birth as a day of joy and expectation. I didn't have the Hallmark "honey, it's time" moment where the very-pregnant mom-to-be picks up her already-packed overnight bag and waddles out to the car for a quick ride to the hospital and a normal birth experience. I don't have memories of smiles in the delivery room and I didn't have my baby placed on my chest right after she was born. I didn't bring my baby home a few days later to a perfectly finished nursery.
Instead, I waited in terror to hear whether my baby cried, waited prostrate and desperate for a report from the doctor on how she looked, knowing she wasn't ready to make it on her own after only 30 weeks inside me. I was so relieved when I heard Lexie cry after she was pried out of me (she was stuck behind my pelvic bone due to my unicornuate uterus). She was blue -- a giant bruise from the unusually violent c-section delivery covered three-quarters of her head and half her torso, which is why I won't be posting those pictures here. A few moments after she was born, I heard a nurse say "CLEAR!" and I panicked as I lay there paralyzed by spinal anesthesia. The first thing I thought of was the heart paddles. But everything was fine; it turned out that they were referring to her mouth and nose being clear of fluid.
She did require extensive medical intervention. Her Apgars were lousy -- she started at 4 and moved up to 6. I'd had two steroid shots to boost her lung function at 23.5 weeks, but the effect had worn off by 30 weeks. I got another shot that morning, but it wouldn't have taken full effect that quickly. I believe she had surfactant pumped directly into her lungs once she was put on oxygen. I wasn't allowed to hold her for days. She was so tiny and jaundiced and limp lying there in her isolette. She cried like crazy under the jaundice lights for more than a week. All in all, it's not an experience that lends itself to celebration.
Below, tiny Lexie a year ago today, at age one week.
For her birthday last week, my mom brought Lexie a balloon and we put a cupcake in front of her. She isn't able to eat anything solid -- anything with chunks makes her throw up -- but she messed around with the cupcake. She played with a couple of new toys, and we called it a day.
I'm so thankful to have her here and I'm thankful she is doing well. Next year maybe we'll throw a big party. But for now that's not something I can handle. Not just yet.