Joys and Sorrows

We are incredibly lucky. Every day our boys were in the NICU we passed by bassinet after bassinet filled with much smaller babies, babies needing much more help than our sons did. James and Owen, in addition to being treated for jaundice, simply needed to grow.

Early on a parent coordinator met with Andy and I, and gave us two calendars—one for each boy. She said the NICU was often a “one-step-forward-two-steps-back” experience, and no matter what happened on a particular day we were supposed to celebrate one thing, and write that one thing on our calendar each day.

Although we had every intention of doing so, our calendars are empty. So here I’d like to record the many joys—and few sorrows—we experienced while waiting for James and Owen to come home.

Joy: Holding each baby, skin to skin, for the first time, several hours after they were born.


Sorrow: Standing helplessly next to James’ incubator while he cried and cried, not knowing that we were allowed to put our hands in the holes in the sides and, with a firm touch, cup his tiny head to calm him.

Joy: Discovering there were two very nice rooms within the NICU intended for mothers who needed to pump breast milk.

Sorrow: After scrubbing in before entering the NICU one day, walking past a young mother and, who I assumed to be, her mom and dad, all crying softly. Throughout the day a silent parade of family members and friends walked in and out of a heavily curtained bassinet area. The sight of two empty bassinets behind those curtains the next day still haunts me.

Joy: Receiving generous help from several lactation consultants daily. Because Owen and James were so small, I’m not able to breastfeed exclusively. Instead I must pump and then add a high-calorie formula supplement to my breast milk, which I then give to them in bottles. This is quite time consuming at home, but when the boys were in the NICU, it also meant labeling and transporting milk every day from home to the NICU. The lactation consultants constantly reminded me what a great job I was doing all the while noting how difficult it can be. It is, in part, because of those women that I’m still pumping (and attempting to nurse) eight-plus times a day.


Sorrow: James running out of room in his hands and arm for his IV. Although it’s apparently perfectly normal for an IV to be placed in a baby’s head, this made me cry.

Joy: The wrapping of a tiny hand around my finger for the first time.

Sorrow: Getting sick and having to skip a day of visiting my sons.

Joy: Owen and James each successfully latching and drawing milk for the first time.

Sorrow: Developing an allergic reaction to the hospital’s hand sanitizer (only now are my hands returning to normal).


Joy: Taking Owen home.


Sorrow: Leaving James behind.

Joy: Driving myself to Good Sam after 42 days on bed rest and a week-plus recovery from childbirth.

Sorrow: Spending nine hours in the ER with Owen after his return home only to have him admitted to Children’s Hospital for catching the virus we all had earlier.

Joy: Discovering our room at Children’s was much, much nicer than the ER waiting room.

Sorrow: Not knowing where to be: At home with Sophie, at Children’s with Owen, in the NICU with James.

Joy: Learning Owen was going to be released from Children’s without having to have too many tests.

Sorrow: Discovering that worry over illness will always exist, even after the NICU.


Joy: Being surprised with the news that James could come home much earlier than we expected.


Joy, Joy, Joy: Holding both my boys at home at the same time.

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.” —John Heywood