I am not a hero, my child is the hero.
I am not a hero. I am not strong. I am not doing anything any other mother wouldn’t do when put into an extreme situation regarding their child. My child is the hero. He is the strong one. He is the one who fought for his life. I stood by and watched. I learned as much as I could so that I could help sustain him once he was strong enough to come home, but I’m no hero. My son is a micro-preemie, born at 24 weeks and 3 days. He is my hero.
My struggle to become a mom didn’t start with my sons early arrival. It started long before that, even before I knew it would be an issue. At the young age of 14 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. At the time, I didn’t know it would be a big deal, or the impact it would have on my life down the road. It wasn’t until I got married that I understood the emotional toll the would take on my mind, my relationship and my faith. It wasn’t until my husband and I decided we were ready to take on the role of parents that I truly realized the challenge this would be.
13 years ago, infertility was not a word that was often talked about. To be infertile was a disease. It was embarrassing and not something I really wanted to admit. As a newly married couple with eager people all around, it wasn’t long before the “when are you going to have a baby” questions started to fly. At first I joked it off. “Oh we’re working on it!” “We are doing our best!” It didn’t take long before the jokes got old and the pain got real. My relationship started to be strained. The faith I had that this would happen started to diminish. I was just sad. All the time. It was hard to find joy in daily life, and so difficult to get excited for friends who were welcoming little ones. About a year into our journey, we started some fertility treatments. I am a strong believer in doing what you feel comfortable with. My husband and I took a lot of time to go over all of our options. We talked about IUI, InVitro, Surrogacy, Adoption. We thoroughly covered all of our options and came up with a plan of what we felt was best for us. The right plan is different for each couple, and should be respected. It is definitely not an easy discussion.
There is so much that happened in the 3 1/2 years that followed. On a Friday morning in November of 2008 I found out I was pregnant! I could finally utter the words I had waited 4 years to say! I had 4 days where I felt like I was on top of the world. My eager mind was racing…what would I buy first? Was a boy or a girl? How soon could I find out? I hope we can agree on names! It was 4 days of pure bliss. But then it ended. The bubble I had put around myself popped. On a cold Monday morning, I realized my dream was short lived. As I was rushed to the ER, I knew in my heart that we had lost the baby. I remember laying in the uncomfortable emergency room bed thinking that this was it. Something I had done just ruined my only chance of being a mom. I was heartbroken.
When I got home that night I said enough. I didn’t want any more drugs, or needles or ultrasounds. I had done enough to myself and just couldn’t risk that kind of heartbreak again. I remember falling asleep holding a tiny hat I’d bought over the weekend for our little miracle. A miracle that was snatched away in a heartbeat.
We gave ourselves some time. After a few long discussions, and feeling so utterly alone, my husband and I decided to explore adoption. We started the paperwork and participated in a few classes. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we both just had an unsettling feeling about the situation. We both knew in our hearts that we would be parents and felt that this was not the route for us to take. Honestly I felt a bit of relief. Don’t get me wrong, I believe adoption is a very good thing, we just didn’t feel it was going to be our story. Having been pregnant, even for the brief time that I was, I knew I wanted that. My husband and I took a few months to gather our thoughts (and me, my emotions) before we returned to the clinic for one last attempt at an IUI. Our 9th IUI to be exact. A number I’ve grown to love.
On Fathers Day, 2009, I uttered those 2 amazing words again. I’m Pregnant. But this time with more joy and more thankfulness. Somehow I knew this would be the one. The baby who would make me a mom. With a due date of February 14, 2010, I knew I had lots of time to plan and await this little ones arrival.
I had a great pregnancy. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t tired. With a bit of hesitation in the back of my mind, I was trying to enjoy every moment of being pregnant. Until October. The 21st to be exact. A night I will never, ever forget. While looking after my neighbours children for the evening, I suddenly didn’t feel right. I made my way to the bathroom and realized I was covered in blood. A clot so large fell into the toilet in front of me. My heart sank. At 23 weeks I was sure I had just lost my baby.
I am so thankful to live in the community I live in. To be surrounded by neighbours and friends, who react so quickly to help, still overwhelms me with emotion sometimes. It’s because of those people that my baby is alive. With my husband unreachable at the time, one neighbour got me to the hospital and another went on a search for my other half. I wont go into the details of the night, and truthfully past this point there are many details I don’t remember. Or choose not to remember. There is, however, one very significant piece of that night I will never forget.
Laying in my bed at the hospital I remember a nurse from the NICU coming to visit. It was not a pleasant visit. She came to tell us of all the terrible things that would go wrong with our baby if he were to arrive tonight. Or the next night. Or the night after that. I know she was just doing her job, and believe me, after all we’ve been through I have a tremendous amount of respect for the NICU nurses, but we didn’t want to hear it. We were not in denial about our situation, we just had a hard time believing we were given this gift just to have it taken away from us again. I remember very vividly my husband standing up and saying: “With all due respect, you need to leave. We don’t want to hear what you have to say. We are not naive to what may happen, but we have a faith stronger than what you are telling us to have. Thank you.” He sat down, quietly, turned his back to the nurse. She said nothing, stood up and left. That was it. I was taken by ambulance to St. Joes hospital where I laid for a week. There were a few close calls, a few “uh-oh” moments a few times I thought I’d lose him. My sweet, strong Noah that I was trying so hard to protect.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 27th, 2009, as my husband was getting ready to head off to work, everything changed. It all happened so fast. I felt a pop. I told my husband I was sure I was bleeding again and he called the nurse. When she arrived she pushed the red button and a flood of people rushed into my room. A nurse jumped on the bed, holding my baby in place and 2 others started pushing me down the hall. It was all so fast. In less than 22 minutes I heard that first, precious cry of my little boy. A cry so faint I was sure it was a baby down the hall, born at the exact same time. This was the cry of the little one that gave me the title “Mom”. I can honestly say in those 22 minutes I was calm. I was at peace. I knew, deep in my heart, he would be ok. At 10:28 am, we welcomed our 1lb 6oz, 12 inch long baby boy, Noah Allaen. He was perfect. Strong, handsome and full of life. At 24 weeks and 3 days my sweet baby boy arrived, fighting for his life.
I’m not going to say that his journey was easy, because it wasn’t. I’m not going to say I didn’t cry, because I did. Everyday I was left with question and uncertainty of what the next few hours would bring. Sometimes each minute left me with highs and lows of what to expect next. But ultimately we had peace. It was strange. I will tell you that this type of journey makes you a part of a special kind of family. A family of moms who earned their title a little differently. A family of women who can relate to a type of worry for a child that most full-term moms don’t know. A family of parents who most of the time feel helpless as their child struggles for breath.
I learned a lot during our 99 day stay at the NICU. Not only did I learn a lot of technical terms and procedures but I learned a lot about myself, my husband and my baby. The experience in the NICU was overwhelming at times. We had a tremendous team of nurses behind us who supported us every step of the way. Being in a crowded room, full of constant beeps and alarms, I didn’t realize how alone I could feel. I didn’t realize I could sit next to a woman 12 hours a day and not really notice she was there or know her name. It pushed me out of my comfort zone to say hi, to talk to and learn to support a complete stranger. But this was my tribe. My family of women, a few of whom I still talk with today. We experienced something together, something not just anyone could understand. I was blessed, beyond measure, that this was my story. I wouldn’t change it. Not a single aspect would I ask to be different.
Today, my Noah is going on 9 years old. I can hardly believe it. He is happy, healthy and loved for who he is and who he was created to be. He’s embraced his start in life and often asks for pictures and stories of when he arrived. Many of the qualities I saw in that 1lb baby boy he still posses today. He is strong willed, determined and full of life. He brings me joy and laughter and beams when he calls me Mom. Would we have liked to have had more children, absolutely. Realistically, we were likely to have more high risk preemie babies and we didn’t know that this was something we were prepared to take on again. Noah has completed our family of 3 and I wouldn’t change a thing about him. My heart is truly full.
So when people say to me “You’re so strong” “You are a hero for what you went through” no. I am not. I did nothing more than any other mom would have done. My son is the hero, he’s the strong one. He’s the one who, without knowing it, decided to fight for his life. I am blessed to have been on this journey with him. I am thankful for the family, friends, nurses, doctors and staff who supported us. I am thankful for the time people took out of their busy lives to pray for him. I am blessed to be his mom.
People often ask me why I like working at the OVer company so much. Why I give so much of my time for a “job”. To me, it’s more than a job. It’s family. Sabrina is part of my tribe. The moms I meet on a daily basis, who share their stories are a part of my family of women and they bless me every day. Each story is unique, just like each baby is unique and I am honoured when moms share their stories with me. The OVer company isn’t a job to me. It’s a family and I’m blessed to call them mine.
Executive Assistant at The OVer Company