Breathing In

Our cat Patrick has strong vocal capabilities. He likes to announce when people walk into a room with a bright, staccato “MYAH!”. My heart actually stopped when he did that for me yesterday.

What were we talking about? (Yes, I forgot Finn was outside. But now he is inside.)

Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.

Dozing Breen fusses as he drops his pacifier, but then laughs when he catches my eye. Now he’s chewing on his sleeve. His morning nap is a moving target. He finished an 80 ml bottle of breastmilk this morning in one go!

Tonight, Grandpa will stay at our house and have a sleepover with Nora. Jon and I will take Breen and his gear to SLC and stay in a hotel. Tomorrow morning (11/18), we’ll pounce on into three follow-up appointments at Primary.

I dread returning there.

Breen was loved, heaven knows it! He was nurtured. They took life-savingly good care of him. But he was never safe. Not one moment in that NICU did any of us ever feel safe. I will love to see some of our beloved team, but I don’t want to remember the war.

I catch glimpses of the Erin who lived there without Nora. Without Jon. The Erin who made that drive that ached like hell in both directions, especially southbound away from my two-year-old girl-rilla. The shattered Erin trying to open her car door on level one in the hospital parking garage. Trying to pull herself together on the way past the water wall thing, through those doors.

Nauseous Erin by the water machine. Desolate Erin trying to eat something from the cafeteria (until the last couple months when the lines got crazy long and it was too much of a time commitment). Pulling her mask down in the private restroom, wiping her eyes. Cranky in the old pump room. Cranky pumping at the bedside. Cranky when none of the fancy flanges that she was buying were helping. Cranky when they closed the unit for line change. Incensed when she had to leave the bedside after hauling herself up there because a neighbor baby needed a sterile procedure.

Breen is asleep now on a little mat on the floor in the front room, his arms wide open. His downstepper hissing normally. His soiled laundry tumbling around the corner.

My phone chirps with a reminder about our 7:30 a.m. appointment.

We four have been recharging these past four weeks. We have been drinking in the togetherness after the desperate drought, the traumatizing months. Now we grow and learn and laugh and cry and stumble and twirl in our own home.

I don’t want to leave this tiny month-long sanctuary. I don’t want to have to share the baby again, I want to hog him here. I don’t want him to be a medical patient covered in numbers, I want him to be a brother covered in smooches. I do not want my body to walk through the ghosts and feel like I felt then. I resist being away from Nora for just one night. We actually talked about creative ways to bring Nora along, but…

Previously uncompleted thoughts:

  1. The metal smell I mentioned a while back is from Breen’s iron drops. They smell very strongly of the ships’ smith shop in Mystic Seaport, CT.
  2. I’m not a player of modern video games, but years back I put in my hours on Tetris and Mario Brothers 3… When Breen’s 02’s used to dip during naps at the NICU, I’d try to adjust my position smartly so to stop the beeping as quickly as possible. Now, we focus on keeping his cannula in place, and connecting his pulse ox just so. If the machine says “not conn” it’s like the fail sound on a video game.

There’s something strangely game-like too now, helping him take his bottle. His coordination improves, you feel a huge sense of victory when he does well. You try to get your numbers up. It’s a competition against the G-Tube. The better Breen drinks, the less we have to pump directly into his tum tum. Go Breener!!

3. There was creative discussion a while back about newborn babies needing a womb-like environment for their first three months of life. Rocking, swaddling, shushing. Containment. Big snuggles. This author called it the fourth trimester.

So I thought in some ways, our wee Breenlet is entering his fifth trimester. But, he was born before the traditional third trimester began. And as Jon said, the NICUs really were a surrogate womb for nine months. So only now we prepare for life outside that womb! I curl my body around him. I hold him to my heart. I tuck my chin onto his fluffy hair.

It’s 12:30. He’s waking up now, smiling and “ahhh-ing”. I gotta go snug that bug! Will have to leave you guys to complete my other thoughts about our triumphant return to Primary.




Parents of Breen and Nora.

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Jon and erin! Armstrong

Jon and erin! Armstrong

Parents of Breen and Nora.

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