The coincidence of my birthday landing on Thanksgiving this year is not lost to me- after a trying year filled with speed bumps and road blocks, our journey has continued relatively unscathed. By and far this has been a year of practiced gratitude and appreciation for the small things, emphasized by faith and faith alone.
I am sitting here in the rocker at the NICU during Emerson's 5am feeding with the faint sound of equipment beeping and babies crying somehow singing harmoniously- a tune reminding me that everything is going to be alright. I reflect on the journey we've had this year as a family- I resisted moving to California but now in reflection, we never could have survived these past few months if we were still living in DC and had no family to depend on. We are where we are meant to be. The move from career-woman to stay at home mom was impossibly trying, a daily battle between self-worth and meeting the needs for my daughter- but I am thankful that we have the opportunity for me to be dedicated to the care of our daughters right now- as much as I miss working, the most fulfilling job I can have right now is being there for my girls. I re-read my posts on when we found out how severe my IC was and needing to choose between an emergency cerclage or pessary - weighing the options. Ultimately I still wonder if we went the right route, as the infection leading to the placental abruption was likely caused from readjusting/checking the pessary- but at the same time, in re-reading and reflecting on the journey we made from week 16- when we could have lost sweet Emmie- to week 24 when I was hospitalized and viability was just around 10%- to celebrating her birth at week 29 and having her prove so strong and healthy- God is good and we are decidedly on the path we were meant to be traveling.
A few things I am especially thankful for this year:
1. The Bags Under My Eyes
Exhaustion fails to describe my current physical state. My body still recovering from the bone and muscle deterioration of bedrest and giving birth last week, coupled with a toddler who is refusing to sleep and visits to the NICU- I am stumbling through the day in a fog but after the journey we had to bring sweet Emmie to the world, against all odds, the bags under my eyes are a prized possession- understood only by other NICU moms. A reminder I am doing my best to give 100% right now, and proud to do so.
2. The Company of Strangers
One blessing that has become so evident to Grant and I is the enormous support network that has enveloped us these past few weeks- we have amazing friends from so many chapters of our lives: our single days in DC, high school, college, grad school and beyond- but this new network we have found on this journey is second to none: nurses, doctors, friends-of-friends who have read our story popping up on Facebook feeds, other moms from my Junior League and Mother's Together groups who have offered to bring food and babysit Grace, and just strangers who have sent kind notes of inspiration and well wishes- the overwhelming community, which I have mentioned before, has been our daily strength and I am grateful for every person who sent a prayer above for us and our sweet girl- God is listening and our hearts are full.
3. The Mess
After I was discharged from the hospital, we moved in with my parents as our new home we closed on the day before I was admitted to bedrest is still being renovated (projects never finish on time, huh?) Admittedly, it has been tough living out of suitcases during this time when all I want is something stable- it would be easier to have all of my things where I need them when I want them- but between living in a hospital for five weeks and now my parents (after having just moved cross country in June)- the mess has brought a certain level of comfort- it is a reminder that we are building a home to be the backdrop for Holidays to come- a home for both of our girls. The mess reminds me that the days still go on even if everything isn't perfect. A reminder that our family is a work in progress, much like the home we are renovating.
4. The Bills:
This has been a ridiculously expensive year, especially since I left my high paying job and our expenses increased ten fold moving to one of the most expensive areas in the world, having a daughter in the NICU, renovating a house and needing to buy a second car. We are blessed that Grant has worked so hard in school and at work to build a career that has offered us so much during this chapter. Each bill is a heavy weight, but also a blessing as it means we will have a home to be the backdrop of family memories to come, a little girl growing stronger each day, and we are fortunate to have the means to make it work. I am grateful we had savings and the help of my parents- I honestly don't know how parents of NICU preemies do it- it is not just the mounting hospital bills, but eating out as you grab food on the run between visits, childcare expenses if you have other children ($20/hour for 6+ hours a day!), parking at some hospitals (some charge $24 per day - if mom and dad drive their own cars, that is $50 a day X 70 days!) and getting necessary gear for your unexpected early delivery. Money has always stressed me out, but these past few weeks have taught me that bills are a blessing- investing in the long term happiness and health of our growing family.
At 31, I am stuck between this feeling of being too inexperienced to face all of the challenges coming at us so quickly (coming home to my mom each day and night makes this more bearable) and ancient for having to face these real world "adult problems". Officially "in my thirties"- I never imagined this decade would have kicked off with so much excitement, but I am grateful for the opportunity to see where this journey takes us. This thanksgiving season encourages us all to be grateful: for what we have, what we have experienced, and the chapters that lie ahead. Hug your loved ones extra tight for me. Thank you!