Grief Journal: It Can Always Be Worse

My first child was a preemie. Born at 30 weeks, he weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces and was only 14 inches long. That’s pretty tiny for a 30 weeker, but I had HELLP syndrome that caused IUGR (intrauterine growth retardation). I’ve mentioned before that both he (and I) almost died; not an exaggeration or bid for attention, just a fact. He spent the first week of his life on a CPAP machine, bathed in blue light and dealing with a PDA that refused to close with the medicine they gave him because they were afraid to do the surgery.

I remember that time in the NICU well. Every March, when the March of Dimes does their fundraising, I read the stories of other preemie moms and I nod in recognition and thankfulness that my preemie is one of the lucky ones. It’s a club you never want to join, and you can only understand what it’s like if you’ve been there—the fear, the helplessness, snatching sleep and trying to pump enough milk when you don’t even know if your baby is going to be alive for the next feeding. Not knowing that if he does make it, will he face any of the permanent disabilities so many preemies deal with—blindness, brain damage, lung damage, feeding issues, and on and on. 

I thought those two weeks were the worst I would have to face in my life—recovering from near death, agonizing over whether or not my newborn little boy would live or thrive, and oh yeah, having my partner of 14 years dump me for another woman. 

But I got through, thanks to the support of family and friends. My preemie is happy and healthy and such a kind, smart kid. We were so, so lucky that he never suffered any serious side effects. I found the love of my life, and my ex found his; we’ve built a strong co-parenting relationship and are far happier than we would have been if we stayed together. 

I got through as you do—one step, one challenge, one day at a time. I thought this, surely this, was the Worst Thing That Could Ever Happen to Me. That I could handle anything because the worst thing had already occurred. What could possibly be worse?

Losing Charlie is worse. 

Never think the universe can’t throw more on top of you. Never say you only get what you can bear (seriously, NEVER say that to someone). Never tell me that bad things only happen to bad people. 

Because those are all lies. 

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