We finally got to hold him after 6 weeks. I will always remember that day as one of the happiest days of my life.
In addition to the first time we held him, during those first few days, weeks, and months in the NICU, we celebrated every single little milestone and did not take any of them for granted, such as:
- When he reached 1,000 grams (he started out at 610 grams)
- First time he opened his eyes (at about a week old)
- First time we saw his face (at a ventilator tube change)
- First time we changed his diaper
- First time he wore clothes
- Second bath (one of his nurses gave him his first bath, a transgression I will never forget!)
- First time he took breast milk by feeding tube
- First kangaroo care
- First nursing
- First time his grandparents--or aunt--held him
Another thing that got us through those difficult times was the fantastic outpouring of support we received from most of the people we knew. Chris was born on the birthday of my boss at the time (also named Mike), and he completely supported me through my crisis by allowing me to take as much time off as I needed to and providing me the flexibility and backup I needed. Friends and family from church, work, and elsewhere brought food, food, and more food, to the point that we didn't have to cook much for most of the time we were in the NICU. We received so many flowers that we could have opened a florist shop.
And it was the cards, letters, baby gifts, and special touches that gave us the most hope. Like my cousin Tim declaring that Chris would be just fine, because he had the ornery family gene. Or the journal given to us by a woman at our church who had also had a preemie. Or this beautiful drawing from my cousin Elena, who was 9 or 10 at the time. It received pride of place at Christopher's bedside--you can spy the hospital tape on the top:
And now look at this wonderful teenage boy--I truly cannot believe that this is the same person as the one-pound, six-ounce, 11-inch long baby we worried over for so many days, nights, weeks, and months. I believe that preemies (or any child who has endured a life-threatening illness) have a keen, innate appreciation for life. Chris is easy-going, enthusiastic, forgiving, and kindhearted. He has been richly blessed with life and a beautiful heart--and he will always be my hero. Happy birthday, sweetheart!