holidays in the NICU

When the kids were born, we knew we would be in the hospital for a long, long time.  We expected them to be discharged around my due date, which was January 6th and we relied on holidays to help the time pass.  As far as we were concerned, we just had to get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years, and the kids would finally be home. 

Halloween was our first holiday as a family, a little over a month into their NICU stay.  We couldn't believe the kiddos were already over 4 weeks old, and it turned out to be such a spectacular day because I was finally able to hold my little Ryan.  And little he was.  I was so, so nervous that I would hurt him.  He was barely 3 pounds and he just had his first surgery a few days prior.  But the moment the nurse laid him on my chest, all those unsure feelings melted away.  The moment I was allowed to cradle and comfort my child....that was the moment that I became a mother.  It was a moment that would replace all the sadness and grief I felt from not being able to hold any of my children soon after birth.  He stirred and fussed for a few minutes, but eventually he synced his breathing with mine, and fell asleep.  I held him for an hour that day.  It was the proudest hour of my life. 

Another month passed and it was Thanksgiving Day.  We sure had a lot to be thankful for, and believe me, we knew it.  It was so odd how time would seem to pass by so slowly, but once we hit another holiday it would seem to have flown by.  Time has a way of sneaking up on you like that.  We often talked about how we couldn't wait until A&R would finally come home but more often than not we stopped ourselves so as not to wish their lives away.  It's so important to remember that time is precious and life is precious.  And no matter how hard or trying it is, we must learn to appreciate it.  Take the good times with the bad.  

We cooked some food for the nurses and visited with our boys, who were finally allowed to wear clothing.  Big NICU milestone, by the way.  Seamus picked out their little shirts.  We took some photos, thanked our lucky stars, and headed off to Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

Christmas finally drew near and it was so bittersweet for us, because while we made it through three months in the NICU, we half-expected to be home by now.  It's so tough when everyone says that baby will go home by (or even a few weeks before) his due date, and it doesn't happen.  But, and this is a big but, we were so, so grateful to have made it this far.  Being in the NICU meant that we were the lucky ones.  We tried so hard to remember this and we really made the best of it.  We bought A&R each a little tree to keep near their bedside and we got all dressed up in our holiday best.  We were there pretty late and it was so quiet.  It was our first Christmas together and it was absolutely perfect.  

Finally, after 90+ days, we reached the New Year.  A year that would mark a very important time for our new family.  A year that would bring health & happiness, and would allow us to live as a normal family does.  Though we didn't know how much longer our NICU stay would be, New Year's Eve marked a new beginning for us.  There was no need for New Year's resolutions, promises to ourselves that we would inevitably break.  No, this year was different.  This year we had our babies, and from the moment they were born we resolved to care for them and love them like no other.  And that we would do. 

We got ready for this important night and timed our visit to the NICU so that we could welcome the New Year with our boys.  It was the first time in 10 years that Seamus and I didn't ring in the New Year together.  Our boys were in separate rooms, and it was more important for each of them to have one of us instead.  The nurses served sparkling cider and we found a live feed of the ball drop on someone's laptop.  We counted down the seconds, like we'd done every year before, and as the clock ticked and a new year was born, so was the promise of a wonderful life for our children.  And that they will have.

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