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It's crazy to think that 15 years ago today, we brought our first son home from the hospital. He spent three weeks in the NICU. I remember how those earliest days were the toughest. Thankfully, he gained strength, met his goals, and was healthy to come home. At the time, my husband and I were both teaching in the same school district. In our State, when both spouses have the same employer, the married couple is limited to a combined total of 12 weeks leave under FMLA. His potential paternity leave infringed upon my maternity leave. I had already used up four weeks: one week in the hospital and three weeks in the NICU. So unfair. My husband took a day off the day our son was born. He took an additional discretionary day after he came home. I truly needed him home with me. I was beyond terrified to be alone with this little being who was fluctuating between three and four pounds. We needed more time together to heal and to be parents together. It was hard, but somehow we pulled through it.
Even though we had nested for 24-hours in the NICU prior to discharge, I still didn't feel like I was qualified to be taking this little person home. I remember that one of us periodically closed our eyes on a prison cot and the other in a fold out chair. I remember my husband waking up and telling me that he was leaving for work. He had brought an overnight bag with work clothes and had showered there in the room. I know that he had to go, but I'm sure my eyes looked very desperate pleading "Don't leave me." Gently pushing those super tiny arms through the holes of a onesie with just a finger was enough to make me perspire. Again, I somehow managed. You just do and move forward. That would become my mantra several years later when we lost his littlest brother. It took awhile to feel like someone's mother. While in the NICU, I felt like a stranger, just a visitor checking in on my baby. I blame the separation and the not so warm welcome from the first NICU staff. Our son made it home. I somehow got over the nerves of daily caregiving and I happily stepped into my new role as his Mom.
Fast forward fifteen years and he is now in 10th grade. He's enrolled in Honors classes, taking French and German, and he likes Science. He enjoys reading anything Bradbury and knows everything about Transformers. I keep thinking maybe he'll learn Japanese with his brother, earn a business degree, and go work for Hasbro or Takara Tomy. I just want him to be happy with whatever he decides to do. He's such a nice kid and an awesome big brother (as his younger bro towers over him). He doesn't let his height or his dysfluencies stop him. So proud of him! Again, due to pandemic, we were limited with birthday celebrations. He had a leisurely day and was content with a cake at home.
We didn't need COVID-19 to remind us of what is important. This family has endured several medical emergencies. In fact, we just paid off the hospital bill from my husband's one-week stay from last year. We're both in the high risk category. His school went to remote learning at the beginning of the school year. Teachers were forced to teach from their classrooms. He got an accommodation to teach from home. When our home district decided to reopen schools, my husband took FMLA. When you've just paid off one hospital bill, you don't want to chance a second one. Even with positive cases surging and the death toll rising, the school district seems determined to remain open. I thought his district would consider the safety of ALL members of the school community, but I guess science goes out the window when parents and officials put the pressure on. Funding above safety. He is going to take a LOA for the Spring. If he can get the vaccines and be among that Phase I B, he might consider going back.
It's tough, but there is no way we are going to chance leaving these kids alone in the world. My husband has been home for several months and it's been wonderful! It's the most the kids have ever seen their Dad! It really is the well deserved break he's needed for a long time. We joke that it's his belated paternity leave. So, we'll continue to monitor the world, mask up, wash hands, and socially distance.
Leaving the NICU and headed home in time for Xmas.
Celebrating bday at home during pandemic.
Wow, 15! happy birthday. So glad your husband is able to teach from home during this crazy time. hugs, nicki
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