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  • Ali Bair

Benjamin's Birth Story

It was difficult at first, I’ll admit. Never did I imagine in December that I would be giving birth to our March baby. I was in no way mentally prepared for what we were about to endure. At 5AM on December 24th, I woke up Christopher and announced that we were going to the hospital. Something wasn’t right, and I just knew it. We arrived, and I was already dilated more than I should have been. Staff made the call to Providence to have me transferred as soon as possible, but I wasn’t high enough priority. Only a few hours later, I was significantly more dilated and considered high enough priority to transfer. I was only 28 weeks gestation, and there was no NICU on base, so I took my first ever ambulance ride from base to Providence. The paramedics apologized and warned me that the transfer to the ambulance would be cold…but I was looking forward to that. I had been put on a magnesium drip which made my body feel like it was on fire. Instead of worrying about what was about to take place, I was reveling in the cold air, embracing momentary relief with Alaska’s December.

Part of me wishes I could go back in time and shake myself. Nothing was registering properly, and I think my coping mechanism was to shut down. I didn’t realize how dire our situation was or how long a road our baby would have with oxygen and feeding needs. I felt very detached from everything that was happening and couldn’t even bring myself to be scared. I don’t like admitting it, but that’s just how it was for me. I think, too, that because I’d already had three pregnancy losses (one being a traumatic ectopic experience), I was just mentally not prepared to handle another loss. I couldn’t bear the thought of it, so instead, I just….wasn’t as afraid as I feel like I should have been. I would have asked so many more questions.

I arrived at Providence, and they put me on more magnesium and also another medicine that made my heart beat fast. We had friends visiting us throughout the day, and I remember the moment the medicine kicked in with friends who had just arrived. My body just felt like it wasn’t my own. The magnesium still had me feeling hot all over while the other medicine made me feel as though I was on the last mile of a marathon. I tried a sip of water, but my hands were shaking, so I just set the glass back down. I remember just being smiley. Was I trying to convince them that I was okay? Or myself? I don’t know. Deep down, I wasn’t, and that’s okay. I just wish I knew that then.

After I was stabilized, we moved rooms to try and hold off my labor as long as possible. We were both exhausted and therefore excited for a more comfortable room to sleep in. A nurse there said something to me that I’ll never forget; “It’s okay to cry, you know. I would be if I were you.” She said it to me when it was just me in the room, and after she left, I couldn’t get her words out of my head. “It’s okay to cry.” She somehow knew that I was doing my best to wear a brave face. It was the first time I just let it all out. I was scared. Terrified. I just didn’t know how to show it to those around me.

That same evening, I went into active labor and managed contractions without medicine. I hadn’t even decided a birth plan by the time I was going into labor, so when they asked me if I wanted anything, I just said “no thanks”. I already didn’t feel like myself with the other medications.

Contractions weren’t as terrible as I thought they’d be. It was just Christopher and I in the room with nurses checking on me every now and again. The doctor would come in and ask me if I would try pushing, but I kind of just knew that I’d know when I was ready, so to their dismay, I kept declining. I chuckle thinking back to it for some reason. Christopher played one of my favorite playlists (an instrumental worship playlist), and I breathed deeply through contractions.

When it was time, I just knew. Benjamin was born fifteen to twenty minutes later, and I’ll never forget it. The worst pain I’d ever felt was welcomed with the most euphoric relief I’d ever felt, and it was beautiful. They placed a baby on my chest, and I talked to him.”Benjamin!” I exclaimed. I told him that we did it. That the hard part was over (little did I know what NICU life was like yet). He let out a cry, and I did, too. Our son was born, breathing, and perfect.

I admittedly struggled to feel attached right away. I dreamed that this immeasurable love would be felt right away, but I think that trauma of it all played a factor in the fact that I did not feel as though I had just given birth or that I was a mom. They whisked him away after about sixty seconds to be placed on oxygen. While I was being stitched up, Chris got to go be with Benjamin while I was being monitored.

Two hours later, they asked me if I wanted to go see him. I remember just feeling tired. I remember not feeling like I had a baby. This makes me emotional to this day, but that’s just how it was for me. I was carted to his bedside, and I remember being in complete shock. There was a tiny three-pound baby sleeping in an incubator with a blue and white hat beneath his oxygen mask. Tubes and wires were connected to him all over, and I wasn’t there for any of it. This was my baby?

“Hi Benjamin,” I said. It all felt foreign. Even his name on my lips had felt foreign. Whose baby was this?

The next day when I got to hold him, it was only for a short time. I remember just wanting to put him back in the incubator and feeling horrible for that. Again, this makes me emotional to write, but there was just so much that I was trying to mentally untangle. It wasn’t until the following day when we did skin to skin when everything hit. With him on my chest, and my medication all worn off and some sleep, it all hit me. Benjamin. My baby. Our son. I loved him more than I could fathom, and the love only grew throughout our two-month NICU stay.

The NICU was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. Watching Benjamin be poked and bothered constantly was more difficult than I can put into words. What mother can’t pick up her crying baby? I cried so many tears in that hospital, longing for the day when I could comfort our baby the way a mother does.

I’m skipping so much, but it really could be a whole novel. I think it’s deserving of a whole post, so I’m just not going to get into it here because the NICU feels like an entire life lived in those two months. I don’t wish a NICU stay on any parent. There were beautiful moments despite its hardship though, and I’ll forever hold those close.

The day finally arrived when we could come home. Home day. A day we'll celebrate always. February 23, 2023.

I love it. I've heard that everything changes, and that it’s hard. I've heard that exhaustion will be constant, but that it’s worth it. I've heard that there are lots of sacrifices, but that the love you have for your baby makes it all okay.

It’s just different than I thought it’d be in the best kind of way. I don’t feel exhausted. I don’t feel like it’s hard, and I don’t feel like I’m even sacrificing much. Being a mom to Benjamin feels like the greatest gift in this world, and I seem to love it more and more every day. I know I'll go through hard times, but right now, I'm living in a happy dream. I have never been filled with so much joy getting to wake up to him every day, and it feels easier than I imagined. I don’t know if it’s because of the hardship, the losses, or what…but being a mom is just so so so much better than I ever could have dreamed.

I had no idea that a love like this even existed.

I’m counting my blessings every day.

PS: There's a whole story about this window in my room in the photo above that I'll write about someday, too.

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