I remember this day last year as if it were yesterday. Of course, how do you forget the happiest and most terrifying day of your life? As I mentioned in my last post, June 27 is my and Joe's wedding anniversary and my mom's (aka Crackers') birthday. On that date last year, I was of course in the hospital with my broken water. The day was full of visitors. My mom came in the morning - I gave her her birthday gifts and we watched a few episodes of True Blood on the hospital TV/DVD player that a kind nurse had swiped for me. Our friends Christina and Doug came and visited in the afternoon, and our friend Cox swung by with an anniversary dessert he had made for us. That evening, Joe's parents brought us dinner from our favorite Italian restaurant and we enjoyed it with them. It was around that time that I started to notice that something wasn't right. I was having weird cramps that weren't going away. By the time Joe's parents left the pain was pretty intense, so I called a nurse, who hooked me up to the contraction monitor. Nothing was showing up on the monitor, but the pain had me in tears so the nurse called in a doctor. The doctor adjusted my position in the bed and - boom - contractions were showing up all over the monitor. She quickly did an exam and pronounced, "You're 10 centimeters dilated. We're delivering now."
Suddenly our world was turned upside down. The room was full of nurses prepping me and making Joe sign paperwork. He was trying to sign, comfort me and call our parents at the same time. I was crying hysterically and shaking so badly that they couldn't get the IV in my arm. Next thing I knew the nurses were running my stretcher down the hall to the OR, screaming "Move, move, move!" at anyone in the way. Joe was racing along behind us, and I kept craning my neck to look back at him to make sure he was still there. He was so comforting, ensuring me the whole time that everything would be just fine, even though I knew he wasn't so sure.
Once in the OR, the babies were out in a matter of minutes. First Charlie. Then Annaleigh, making her tiny cry. Lily wasn't ready to come out, and was hanging on in there. It took a little muscle for the doctor to get her out, but she made her debut just 2 minutes behind her brother and sister. It wasn't like any delivery I'd seen on TV. There were no joyful cheers of "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" They didn't even show me the babies before they handed them to the waiting team of NICU doctors and nurses. Joe was able to peek at the babies and tell me that they were perfect, but I couldn't see for myself. As they stitched me up, I stared at the only thing I could see - the team of nurses working on Lily. I could see only that they were using a bag to make her breathe, and they worked on her for a LONG time. I was really starting to get scared when they finally announced that Lily was ready to move to the NICU, where she would begin her 99-day stay. Charlie was already there, beginning his 95-day stint.
I remember the first time I saw them - still on my stretcher an hour or so after delivery. The awesome nurses let me touch each baby, and one nurse even let me put Lily's tiny bottom in my hand. Truly amazing.
Of course, you all are familiar with the rest. The ups and downs. The highs and lows. The loss of our beautiful Annaleigh. And now here we are. One year later. I don't even know how to describe how Joe and I feel today. Bittersweet, maybe? We are overjoyed to be celebrating Charlie and Lily's first birthday today. We are beyond sad that their sister is not here to celebrate with them. Someone is missing today. A very important player from one year ago is gone, and there are really no words to describe the emotions associated with it.
But still, we are happy. Our babies are downright incredible. They are strong. They are smart. They are adorable, if we do say so ourselves ;) And they are so freaking happy. They bring us so much joy every single day. Thinking back on their rough and scary start, it blows our minds to watch them be "normal" babies - to progress, and grow and thrive.
Last night after dinner Joe and I sat on the couch and watched Charlie and Lily playing. They were looking at each other and laughing hysterically at some secret joke, and we knew that this is what it had all been for. The long and stressful infertility treatments. The incredibly hard and traumatic pregnancy. The scary premature delivery. The NICU roller coaster. Saying goodbye to our Annaleigh. We made it through the worst moments of our lives, the moments when we thought we couldn't go on, so that we could be here, today, celebrating our miracles.
Happy first birthday, Charlie and Lily. Words will never properly describe how much we love you, how much you mean to us, and how happy you have made us. Thank you for being you.
Our dear, sweet Annaleigh - we miss you so, so much. Our only wish is to have you here with us, today and always. We love you.
Happy birthday, babies.
Charlie at birth - 1 lb, 13 oz.
Lily at birth - 1 lb, 8 oz. Lily today!
The birthday babies.
Remembering Annaleigh, today and always.