In the weeks leading up to Sebastian’s birthday I am emotional and sensitive. The simplest things make me cry, I have less energy and I want to sleep. Last year was difficult because it was the first year. This year I have been re-reading some things written about our birthing experience and that has brought on a flood of emotions as well. I say ‘our’ because we all experienced it in our own way. Sebastian and I. Ali and my mom, because they were there too.
After Sebastian was taken from us to the NICU and I was ready to be taken to the ward to recover, the sun was already rising. I was placed behind a curtained-off section next to the window. In the bed next to me a mother was holding her newborn baby. I kept my curtain closed. I was surrounded by new mothers accompanied by their babies. But I did not have mine. There was no bassinet next to my bed. No baby crying to be fed. I pulled the covers up over my shoulders and curled into a ball. One of the nurses from the NICU pulled the curtain open and handed me a picture of my son. The first picture ever taken. I held it close to me. I set it up on the pillow next to me. I treasured that photo. One of the nurses that had checked me the first time I came to the hospital in labor noticed I was in bed, she looked for my baby and noticed he was not there. I showed her the picture of my son in an incubator.
I don’t even remember seeing him with an umbilical chord. The next day there were tiny tubes in his tummy, pumping medicine.
The birth of our son was referred to as a traumatic birth. It was a traumatic experience. It takes time to get over such experiences. Some months back I read a NY Times article about the post traumatic stress disorders caused by having babies in the NICU. It talked about the beeps the machines make. The smell of the hand sanitizer. The fluorescent lights. I remembered the click of the door closing behind us after being buzzed in. The sound of the breast pump in the express room. The squeak of the nurses shoes. The books we have etched with Sebastian’s name on the back since we kept them at the hospital to read to him. Watching doctors do their rounds through the window, waiting until they were hovering over my baby’s plastic box, so that I could go in and listen. There are a lot of memories of touching Sebastian through the little holes and waiting a week until we could hold him. Memories of the day of his birth, of the time in the NICU. Once they start, it’s dominoes of an event that is difficult to re-live.
Sebastian’s birthday is this week, Thursday. He will be two. I’m still emotional but I’m also into the swing of things. Things like planning a party or two and getting ready for a big move. My friends who have also experienced traumatic births tell me that each year it gets easier. And I believe that. As the weeks approach, it gets easier too. It gets easier because I get to celebrate Sebastian’s life. Because when he was born, he wasn’t breathing. Our life together almost didn’t happen. But it did. And it does. And we do. Together. The three of us. The Sharp Family.