She was born during a snow storm in the middle of December in upstate New York, where the winters are long and grey.
Returning home with her from a week-long NICU stay was the start of one of the most trying times in my life.
I was relieved to have her home.
Relieved that she was healthy and safe.
Relieved to be able to hold her and feed her without the constraint of wires and IVs.
I was relieved; but I was scared.
And that fear—it clung tight for quite some time.
Colicky doesn’t begin to describe her. When she wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was screaming. And in either of those three scenarios, I worried.
When she was sleeping, I worried about her breathing.
When she was eating, I worried if she was getting enough.
When she was screaming, I worried about what on earth was wrong.
She screamed through diaper changes, through being dressed, through getting put in her carseat, and through every single bath.
When I think back on those days, the memories are fragmented and replay in my mind like a glitchy black and white film. It’s hard to recall my emotions because the chaos and blur of it all left little time for feelings of any kind.
I was too exhausted to be happy, and too buried to be sad.
Depression may have been upon me, but it never quite grabbed hold. I was constantly aware of its presence looming over me though, hiding among the colorless skies, and I was ready and willing to battle it if I needed to.
I felt suspended in the middle of an emotional yardstick—not quite despondent, but far from elated like I thought I should be. I was somewhat detached, just going through the motions; just trying to get by and keep this tiny new life alive.
Thankfully, I continued to grasp at small glimmers of joy amidst the fog. I looked for them wherever I could.
I found them on Christmas—oh thank God for Christmas—a week after we came home. My favorite Holiday, surrounded by the support and love of our family and the healing magic of pine scented candles, wood burning fires and twinkling lights that always make me feel warm inside.
I found them in the moments of bliss, holding her asleep on my chest, reassured by the rise and fall of her stomach, knowing that in that moment she felt safe with me and I was doing something right.
I’d look forward to sipping coffee early in the morning after an occasional 2 straight hours of sleep, nursing her and staring out at the softly falling snow.
I’d force myself to pack her up and get out every once in a while, for coffee with a friend or a colleague or dinner with my Dad, and she’d sometimes stay asleep in her car seat just long enough for me to shovel in a tasty treat and have an adult conversation. The company of those I loved always brought me back to some sense of normalcy.
Each time I thought I was reaching the end of my rope and it felt like things may turn black, somewhere, somehow, a tiny spark (of happiness, of love, of gratitude, of friendship) would re-ignite the dwindling fire inside me, making it a little bit easier to keep pushing through until the next spark appeared.
Even though complete darkness never set it, the threatening shadow overhead kept things pretty bleak. But each little fire that was lit in that bleakness slowly pushed out the fog bit by bit, cloud by cloud, delivering a promise of brighter, easier times.
And then, one day, the sun came out again.
It came with the first time she smiled a real smile.
It came when she laughed a real laugh.
It came as she began to delight in play and discovery.
It came with getting to know her, learning her cries, knowing how to comfort her and get her to sleep.
It came with the arrival of Spring—the first walks in her stroller and the fresh air breathing life into our lungs.
It came with the realization that those grey days of just trudging through—just getting by—they don’t last forever.
I hear people preach all the time to treasure the newborn days because they pass before you know it—you’ll miss them and give anything to go back.
And this may sound awful to some, but I don’t.
I do not miss those newborn days. I treasured aspects of them for what they were—the start of my life with the best thing that’s ever happened to me—but I’m not afraid to admit that I wouldn’t go back there if I could.
If time travel allowed, I’d choose the days where I could see her joy and her happiness a thousand times over the days of her fear and discomfort in this new, scary world.
I’d choose those days that finally came when my daughter, my husband, and I could actually live life together as a family of three.
I’d choose the days when the light finally pierced through the gloom, showing us the best was yet to come.