My nephew, Liam, is in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU). He was born prematurely at 31 weeks on May 19th and has been in the NICU since. It was known that Liam would have some congenital anomalies by the time my sister-in-law was at her 18th to 20th week of her pregnancy; they suspected an omphalocele and a cleft lip/palate during an ultrasound. What they didn’t expect was that he would be born so early and that he would still be in the NICU today.
The good news is that rather than having a cleft palate, he only has a cleft lip which will be corrected once he is medically stable. He also had a surgical repair of the omphalocele within five days of his birth.
The bad news is that after 2 and a half months, Liam is still having difficulty breathing on his own. They have tried to wean him off the ventilator at different times, but ultimately he has had to go back on. They just recently did some testing (bronchoscope and esophagram) which has come back inconclusive and they are currently trying to keep him off the vent as I type. The entire family has got Liam in our prayers and we pray that Liam, the little fighter that he is, stays strong.
I can’t deny that I have very mixed feelings about Liam. Not about who he is, because I do love him with all my heart and soul. Nor about his condition, which I know is very hard both physically and emotionally for all involved.
No, my mixed feelings have to do with my struggle with infertility. Because it has been over 10 years since my husband and I have been trying to start our own family, my sister-in-law’s pregnancy and Liam’s subsequent birth has brought out what I think is the worse in me.
His birth was such a contrast to his older brother, Tyler’s birth. Tyler is now 11 years old and when he was just an infant, I was just beginning my role as a new wife. Children were always on our mind, and we knew that we wanted to start our family within a year of our wedding. So I have such fond memories of Tyler as an infant, spending as much time as I could with him.
And now with Liam, it’s much more difficult to spend the same amount of time with him that I did with his brother. First of all, he is still in the NICU which makes holding and playing with him very difficulty. And second, emotionally it’s just very hard for me to connect with him or with his parents for that matter.
You would think that me being a registered nurse, I should have the capacity to take care of both Liam and his parents’ needs as well as help them navigate through such a difficult time despite my own personal struggles. And I can tell you honestly; I have always tried to put my feelings and struggles behind those that I felt needed it more than I did. Except now, I’m in desperate need of some of that compassion that I feel I have given to others for myself.
Before receiving the news of my sister-in-law’s pregnancy, I thought I had dealt rather decently with my infertility. Sure, it still stung a bit when I received word of other friends and extended family members who were pregnant, but overall I was pretty happy for them. Upon hearing this news, however, I was absolutely devastated. Here I spent the past ten years trying to get pregnant and have endured disappointment after disappointment and my sister-in-law, who just recently remarried 5 months prior to the big announcement, is pregnant with her second child.
I can’t say that jealousy had absolutely nothing to do with my major meltdown after hearing of the news, but it certainly wasn’t the primary reason for it. The word “failure” comes to mind, along with the words “inadequate” and “unworthy.” Those are the words that I thought of when I thought about myself. And they still do ring true even now two and a half months after Liam’s birth.
I have honestly wanted to spend more time with Liam and “bond” with him the way I did with his brother, to be there for him when he needs the most strength. But something just keeps me from making that next step. It’s my innate fear that I’m going to release some of this anger over my own issues onto this child … or that my stinky attitude is just going to cause more harm than good to his parents and any other family members. And quite honestly, I don’t think I have enough strength right now to put one foot in front of the other and be strong for myself, let alone for anyone else.
How bad of an Aunt am I that I feel these things about a child; a helpless baby? How horrible am I that I can’t set aside my own struggles to help out another family member in need? How undeserving am I to be a parent if I feel these things for someone else’s child?
Logically, I know I have a right to feel the things I do. I’ve learned that I haven’t dealt fully with my failed IVF attempt and that I obviously have very low self-esteem issues. What I don’t know now is how to snap out of this… to gather that strength that I’m sorely missing and make that first step towards healing myself.
To see pictures of Liam and family, click on the album below: