My pregnancy was everything I could’ve wished for. I was not high risk, I passed the glucose screening on the first round and I was not sick nor in any excruciating pain. But everything changed when I reached the eight-month mark. At the end of my pregnancy, I stopped gaining weight. This was the first sign.

My baby shower was planned for late October and everyone told me I was having it too early since I was due in mid-December. I kept the presents in the living room, assuming I still had enough time to go through everything, but I had this feeling every time I walked past the gifts that I had to get it done. It didn’t feel like nesting, it was something different like I knew ahead of time that something was up. This was the second sign.

The week after my baby shower, I began feeling extremely uncomfortable spikes of pain in my back. I was not having any other pain in my body, but these were consistent enough for me to time them and for two days, they were always about eight to 10 minutes apart. I contacted the nurse’s line, but they said it was normal. The pain was getting worse every day and I made sure I told my midwife when I came in that Friday. She also said it was normal. Although my concerns were disregarded, this was the third sign.

I continued to go to work as normal, still having pains, and they were gradually getting worse. Until I noticed a different discharge when I went to pick my boyfriend up for work and I went to the hospital immediately. My mucus plug had fully come out.

The doctors put me in a room for examination. I was four centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I was having this baby sooner than expected: I was only 33 weeks.

Fast forward almost 72 hours later—I gave birth to a 4lb 9oz and 18.5 in baby boy who was breathing on his own and had no complications. Because he was so little he needed to spend some time in the NICU. Nothing was going as I planned, but we were both taken care of, and that’s what mattered most.

Fast forward another 48 hours and it was time for me to leave the room because they needed it for another mother. I was dressed, I had everything packed up, and although I knew I was not bringing my baby home with me, I was not prepared to leave empty-handed.

I had to go back to the NICU and give my baby one more kiss.

It wasn’t because we wouldn’t be back. We were coming back the next day.

It was because I was leaving empty-handed. He was no longer inside of me. I couldn’t feel his movement and I just felt empty.

I walked inside the NICU and my heart dropped. He was asleep in his bed and I didn’t dare wake him. His heart rate was perfect, breathing steady and it was quiet in the NICU at that moment. I just stood and stared at him for what seemed like forever. I never thought I would have to be away from my sweet baby.

I wanted to take him home. I needed to take him home, to feed him whenever he needed fed, to change him when he needed to be changed and to hold him whenever he needed to be held. I needed to do all of these things in the comfort of our home. It all just didn’t seem fair or real. I knew I was being selfish and I knew that he was in the best place he could absolutely be and was in great hands. That wasn’t enough for me though.

This definitely wasn’t how I pictured things would be. I knew I had to be strong. I kissed my son and whispered I loved him in his ear and made my way toward the exit.

I didn’t say a word. With every step I took down the hall, boarding the elevator, and into the parking garage, my heart broke and silent, slow tears constantly fell down my cheeks. All I could think about was how bad I wanted my baby and that I was leaving him.

I will never forget that first time leaving my baby in the NICU and every time after. I will never forget waiting for the daily call each morning from the doctor to let me know if we were any closer to bringing our baby home and what kind of progress he made since the last time we were there. I will never forget it, but now I get to focus on my growing little boy and how far we’ve come in this journey. And I’m thankful for that every single day.

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