“You may one day do great things and I will be proud of you,
but no matter how old you are or what you do with
your life, you will always be my little boy.”
The day had finally come for the arrival of the newest member of the Landrum-Arnold family. Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold was born May 3, 2015 at 8:06 pm. He was born exactly six weeks early measuring in at a whopping 5.6 lbs and 17.5 inches long. The long days and nights of sweating the health of our only living baby in utero was finally worth the wait.
The scene was like you would expect any other delivery process with doctors and nurses fluttering around but knowing exactly their individual jobs. However, mine and Mel’s situations in life usually consist of a ‘hang-up’ and occasionally attached with it is humor. Mel was induced slowly with Magnesium and Pitocin over a 27 hour period before finally dilating 7 cm in less than an hour. And yes, before you even wonder, she did have an epidural because neither she nor I would have survived without one. While we were headed to the delivery room knowing that we would see our new baby boy soon, all I could think was, “Oh my God, I have no one to go into the delivery room in my place like we had planned!” I get all dressed up in scrubs and head off reluctantly to face the next few moments. As we make our way into the delivery room, the nurses tell me where to stand and start making adjustments to the bed. Apparently, this was a very bad idea to the bed itself. It soon malfunctioned and Mel was eventually sitting in a 90 degree angle and I was forced to stand on my tiptoes to hold her hand because the bed started going up and wouldn’t stop. We laugh about this now minor issue that occurred. But, at the time, all I could think was, “I’m not going to be able to be with her during the delivery because she’s going to deliver on the ceiling!” Yes, I know that I was irrational but the fear was real and irrational.
Some people have the misconception about preemies that the issues are about weight. While this is true, the deeper and more concerning issues are gestational and developmental. Here’s an example….When a full term baby is born, they are born with the instinct to suck, swallow and breathe at the appropriate times. Preemies have to be taught to do this correctly because they are born before this instinct kicks in. Even when being taught these skills, premature babies must drink a higher calorie formula and be fed at certain times to ensure proper weight gain. All diapers both brown and yellow must be weighed and a chart is kept to track the weight gains and losses, as well as, how much is consumed at every feeding. Even with all of this in place, preemies are also often tube fed either through their mouth or their nose. Preemies also have issues with maintaining proper body temperature and breathing properly which can lead to apnea and bradycardia episodes making it too dangerous to go home without being monitored constantly. There is a lot more involved than what I’ve briefly stated. Make no mistake that it’s one of the most grueling and stressful processes that any first time or seasoned parents can go through both emotionally and physically. This was our second go around with a preemie and just as stressful. The smartest and most important thing Mel and I did for our family and ourselves was to say, “No family visiting until after we get home from the hospital with Copeland.” We couldn’t handle one more drop of stress be it good or bad and we knew that going in to the situation.
The next hurdle would be one that we were familiar with but still scared us to our core. When Copeland was born, he was whisked away very quickly and immediately put on a CPAP machine and other tubes, wires and additional machines like a lot of preemie babies. We would not get to see or touch our baby for another 48 hours. That’s one of the many things that families with term babies with no complications seem to take for granted at times. I can’t explain, in words, how excruciating that was to see and feel our brand new baby being taken away before we could hold, touch or kiss him. Even that moment couldn’t compare to leaving the hospital and going home without our baby.
There was a time that I remembered sitting in my vehicle, as I normally do, listening to music and vaping some good medicine while trying to regain balance. There was that one day, though, and there have been many since where I put my head down in my hands and just cried alone out of sheer exhaustion. I have cried out of fear for our son’s uncertain future; the loss of our other child that was supposed to be born but wasn’t; and just the simple fact that the long wait for Copeland to arrive was finally here. For me, this grieving process was and still is much needed.
For the next month, our days would consist of Mel spending entire days at the hospital in the NICU with Copeland feeding, bathing and rocking him. I would be running errands, taking care of daily house chores and making sure Marshall was taken care of. We would also get reacquainted to what I like to call ‘preemie math.’ We would soon be measuring everything in grams and ounces. Finally math that I could understand! I need to point out that I would also go to the hospital and spend time in the NICU with Mel and Copeland but our time would have to be limited because all the stimulation of the hospital and stressful nature of the situation could and eventually would overload my internal system. There were days when I would go early in the morning with Mel to the hospital after dropping Marshall off at daycare. I would stay a couple of hours and then have to go home. The stress alone could take me the rest of the day to recover both mentally and physically.
One of my greatest fears of having another child was not knowing where the same amount of love would come from that we already have for Marshall. When Copeland was born it was like a secret hidden door within my heart, that I never knew was there, opened up and another “honey hole” of love was discovered that was put away for safe keeping for this special little preemie boy. Unlike, with Marshall, I seemed to instantly connect and become increasingly protective and bonded to Copeland. The fear, guilt and shame hit me like a fierce wall of water. Had I cheated Marshall? Was I showing favoritism? All I could possibly think at this time was, “Omg, what do I do and what have I done?” Once again, my disorder has cheated me and my family out of moments that should be cherished. I struggled with these fears and doubts until I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I went to Mel with my tears and broken heart and she reminds me that mentally I’m in a completely different place then I was with Marshall. She puts the situation in perspective in a way that I can internalize by telling me that Marshall paved the way through early motherhood and early DID to prepare my heart and system for Copeland. Even now this is still a difficult concept to accept.
For a split second, the idea occurs that I should just pick up the phone and call Sarah. Just as I’m about to dial her number, the harsh reality hits me again like a gunshot to my heart, that she’s dead. I start to panic inside while trying to keep it hidden but my tears have other ideas. Oh, how my heart selfishly longs and hurts to hear her comforting words again. How I wanted to desperately to send her pictures of our brand new baby boy. My head and heart begin spinning out of control with no one to fill that hurt and need to be comforted in only a way that she could. I don’t have time for this now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As I have done most of my life, I put my hurt and grieving on the back burner to handle the job before me. No matter how hard I try, the feelings soon turn to anger. The more I tried to suppress the feelings, the more the anger was building. As I tried sorting out all of the feelings and where they were coming from, the love for Copeland continued to grow.
Marshall wanted to fully embrace his job as a big brother; however, the hospital had a lockdown on anyone under the age of 15, including siblings until June 1st because of some type of respiratory virus that was concerning the CDC. This meant that the only way Marshall could even see Copeland was made available through modern technology. Thank you God for Facetime on Iphones! Marshall was itching to get to see and hold his baby brother. As my dear ‘farm raised’ wife would say, “Marshall could worry the horns off a billy goat.” And that is exactly what he did for an entire month until he and Copeland finally met. He just couldn’t and wasn’t expected to fully comprehend the situation at hand. In his mind, he has a baby brother so why can’t I see him? This situation alone was heart wrenching.
The day Copeland finally was able to come home, we all were able to breathe a sigh of relief even his big brother, Marshall. For on this day, we were able to see colors a little more clearly and the sun shone a little bit brighter.