As a first-time parent, I had plenty of nervousness mixed in with the excitement of having my first son.
I worried that I wouldn't know what to do when he cried or that he might receive all my less-than-desirable genetic traits, such as bad eyesight or nasal allergies.
But then Noah arrived six weeks earlier than planned, and my husband and I were confronted with fears we had never imagined.
When Noah first entered the world, he could not breath on his own. However, his tiny lungs soon adapted, and he quickly rid himself of both the incubator and then the oxygen tube.
But as soon as my husband and I began to hope our son's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit would be brief, the doctor came to us with a serious concern about Noah's kidneys, which had not yet shown signs of functioning. It looked like Noah might have to be air lifted to the Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock for emergency treatment. Thankfully, he had his first wet diaper before that happened. I never imagined I'd be so happy that my son had peed!
We were told Noah still had several obstacles to overcome before we could go home, including putting on weight by either learning to breastfeed or feed from a bottle. His weight, which had been a comforting 5 lbs. 11 oz. at his birth, had dropped down to 4 lbs. and 7 oz.
The two and 1/2 weeks we spent waiting to take our baby home were some of the longest weeks of my life. We were lucky enough to have a complimentary room in the hospital so that we could stay close to Noah and be at as many of his feedings as my tired body would allow. The time spent in the hospital served to compound many of the worries I had as a first-time mother. I feared that my son and I would have trouble bonding since our time together was so limited. Breastfeeding was also a challenge because I had to wait until Noah had learned to "suck, swallow and breathe." As the days passed, the minutes I got to spend with my child seemed to grow shorter and the hallways between the NICU and the hospital room seemed to grow smaller.
Despite the difficulties and uncertainties, the first few weeks of parenthood were still filled with many wonderful memories. The first time I saw my son may have been delayed, but it was still the most amazing moment of my life. The tubes and lines that ran from his tiny body did not diminish his preciousness in any way. His first smile was no less sweeter through the glass of his protective box.
We were blessed to have the prayers of many family, friends and co-workers, and our faith in God was strengthened every day. Also, the nurses in the NICU provided valuable advice and helped to build my confidence as a mother.
While the first tumultuous days of my son's life did not happen as I had envisioned, they were still amazing and beautiful and wonderful. And they made me even more grateful for the day we finally strapped Noah into his car seat and took him home.