Two pink lines on a pregnancy test. Beaming with excitement and glowing with pride and love at the thought of the child I held inside me. Through the good days, the bad days, the scary days and the ever so sad days when I wondered if I would ever get to hold you on the outside.
Holding you inside of me just one more day, then another, for three whole weeks, trying to grow you just a little bit more when my body failed to protect you.
Finally... when you had been on this earth for two days, I got to hold you in my arms. A pillow to rest my arms upon, layers and layers of blankets and more wires, lines and feeding tubes than I cared to count, all carefully maneuvered so that I could cuddle with you for just a moment. Admiring the tiny scab on your nose from the CPAP machine. Holding you meant you were finally remembering to breathe on your own.
Snuggling you in the special care nursery because you were a NICU graduate. Almost having you home....
Coming to the step-down unit and being able to get you out of your crib all by myself. I'd figured out those wires and lines and could hold you for as long as I liked. And I did. Little did I know it would be awhile before I was able to hold you again.
After your heart surgery, it would be 8 very long weeks before I could hold you again. The day you finally had your pacing wires removed after you got your trach was like a holiday! I couldn't wait to get to the hospital that day. I held you for an hour. My arms ached and hurt so badly, so I did what I had to do. I held you for another hour and thanked God for every second I had with you, forgetting how heavy my arms felt.
After that day, holding you was a challenge. Your little body had become so used to being poked and prodded that being held wasn't fun for you anymore. Most days when I tried, it ended up with you turning blue and me crying. But we rose to the occasion. Hard work from both of us finally paid off.
Easter morning, you were Seven months old. You let me hold you. And for the first time in your life, you fell asleep in my arms. No longer afraid of pain, you found comfort and love in my arms. We had made peace with the terrible, yet necessary infancy you had endured.
From here, the snuggles get blurry. We snuggled on the couch together watching TV. I held you for a second longer than I needed to when I moved you from your swing, your car seat, your stroller, your bed.
You learned to hug me and kiss my cheek. You signed "I love you" to me every single day.
The last two times I held you are burned into my heart forever. They were less than an hour apart. Breathing fast, clutching my neck and sleeping on my shoulder. Your body conformed to my chest. Mother and child, we were one unit as I rocked you and listened to your breath in my ear.
An hour later, I would hold you once more. I held you until my arms ached, then held you for another hour. I could not let you go, but I had to. You were gone. And I knew when I let you go for the last time, I would never hold you in my arms again. I smelled your little baby head for the last time. Kissed your tiny face.
I still feel you in my arms. I hold you in my dreams. I hold your memory with me every day. I carry my love for you in my broken heart. I will never let you go.