Phoenix Newborn Photographer
Avery and Ivan NICU Miracles
This sweet little miracles came to see me when they were 4 months old. After a three month NICU stay, it was an honor to be trusted with capturing these special moments for their parents, Keri and Chase. On February 21, 2016 these sweet little boys made their appearance into the world 14 weeks early. Ivan and Avery both weighed in at 1 pound 13 oz, despite being born early both boys surprised everyone by attempting to breathe on their own and crying. Avery even opened his eyes! Both boys would have a very long NICU journey ahead of them. But against all odds, the boys and their parents overcame complications, took down mountains and made it out of the land of uncertainty. They are all survivors.
During their journey, mom Keri shared her feelings often. Talk about an eye opener. The words below were some that I had to ask to share.
I have deliberately avoided writing down my feelings about this pregnancy and the NICU for 8 weeks now. I guess I naively thought that pushing those thoughts away would help me to power through it all. I was wrong. More accurately, there has been nothing in my twenty-five years of life that could have possibly prepared me for this.
There are so many things I wish I could have known sooner.
I wish I would have known that most days my hands are no longer recognizable from all of the hand washing.
Or, that people would say things that are meant to be nice, but really just cut to the core of my reality.
I wish I would have been warned about the number of tears I have and will shed. I needed to be told that it's okay to cry every time I leave my boys behind in the NICU.
I also needed someone to tell me that it is equally okay to feel something that closely resembles dread every time I drive to the hospital. It's difficult to get excited about visiting and develop a truly deep connection when I only get to "care" for my children with permission and assistance from staff. I don't feel like a mom. I feel like an outsider.
I wish I would have known about the intense feeling of helplessness that has manifested itself or that it would come and go during the most inconvenient of times.
I never realized that I would need to be told I was doing enough. Loving my sons, enough. That I was bathing them right. Pumping correctly. Sitting at their side the right amount of time. Giving my husband encouragement. Updating my friends and family.
And despite the compliments or reassuring smiles, it always seems to feel like we're treading the deep end. Some people compare the NICU to a rollercoaster. I call it the third ring of hell.
What I've come to realize through 5 weeks in Antepartum, 3 weeks thus far in the NICU, and the endless visits with doctors, specialists, and therapists is to love.
It's hard to do - that love thing - with all the beeping and coding. All the nurses running, charts clicking and specialists knocking. It's hard to see where you want to be when you look around and hardly know where you are.
I really do try to find love in the smallest of things, however, I often find myself feeling sorry for us.
It was on one of those days of feeling sorry for myself that I heard it. Every NICU parent knows that the quick feet of nurses running down the hallway and the hurried feet of the neonatologist are never good. For more than 20 minutes I listened to the frenzied activity. And then came the tears. A mom screamed, "NO." And I knew. The NICU fell silent save the beeps and alarms. So, during one of my pity parties a baby had died. And that just seemed like the unfairest of unfair things to happen to anyone. Ever.
An hour later, our sweet red-eyed NICU nurses welcomed another emergency transport. Another miracle. Another life to save. And the hum of the NICU continued, but not without all of us there knowing the NICU never makes promises.
The NICU club isn't for sissies, it's for fighters. I wish that I could promise the boys will be fine. I wish I could know with certainty that prematurity won't have lasting developmental effects or that I won't suffer from PTSD, but I can't. Every journey is different. Every baby, every hospital, every specialist, every outcome - they're all different.
When I look in the mirror, I see a survivor who needs a hug and probably more concealer but I also see a heart full of gratitude. I'm going to keep trying to dream big. I'm going to order those adorable 2T shirts that I know won't be worn for months, possibly even years. I'm going to trust my instinct and love these babies with all I've got. I'm going to take each day one at a time because every day is a blessing. ~ Keri C.
Beautifully written Keri. Thank you for being so transparent, and for allowing me to share your transparency with readers.
Keri and I both hope that this story shines a light on NICU journey's. While every NICU journey is different, each family deserves the same level of support. Set up a meal train, offer heartfelt encouragement and prayers, send cards filled with uplifting well wishes. But most importantly, lend an ear.
"For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” - Matthew 17:20