One year ago today I gave birth to the most beautiful, perfect little boy, Robert James Smith.
After Robby was born I struggled with all of the “what ifs”, but the time when the "what ifs" were the worst was when we were in the NICU with Ellie.
When I was pregnant with Ellie I knew that I could not and would not go to the same hospital that I had Robby at. I researched the local hospitals and found that Wesley Medical Center by far had the best NICU. The way Wesley's NICU is set up, everything is very open so you hear and see most everything going on. Nearly every single day of Ellie’s NICU stay we heard at least one story about a 23 weeker ( most of the time boys) who they (the doctors and staff at Wesley) were able to save. The people who told us these stories most of the time had no idea that just 8 months prior I had given birth to a 23 weeker who did not make it. I know they thought that they were giving us stories of hope since Ellie was a 26 weeker. One doctor told me that 16 years ago in the exact same spot that Ellie was in (Team 1, Bed 8) , a 23 week boy’s isolette had been and now he is a happy, healthy young man who had very recently been back to visit the doctors in the NICU.
Stories like those were hard for me to swallow, and inevitably these stories pulled me back into “what if land", but the day that I almost broke was the day that a 23 week girl was admitted to our team- right across the way from Ellie. What made it even worse was that when I went to wash my hands one day and I glanced over at her name tag, I saw that this little girl weighed exactly what Robby weighed- 1 pound, 4 ounces. I spent the next several days by Ellie’s isolette crying, and feeling guilty.
I felt guilty because I couldn't stop the “what ifs” from going through my head:
What if I had researched the local hospitals when I was pregnant with Robby?
What if we had been at Wesley when he was born?
If we had gone to Wesley instead of St. Teresa's they might have been able to save him!
Then I felt guilty for thinking these things because if Robby were here, we wouldn’t have Ellie.
Then one day a very kind, but very blunt respiratory therapist, Deb, leveled with me. She told me that on average the 23 weekers don’t do well and some of the ones that we were hearing about that did do well possibly had their dates off and/or weren't true 23 weekers. If they were true 23 weekers, the stories that I kept hearing were probably about babies that were 23 weeks, 6 days, where as Robby was born the day I hit 23 weeks. Each day at that gestation makes a world of difference- the difference between life and death.
She kept reassuring me that the 23 weekers that she sees in the NICU are older 23 weekers or their dates were off, so the baby is more developed than an average 23 weeker would be. She went into all of the problems that the 23 weekers can have. She even went so far as to tell me that with a 23 week boy a lot of the time you sit by the bedside and watch your baby die- a little at a time. After we told her our story she told us that she truly believes that the hospital we were at did the right thing by not saving him.
I believe that God placed us in that NICU with Deb for a reason. If it weren’t for Deb, I would most likely still be spending my days in “what if” land,” because of all of the stories I heard while we were in the NICU. She pulled me into reality, and assured me that the hospital did the right thing. Being in the NICU forced me into dealing with all of the “what if” questions that I had.
I still have some momentary lapses back into “what if land,” but one year later, a NICU stay later, a very blunt respiratory therapist later, a miracle little girl we call Ellie later, and I finally feel as if I am coming to terms with Robby’s death.
There will always be a place in my heart for Robby, however I don’t want to be one of those people who spend their whole life dwelling on what could have been. There is a fine line between remembering and dwelling. Today I want to remember Robby, but not dwell on the fact that he isn’t here. I don’t want to be stuck in the past. I need to keep moving forward with his memory in my heart. I miss him so much, and I wish that he could be here, but that is not my reality. If I spend all of my time and energy wondering “what if” and dwelling, then I would miss out on what is right here- our little miracle baby, Ellie. Ellie is getting so many extra kisses, hugs, rocks, and cuddles because we were only able to cuddle Robby for 2 short hours before he was gone.
Here is a sweet message that I got from Brittany as she remembers Robby today.
"Hey Amanda- I hope that you are doing ok. 1 year ago today we were all hoping that Robby wouldn't be born this early but he was! We miss him sooooooooo much! But I am also happy that Ellie is here and is as healthy as she is and getting bigger and bigger each day! Robby knows how much we love him even though we (Brooke, Brittany, Courtney, and Abby) didn't actually get to meet him! He would be so happy to meet his stylin sister Ellie if he was here! Miss u guys! Love~aunt Bri Bri"
Today I don’t want to spend my day mourning Robby, but instead celebrating him, because his memory deserves to be celebrated. Today I want to remember the good times we had when I was pregnant with him and planning our life with him- the times that made us smile. Today and every February 24 we will celebrate Robby Day and we will be happy for our little boy who is watching over us and his little sister from heaven.
In honor of Robby Day I want to share some of my favorite pictures and memories of the time I was pregnant with him.
One of my favorite quotes from Brittany:
" You mean you were TRYING and you didn't even tell us?!?!"
They were all so excited!
"The love of a parent is not contingent upon the amount of time we had with our child. Love simply cannot be measured in time."