Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mom to Thomas Nathan Jr.
May 10th, 2010- May 15th, 2010
Chicago, IL

Monday May 10th, 2010. Thomas Nathan Guillen Jr was born at 24 weeks and 5 days. I went into preterm labor and delivered Baby Tommy via C-Section. It was so scary and so shocking that if you saw a movie about the day you would think it was incredibly unrealistic. But Tom Sr was there by my side the whole time, assuring me that soon we would have our beautiful son and we’d make it. Baby Tommy weighed 1 pound 14 ounces and was 13 inches long. A big boy for less than 25 weeks! Tom Sr sneaked out to get a peek at him and came back to report: “He’s very cute, he looks like me”.

When the surgery was over and they brought me to recovery we were elated. My baby was born alive! Tom and I cried with joy and relief. Both our families were there- shaken up but proud grandparents, aunts and uncles. After a couple hours we were taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Thomas Nathan Junior was perfect. He had big hands and feet, and Tom’s exact ears. He could tell we were there despite the heavy sedative, tubes and wires. We fell so deeply in love with our son it felt like we each grew an extra heart.

The next couple of days were a routine of pain medication, prayers, visits to the NICU and bouts of despair. It was hard for me to care about my own recovery. Friends and family texted and emailed their support. Everyone was rooting for little Tommy. But then the bad news started rolling in. Our sweet baby was just too young. He was a fighter, but he couldn’t fight hard enough. His lungs were diseased and his brain started to bleed.

By Thursday we knew that Tommy’s chances were not good. Head ultrasounds revealed the worst case scenario. Tom Sr. and I tried to intellectualize what was happening. But as we started to tell our family that little Tommy wasn’t going to make it, we realized our new hearts couldn’t understand.

Tom Sr and I cherished every moment we were with Tommy. We were so proud of our son- he was a perfect, beautiful fighter. He made us ecstatic with joy when we were with him. Every time we went up to the NICU to be with Tommy Jr we couldn’t stop smiling We were relaxed and laughing and tripping over each other to tell him stories about each other and our family and what it was like to be pregnant with him. We told him we couldn’t get over what an impatient little baby he was- again taking after his Daddy who was early everywhere he went.

We thanked Tommy Jr for waiting- his Unkie Kev and Auntie Crissy were on their way home from New York City, and they really wanted to meet him. He had met the rest of his family and loved being held in his little incubator house. His family’s caresses made him so calm - a brief respite from the constant medical invasion. We spent Friday introducing him to our loved ones- we were proud of our friends and family. Everyone was able to access the same joy of being near and touching such a special little baby.

Friday night we got a special call from his nurses: they made arrangements so that Tom Sr and I could both hold Baby Tommy. They could take him out of his incubator and lay him right on our bare chests. Watching the team of four nurses transfer all his equipment and wires to more portable versions was stressful. Every pulled cord broke our hearts a little but Baby Tommy remained stable.

When they laid my son on my chest I felt an explosion of love and happiness. It was one of the best moments of my life. I could stroke his back and kiss his little head. He squirmed up higher on me, like he wanted to snuggle as hard as he could. We lay there for an hour, then put him on Tom Sr’s chest. Seeing Tom Sr with his perfect son against his chest was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Tom took deep breaths of his son’s sweet smell, and laughed when Tommy Jr kicked his little feet against his chest. We were both infected by the calm and joy of holding our son.

Saturday morning Kevin and Crissy arrived. They were so happy to meet their nephew and we told Tommy Jr that Kevin was going to teach him how to be efficiently naughty throughout his life. They both cradled him in his incubator and fell in love. We were so grateful to sweet Tommy for waiting to meet his whole family. It wasn’t easy for him and it made us more able to understand if he had to go.

Little Tommy Jr came early to say hello and give us the best week of our lives. His sweet spirit touched everyone who knew him, and his fight inspired us all. But in the end we knew he couldn’t stay. He had to leave us, maybe to be reborn as another person’s baby to spread his infectious joy. Then grow up and be a baseball player or a rockstar.

Saturday May 15th, 2010 the complication of his brain bleed became insurmountable. My oldest brother (another Tom!) helped us wade through the medical jargon and understand what was really happening.  The doctors told us we didn’t have much time with Tommy. So at 5:30 we gathered in the NICU family room and Tom and I held Tommy on our chests again. I called over each family member and introduced them again to Tommy, and told him how special they were. Then everyone kissed him and said goodbye. We asked our family to leave and wait for us in our apartment. We wanted to say goodbye alone, as a new little family.

When the doctors and nurses finally removed all the IV’s and tubes and cords, Tommy looked relieved. We got to hold him in our arms just like a healthy little baby. We got to kiss his face and toes and hands. He was finally free, he was finally a little boy. He stayed with us for almost two hours, we finally even got to hear him coo. Tom and I never cried. We were so happy for our son. We wanted him to be free of pain and just be with his family. It was a wonderful day- May 10th he was born, May 15th he was reborn. 

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