Here Comes the Sun
It was a morning like so many others: my girl sleeping peacefully next to the giant orb that was my belly. Like last time, the waves came slow at first. I must admit, I was terrified about having a boy, more than I was about going into labor again.
Then I met Xavi. His smile, honey-dew-sweet. His eyes sleepy, full of syrup. He was born Saturday, May 19, 2018 - five days past his due date. He weighed 8lbs 15oz, and he was chubby in all the right places. It was love at first sight.
It was all wrong, even though I had done everything right: taken my prenatals and my probiotics, re-read the books, re-taken the birthing classes... We were supposed to go home right away. Why was this happening to my family? Why was this happening to my son? At one point, I remember peering out at the sun shining in through a window, angry that my son had not felt its rays on his skin yet. He had jaudice, and a pulmonary infection, and fluid in his lungs, and a nasal cannula, and he was having a hard time latching to my breast. I was desolate. I was on an uninhabited island, alone.
And yet, I was far from alone. I will never forget how much love people showed us + a little boy they had yet to meet. From friends who visited daily (RICARDO, what would I do without you?), to friends who sent flowers all the way from Nevada (love you, Des), to a childhood best friend dropping off a NICU care package because she, too, had a NICU baby, to another childhood friend coming and making him a special name plate, to Emily and Art bringing me a breastfeeding pillow and clothes for Xavi, to people bringing food and snacks and blankets and just sitting with me while I cried, to countless messages and texts and prayers and calls...
My sisters came daily. My parents watched Ximena through the HARDEST transition of her life. She had never been away from me for a single night, and here she had to figure out what the hell having a new brother meant; a new brother who didn’t get to go home right away, no less.
Needless to say, I cried constantly. I remember thinking, wow - this must be why there are so many restrooms in hospitals. There are just so many places to fall apart. I felt broken in the uncertainty - when (if ever) would we get to go home as a complete family? What is attacking my poor baby’s body? Will he get better? I was also unspeakably sad because I was away from Ximena, because my family was not complete or together.
On a phone call I had with my beautiful friend and Doula, Joanna, I remember crying to her saying “I know things could be so much worse, and I should be grateful.” She kindly reminded me that “things could also be so much better.” Giving me the permission to grieve what was supposed to be (having a healthy baby, going home after the requisite overnight stay) was all I needed.
For those who followed my husband’s social media journey while we were there, you may have noticed an unusual “schedule” we made for ourselves. What some folks may not know about the NICU in the desert is that there are no beds for family or parents. In fact, if you are a visitor, and start nodding off - the nurses are sure to wake you up.
At the time, we lived in Bermuda Dunes. It was a 30 minute drive there, and another 30 minutes to get back to the hospital. I refused to go home. Mario and I took turns sleeping in the waiting room right outside the NICU the first night.
Once we got a room at the utter blessing that is the Hanson House (a million thanks, Liz <3), this is sort of what our days looked like:
7:00am-7:30am Shift Change at the hospital, when everyone must exit the NICU. I would usually grab a coffee at around this time.
7:30am-9:00am I would hang out with Xavi. I would usually receive an update from the doctor at this time.
9:00am-10:00am My mom would bring Ximena around so we could have breakfast at the cafeteria together.
10:00am-3:00pm I would hang out with Xavi.
3:00pm-4:00pm My dad would stop by so I could grab some lunch.
4:00pm-7:00pm I would hang out with Xavi.
7:00pm-7:30pm Shift Change again. My mom would usually bring Ximena around so she could eat dinner with Mario and I. This is usually when I would get Ximena ready for bed in real life, so we tried that at the Hanson House. I would fall asleep with her for a while.
7:30pm-12:00am My parents stayed with Xavi.
12:00am-3:00am My parents would go to bed (my dad back home, my mom to our room at the Hanson House), and Mario would go hang out with Xavi.
3:00am-7:00am I would hang out with Xavi, Mario would go to bed.
To get back into the NICU, you had to call in with a passcode that they gave each family. Only parents and grandparents were allowed to be bedside alone with the patient', and always only two people at a time. If a non-parent-or-grandparent visitor wanted to see Xavi, they had to enter with a parent, no exceptions.
For two weeks, this was our normal. For two weeks, we knew nothing else. I saw Ximena grow up more in those two weeks than she ever had before.
I remember taking all of these pictures because I was certain they would feel like a distant memory some day, and I wanted to remember how far we had come as a family. How far I had come as a mother.
Thankfully, blessedly, blissfully: they are a distant memory now. I vowed that from our release date forward, I would never take anything for granted. That I should lead with adventure, and live without fear because life is too short to say no, to stay indoors, and shy away from the sun.
Thank you for reading, my friends. Thank you for loving my babies! Thank you for standing by my side even on the dark days.