You also know that my own pregnancy journey took a very unexpected twist on October 25, when I was hospitalized for contractions and put on bed rest that lasted all of four days before I delivered my son nearly three months early.
Since then, nothing in our lives — mine and Jon’s, Jackson’s father — has gone as “expected.” What once was intended to be a quirky column on a New Age-style pregnancy, with an emphasis on alternative and green living, morphed into a NICU stay’s timeline alongside my personal experience of getting to know Jax, or as we call him, Superpreemie.
Talk about “alternative.”
And “earthy”? Try “down to earth.”
The heady experience of realizing you’ve created a life with the person you love most in the world comes crashing into a reality you didn’t choose when you give birth early and even your doctors don’t know why, or what will happen next. It does so again when you first attempt to negotiate between your responsibility for this tiny life and the fact that the NICU staff are his primary caretakers, and again when you take your first steps toward incorporating a new being into your family and world.
This holiday, I took a break from dashing back and forth between the NICU, work and home to remember myself, who I am, and who comprises my family.
It started when my company surprised me with a baby shower that I thought was just a standard-issue holiday potluck.
Unexpected? You bet. At the “SURPRISE!” and applause, I actually turned around to make sure no one was behind me, that I didn’t sneak in ahead of the “real” guest of honor. Then I saw my name on a sheet cake and remembered: Oh yeah, I had a baby!
Not that I’d actually forgotten about Superpreemie. But I’ve been so wrapped up in Jax’s treatment and weight gain and progress, plus just getting my clothes to match and not totally messing up at work, that a party was the last thing on my mind; I brought a batch of Jon’s mom’s Christmas cookies to the “potluck” and was just happy for a quick, free, hot lunch.
What I got was a reminder to celebrate. I can’t express how invaluable a gift that is — and believe that, because I also got a money tree, to which everyone contributed in lieu of the usual Secret Santa tradition.
Jon and I had been so busy that we hadn’t even gotten a Christmas tree, so my coworkers urged me to take home the artificial tree, thick with bills and a homemade newspaper-chain strand of “garland.”
The lesson is, while I’ve waxed poetic about “choosing blessed,” gone to my family-sponsored baby shower, kept near-daily updates on Jax’s progress via his CaringBridge site, shared baby pictures and enthused about his absurdly impressive weight gain, I haven’t actually celebrated.
Jon and I were so touched by the surprise shower and my coworkers’ generosity that we dug out last year’s Christmas ornaments, and even went out to purchase a new one together, as is our yearly tradition. We decorated our little tree, took some time to purchase and wrap presents and write cards for those who’ve been so good to us. We threw some snowballs on Christmas Eve. I even baked a little!
And on Christmas Day, we went to the NICU to see Superpreemie, all snuggled up in red-and-white-striped footie pajamas with a reindeer on the tush, and a red and green elf hat. Jon’s parents were with us, and we asked Jax’s nurse to take a family picture. My parents, three hours away and not going anywhere because of the weather forecast, will be in that picture next year.
I was a little sad leaving the NICU, leaving my baby behind on Christmas. He’s my family now, and so is everyone who supports us and celebrates him.
Looking ahead to 2013 — the year Jax will come home with us, the year we’ll celebrate our first Christmas with him in our house, how can it not be a happy new year?
How can we not celebrate?
PS–Check out this story by coworker Stephanie Reighart about another NICU family Christmas. Baby Callan and Baby Jax were neighbors for a bit!