“Because I have been given much, I too must give” is the first line of a hymn I love to sing. I have tried to live this principle to varying degrees of success throughout my life and hope to pass it along.
Atticus is a sentimental baby; I blame his dad. He was even born on the anniversary of our engagement via emergency c-section so that he could share the special day. As they wheeled me to my post-delivery room that night, I asked if they would bring him over so we could try breastfeeding, and my husband could hold him. Around 2am, a nurse from the NICU came to our room where an overly-exhausted Justin and I sat wearily, but excitedly, anticipating our little boy. But she was empty-handed.
“I’m sorry, but we can’t bring your baby to you right now. A few of his test results are concerning us, and we need to monitor him to see if things stabilize.”
“When will you be able to bring him to us?”
“I’m not sure.”
Life in the NICU
I heard that phrase a lot over the next few weeks. Because of the IV placement they needed to use and my recovery, I could not hold him at first. Whenever we asked how long it would take for his situation to stabilize enough for us to hold him, or if I could attempt breastfeeding, or approximates on when he would be able to come home, we heard, “I’m not sure.” Leaving him at the hospital when I was discharged was one of the hardest moments of my life. I still hadn’t been able to hold him, so leaving him made the fact that I hadn’t been able to do so that much more painful. The next day we started a routine where Justin would bring me to the hospital with my things, he would go to school and work, and in the evenings, we would sit by our son’s bed in hopes we could hold him. I would spend my days watching my little boy, envying the parents whose babies came in after him and were discharged before him.
In the NICU, there were only a few times when parents could not visit babies: when there were shift changes, when they needed to admit/discharge babies, and if there was an emergency with a patient. A few days into our daily routine, they told me we would be able to hold our sweet boy for the first time that evening. During the shift change, Justin kept me company as I pumped in the nursing room, and we excitedly awaited holding out little boy. When I had finished pumping, Justin went out to make sure it was time but was soon back in the room with a somber look on his face. “We can’t go see him.” Saying I was sad and upset would be putting it mildly. Being the level-headed person he is, and knowing that I would need a good explanation, he quickly explained, “the baby next to Atticus died.”
Putting it into Perspective
My postpartum hormones quickly went into overdrive and I started bawling. I knew which baby it was. Atticus was full-term and a giant compared to the mostly preemie babies around him. But the baby that was in the bed next to him was particularly small and had been delivered at around 24 weeks; he could easily fit in your hands. My heart broke for his mother. Here I was angry I couldn’t hold my son when she would never be able to hold him alive. Whenever I’ve been frustrated with my toddler’s clingy tendencies, laughed at his goofy grins, and felt like a dairy cow pumping around the clock because he never nursed, I remember that poor young mother who would not experience the same moments with her son.
Angel Gowns from Wedding Dresses
Recently I read an article about a nurse in the Seattle area who has been taking donated wedding dresses and sewing them into gowns for newborns who die. The story touched me deeply. I thought of my wedding gown that hadn’t been touched in more than 5 years. Since becoming a mother, I have grown to understand and love the support and strength we as mothers can give our peers and have sought ways to reach outwards. I wasn’t the bride who searched for the perfect gown, I just wanted to not look like a hot mess. I also knew I wouldn’t save it for any potential daughters because as opposed to the men in my home, I not a very sentimental person. But the use of wedding gowns to sew burials gowns for those tender babies touched me deeply given the symbolism behind the wedding gown. If my gown could provide some comfort to a mother like that one in the hospital, why wouldn’t I use it to give some peace to any parent who is struggling during a time I can hardly begin to imagine?
How You Can Help
I have recently begun collecting donated wedding gowns that will be used in assembling newborn gowns during a service project my church will be hosting this summer. If you would like to join us or donate a dress, please leave a comment below.
About Megan Bush
Megan is a fourth-generation New Orleanian and academic advisor at an area university. After graduating from high school, she lost her better judgment and spent the next six years attending Brigham Young University up north and in Brussels, Belgium mastering her French (but really, she was just pretending to be classy as she ate frites with a miniature fork). While in Belgium, she met a tall, goofy Texan named Justin whom she was positive did not know how to carry a serious conversation. After marrying him in 2008, they spent the first two years of their marriage in Texas until she converted him to the truth, and they moved to the Promised Land – New Orleans. After their move and struggling with fertility issues for three years, they welcomed their brilliant and sassy son Atticus into the world. When not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering with her church, cooking, and reading about women’s history. A perfect day for Megan would be a stroll in Audubon Park, brunch at her favorite restaurant Uptown and leisurely perusing antique stores on Royal Street or one of the many museums in the area. She blogs sporadically about her family and attempts at domesticity at her blog Bush’s Baked Beans.