Today’s guest post is an excerpt from Kasey Mathew’s extraordinary memoir, Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood. –Tamára
Racing back and forth from the hospital had been so intense that on the morning it suddenly ceased, and I went from 60 to 0, I wasn’t sure what to do. I was the mother of two young children living under one roof, just what I’d been hoping for, and though I was relieved, I was also terrified. There was no running from the reality of my life – it was staring back at me through the eyes of my two young children.
I imagined I was on a movie set. A director yelled cut and someone shouted, “Andie’s birth – take two.”
Part of the terror was that I didn’t know what to expect. Thank God I couldn’t see the future. If I’d had a crystal ball that morning, it would have told me that every day I would feel tentative, full of uncertainty. I’d cry often. Watching television programs about healthy babies, I’d sob until I had no tears left. I’d spend hours hovering over Andie as she slept in that white bassinet, making sure she was still breathing. Though there would be constant phone calls and packages filled with pink onesies, soft receiving blankets, and picture books, I would have the constant, dull ache of loneliness in my belly.
Outside Tucker’s preschool, I would try to make myself take him inside while clutching Andie in my arms and imagining all the germs waiting to snatch her from me. Finally, I’d have to ask another parent to take him in.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings I’d bring Andie home, wishing Tuck was there to erase the silence in the house. Spreading towels out on the kitchen counter, I’d lay her down several times each day and empty her ostomy bag, gagging as liquid poop dripped off my fingers into the sink. I’d leave her sitting in her vibrating bouncy seat more than I should.
Teams of early intervention specialists—occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists—would walk through my front door. Reading the physical therapist’s report, I’d smile when it said Tucker, with his ability to engage and challenge Andie, was by far her best therapist. I’d file the reports in a manila folder marked “Andie” with a little heart drawn over the “i.”
In the grocery store, I’d watch new moms accept praise and smiles from passing shoppers and pretend I didn’t care that my baby was too susceptible to illness to come grocery shopping.
I would feel lonely.
I’d complain to my family about the unending stream of doctor’s appointments and standing in hospital elevators, I’d tell strangers (whether they cared to know or not) that the child in my arms had been born four months prematurely. I’d smile when they said she was a miracle.
I’d see other parents pushing their children in wheelchairs and want to tell them, I know, I get it, I’m in that club. But I’d look away, feeling guilty, believing my own child would walk someday.
Every time I drove that same road leading to the hospital, even if only for a routine visit, my old anxieties and fears would return, along with recurring bouts of diarrhea, forcing me to learn which coffee shops had public restrooms.
When Lee passed through the back door each night, I’d run into his arms. As he tenderly kissed each of his children, I would see pure, genuine love radiating from him and wish he was the one who stayed home with them.
If I’d had that crystal ball I would have seen myself looking into the mirror above the bathroom sink, staring into the eyes of a frightened woman I no longer knew and wondering what the rest of her life would bring.
Kasey Mathews is a mother of two– her son, born on his due date at an even 8 pounds, and her daughter, born at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. Kasey is the author of the memoir Preemie: Lessons in Love, Life and Motherhood, in which she openly and honestly writes about her fears and uncertainties as a preemie mom.
Kasey considers herself a “student in the lessons of everyday life,” and regularly finds unexpected meaning in seemingly ordinary events. Her life-lessons can be found on her website, and you can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.