As Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, I am reminded what motherhood has encompassed for me.
Initially, when I offered to write this blog, it was several weeks ago and I was musing about being a young mother, and the excitement that, later in my maternal life and my husband’s paternal life, we found ourselves having a baby – after several years together and two tragic miscarriages. I was thinking about being a daughter and what motherhood had represented to me growing up. Before April 19, 2016, I was reflecting on being both a mom and step-mom to four kiddos, ranging from 12-19 years old. To be cliché and say “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love” would be semi-true. There have been times it has been REALLY, REALLY hard and I don’t LOVE it. Like yesterday in fact. I didn’t love it yesterday. There are many days where I just don’t know if I am measuring up or that the world is truly too complex and scary to rally the way I want as a protector, provider – the momma bear in me.
Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. You will be knocked down several times and you will question everything you do three times over. You will scream, cry, laugh a lot and then cry some more. Raising people takes guts and persistence and you have to check your ego at the door as you will be schooled by these kids. It is a journey like no other and getting back to the clichés – yes, I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I am grateful to no end for the opportunity.
I am also a working mom. I love that role, too (and yes, there are days there, too, where I don’t love it). That excitement also poured over into my work life as I had spent the last few years working on the new Mother-Baby Unit with colleagues throughout the medical center and a volunteer community committee helping to raise $3 million to make the project everything our patients and staff need, want and deserve. Both my prior kids had been born in the former labor and delivery and mom-baby units, so I was looking forward to experiencing the full scope from labor and delivery to post maternity care.
Fast forward to April 19, a handful of weeks before my due date. Our baby decided to come early and come quite quickly – I am pretty sure we scared a few people off the elevator late that Monday night. My husband was thrilled that he got to run a few red lights and rush through the emergency department doors. Ezra joined our family a short hour later with both our daughters and our foreign exchange student, Sergio, present for the birth (Did I mention we also have a foreign exchange student from Madrid?).
Besides a few issues from the fast journey, Ezra seemed good and we proceeded for our stay in the Mother-Baby Unit. But, by 5 a.m. the next morning, I was woken up by the staff saying Ezra had to be taken to the NICU while he was getting his newborn screening because he had stopped breathing. That clouded, sleepy moment changed our journey for the next ten days as we became unexpected NICU parents. The next several hours and days were some of the scariest of our lives. Ezra continued to have apnea events frequently and couldn’t self-stimulate himself to breathe again. We had every evaluation you can imagine and while there was the unknown, the sense of helplessness consumed us.
I saw a part of our medical center I hadn’t truly understood or seen before – it’s the inside as a parent in a dire situation. It was seeing the life within those walls all hours of the day while the world sleeps. It was seeing family after family coming in from all over Vermont and Northern New York to see their infant children who may have been there days or months – seeing a mom in shellshock as she is wheeled in after delivering 27 week-old twins. I had to put my trust and my vulnerability, as a mom, into the hands of strangers that I have most certainly walked by in the halls at some point in my seven year tenure at UVM Medical Center.
And, I had to put it in some known faces, too, which meant we were both seeing a different side of each other – with me, it was hospital gowns, breast pumps and exhaustion and a mom just praying her child was going to be okay. Before now, my job had been to tell other people’s stories to businesses, community members and foundations that were considering supporting a project, or research, or some other aspect of academic health sciences within the medical center. I spent hours touring the NICU, from the outside, with people sharing the importance of their gift and investment. Now, I have lived it.
My son called a high-tech isolette his home for the first several days of life and I know the donor who had given a gift to make the purchase of this equipment possible. I could not be more grateful; not only for that donor, but for the staff of this organization who saw me at my absolute worst and they held my hand through this journey – providing incredible care and compassion with resolute competency. From the LNA that provided me a warm blanket when I was chilled; to the food service worker that made sure I ate to keep up my stamina for the long days and nights; to the specialists that came day in and day out to evaluate and check in on Ezra and his progress to the environmental service staff who come and do their work all hours of the day in the most critical of spaces and do so in such kind; unassuming way to the incredible residents, fellows, and doctors who round every morning and make sure that we were part of the care plan and kept up to date every step of the way; and to the amazing nurses, lactation consultants and so many others that held steadfast vigilance over my child and over my family during this difficult time. I am in awe of the coordination of care, like the assembled pieces of a giant puzzle, to provide the level of care Ezra received. I had to let go and let others be a part of my mommy team these past few weeks – it was such a learning experience for me and one I will cherish despite the circumstances we encountered in the first hours of our baby’s life.
This is a long way from my first thoughts about this blog. All of the facets of motherhood as a mom, a daughter, a step-mom and a professional in health care came viscerally integrated through this remarkable event. We are happy to be home today and Ezra is doing well – I am grateful to celebrate this Mother’s Day with our five children (and Sergio!) in our home and with a positive outlook forward. Despite the trials and tribulations of parenting, of which there are many, this Mother’s Day is extra special because of the profound care and awareness we have been given by the incredible staff of the Labor & Delivery, Mother-Baby Unit and especially the NICU and NICU transition suite that we became intimately connected with. This mom can’t thank you enough for giving what you do of yourselves to the patient and families we serve. You’ve given me the best Mother’s Day gift one can; the ability to take my child home to meet his siblings. Happy Mother’s Day.
Susie Posner-Jones is Director of Development for Population Health Initiatives at the University of Vermont Medical Center.