On the Cusp
July 26th, 2011

It’s a bit surreal spending three hours a week in a NICU when you’re pregnant.  Actually, I should clarify that.  It’s a bit surreal spending three hours a week in a NICU when you’re about 2/3 of the way through your pregnancy.

I’m at a precarious place, gestationally speaking.  I’m 25 weeks pregnant, which is a scary place for me.  If something happened and my baby were born today he would be in the position of a decent likelihood of survival, but also a decent likelihood of lifelong health problems stemming from prematurity.  Perhaps some people take comfort in crossing that threshold into “the baby could survive” territory, but I step onto a bed of pins a needles.  I will stay on those pins and needles until at least 34 or 35 weeks.

This past Sunday as I made my way through the NICU looking for fussy babies to soothe I came across two who were especially tiny.  Both were in incubators and under bili lights.  Due to HIPAA constraints I’m really not supposed to ask questions about patients unless it relates to my interaction with them.  But in these cases I couldn’t help myself.  I asked these babies’ respective nurses how old they were.  One was 2 weeks old, and born at 25 weeks.  The other was 4 days old and born at 27 weeks.  These babies should have been born a mere two weeks before mine, and yet they are here now.

Seeing these tiny creatures was strange – almost like looking into my own womb.  No matter how much you read about what your baby weighs at this point, or how long he is, or how he hasn’t filled out and his skin is wrinkled, it just isn’t the same as actually seeing a baby who looks a lot like yours would (or rather, does).  I feel big these days, but I know now that my baby is still small.  And on the days when I wish to fast forward to the end of the pregnancy I can remind myself that every day matters.  Every day that my baby kicks and squirms is a blessing.  No matter how much I want to meet this little boy, the unknown is better than the known.  No matter how much I miss my old jeans, big and pregnant is better than slim and not pregnant.  Because at this point, the alternative would be a nightmare.

I am on the cusp of my third trimester.  The coming weeks will bring heartburn, snoring, and an inability to tie my own shoes.  And I will be thankful for every discomfort I endure.

5 Responses to “On the Cusp”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Just think, those NICU’s are built to mimic the womb and provide babies with what mama’s who are able to carry to term do naturally. Definitely, no need to rush! Not to mention not rushing to having TWO youngin’s to keep up with!

  2. Anna Says:

    Gale, I love your perspective on this.
    When we were living that life, we were told that every HOUR helped.
    I usually cringe (internally!) when I hear a pregnant woman complain about feeling huge or heartburn or whatever at the end of pregnancy. I completely understand why they say these things, but I appreciate that you are voicing the recognition that these are relatively small sacrifices when compared to what is happening with your baby.

  3. Gale Says:

    Anna – Thanks. I know just what you mean. Third trimester discomforts are a small price to pay for a healthy and fully developed baby. Sometimes it’s hard to bear that in mind when you can hardly roll over in bed. But seeing these 27-weekers in the NICU makes it all very real.

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I continue to be amazed and impressed that you do this particular volunteering, which is so important, but must be especially hard during a pregnancy.

    I wish for you 15 more (uneventful and healthful) weeks, and a beautiful new life in your arms.

  5. Gale Says:

    BLW – Thanks. I really do enjoy the work. It is not fun, per se, but very satisfying in its own way. I have to face the facts that my number of volunteer shifts are numbered. Once the baby is born I won’t be able to commit that kind of time for a while. Actually, I’ll probably pull back sometime during the third trimester in order to spend extra time with IEP before his brother is born, and to give myself a bit of a breather before life with a newborn kicks off. I do hope – and plan – to go back to it at some point, though.