Happy Mother's Day

I Could Call You Beautiful

I could call you beautiful
because you are mine.
I could say you will change the world
because I have a mother's faith in you.
I could say you will be loved by everyone
because I love you,

But, today as I hold you in my arms
I can only say, dear baby
I am so happy you were born

Thank God!

by Marion Schoeberlein

The poem above was given to me by one of Zoe's primary nurses when Zoe was in the NICU; we were going on 3 months and Zoe was still sedated on the ventilator.  Life felt hopeless at times, I never dared ask about discharge because we were prepared to be there for a year, if not more.  It was a marathon physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  On a day to day basis I would flip-flop between feeling helpless as Zoe's progress seemed to move at a snail's pace and eager anticipation as Avery and Lily graduated to the step down nursery and were on their path to coming home.

Kangarooing Avery & Lily
Avery getting a bath

Bathing Avery and Lily was so exciting for me, being able to pick them up out of their cribs and hold them anytime I wanted almost made the NICU feel like my second home.  I brought real baby clothing in for them, blankets and little toys.  They even had a mobile above their crib and their very own CD player to filter soothing classical lullabies to their ears.  All of these things were so important to me because, while we were still in the hospital, I was at least able to do the things that "normal" mothers do for their babies.  For so long I had not felt like a mother, more like a bystander or a visitor; a common sentiment of NICU moms.

Daddy, Zoe, & Me
After doing Kangaroo care with Avery and Lily, I'd walk across the hospital to Zoe's quiet room in "The Garden" (the part of the NICU where the chronic babies go).  There she'd be, asleep, the rhythmic swoosh, click, swoosh, click of the ventilator breathing for her would fill my ears.  Zoe would shift slightly, grunt, clamp down on her ET tube and we'd hear a shrill "beep, beep, beep, beep" and the "ding, ding, ding, ding" of the various alarms measuring her heart rate, respirations, and pulse ox.
Me & Zoe

The room was grey, though I did have a big comfortable chair and when the proper number of nurses and respiratory therapists were assembled I would get myself situated just right, a boppy around my waist because as long as I held her I couldn't move.  I always feared she'd extubate while I was holding her so I would allow the muscles in my arms, neck, and back to tighten and twitch.  No amount of physical discomfort on my part could keep me from the treasured minutes of holding Zoe in my arms.

My first Mother's Day was spent in the NICU.  Avery and Lily had been discharged a few weeks prior and Zoe was making huge strides, moving to the newly built step down nursery on a high flow canula!  We still did not have a clue when we might bring Zoe home, but for a few hours that day I had all three babies in my arms.  Dressed them in precious onsies Richard purchased for them and I revelled in the fact that from this day forward Mother's Day would be a day I was allowed to celebrate!

My first Mother's Day
During our NICU stay, days stretched into weeks, and weeks ultimately into 9 1/2 long months and the definition of mother changed into something far greater than what the dictionary defines as "a female parent".  I prefer to think of NICU and bereaved moms as the other definition of mother: "something that is extreme or ultimate of its kind" (used in expressions like "the mother of all ships", allow me the liberty to manipulate the meaning just a tad).  

As preemie moms and mothers who have lost a child, we have to dig deep within our souls to uncover the strength that lies within.  Many have described motherhood as a primal instinct we often see played out in nature by a lioness' fierce protection of her offspring.  NICU moms and bereaved moms are quite the same.  We would take every wire and tube, procedure, medication, and surgery upon ourselves if we could so our babies wouldn't have to endure such things.  We would do more than change a diaper on our 1 pound babies if we could, and we would do anything, literally anything possible to protect, love, and nurture our babies.

Me & Zoe
And as a mother who has lost a baby, who has watched life slip away, and held the shell of my once warm daughter with sparkly green eyes; we would give up anything to have that baby's life back.  To have one more day, sing one more song, or have just one more snuggle to fill the void in our empty arms.

I promise you, NICU moms, no matter where you are along this life journey, even when you feel your weakest, you are far stronger than you may believe.  This seed of strength was planted the moment you knew there was going to be a complication.  You may not feel it yet, but over time it will grow and you will find yourself as that fierce lioness protecting and advocating for your child with grace and determination.  

And to the many moms whose arms may be empty this year, know that you are and always will be a mother.  You became a mom from the minute you dreamed of having a baby and when your worst nightmare was realized, and you had to let our baby go, your seed of strength was planted too.  Step by step, at your own pace, you will find a moment when you won't have to force yourself to smile, when moving your feet from your bed to the bedroom floor won't take quite so much effort.  You are stronger than you feel and for both NICU and bereaved mothers there is a vastly growing network of parents who have been where you are and want desperately to offer you just one small ray of light, one small piece of hope.

Lily, Me, Avery, Zoe (8 mos old, still in NICU)
I am in awe of all the moms I've met along my NICU and grief journey who have found a way to channel their experiences into something that helps even one other mom find that sense of hope we all crave.  Happy Mother's Day to the many, many moms I count as dear friends who offered me that hope, always at just the right time, exactly when I needed it.  I love all three of my daughters, and my two other angels in Heaven, with every ounce of my heart and soul and feel so incredibly privileged to be given the chance to be their mother.

Birdie & Lily
Namo with Lily & Avery
And Happy Mother's Day to those who have been like mothers in their own ways to me - my wonderful stepmom and my mother-in-law, both of whom love their granddaughters in an immeasurable way and did everything they could, when they could, to help us through some of my darker days.

Zoe with Mimi
To my own mother, I am usually great with words, but I find myself unable to properly express my gratitude for all that you've done.  You stood by my side, even when I locked everyone out, and you never left.  In your own graceful, quiet, and loving ways you held me up and even offered a mother's care to my babies when I was too grief-stricken to do it myself.  Quite simply, and very deeply, I love you! 


Much love, peace, and hope to all of you!

Mommy with Avery & Lily


Jennifer said...

So beautiful, Keira. And, I think this is the first I've heard of the other two angels in Heaven. I am sorry you had to go through that as well as losing Zoe. Avery and Lily have that same seed of strength planted in them because YOU are their mother. Happy Mother's Day!!

Anonymous said...

Beautifuly written. Hope you had a Happy Mother's day and thank you for all you do for others.
Karen H.

All time favorite video of Zoe!

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Bible verses that comfort me

"Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:8

"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children....Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them"
~ Mark10:14 & 10:16

"...those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint"~ Isaiah40:31