when they took my baby away.

After the c-section they brought my boy over to my side. My arms were tied down and I couldn’t hold him but I glimpsed his body from the corner of my eye. I heard his cries, but I couldn’t comfort him. I was sick. Tied down. Unable.

They whisked him away from me, away from me to the NICU where he was hooked up and boxed up and monitored up and down. Away from me.

As the magnesium flowed through my body and saved me from a stroke, lifted me from the arms of preeclampsia waiting to strangle me and render my boy an orphan, my mind clouded and my skin felt aflame. I was burning on the gurney. The room was on fire and my baby was gone.

Halfway through the night of flames and ice chips and throwing up and fire, I began to wonder if he was in fact still inside my belly, still safe and all the surgery was a mirage and he was still with me. I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t remember. Did I see him out of the corner of my eye? Was he real? Why couldn’t I feel him anymore? Where did he go?

Did someone steal my baby from me?

My husband came to see me and reported on our sweet four-pound boy safely throbbing heartbeats in the NICU upstairs. I heard other babies with mothers co-sleeping down the hallway. My baby was gone. I wasn’t sure of anything.

My stitches kept bleeding and my levels kept spiking and they wheeled me from room to room and I couldn’t keep my eyes from crossing from the drugs and the fire and ice. Was I a mother? Where was my child?

They ripped off the compression bandages and clinical eyes peered at my stitches, saying, “Hmm. I’ve never seen that before.” I couldn’t breathe but I was breathing too much and I locked eyes with my mom and tried not to faint.

My world was needles and drugs and I talked with a lactation specialist but couldn’t focus on what she was saying and all I heard were my cries to God in my head, “Oh please oh please oh please let me nurse this baby I haven’t met.”

Finally, a whole day after he was cut from me, I was wheeled upstairs to meet my baby for the first time, to see his face. What would he look like? How did I miss his whole first day here on earth?

They wheeled me into the NICU, they scrubbed me down, washing grownup dirt away, and they brought me to his incubator, his “womb with a view.” I peered inside and saw his little face, wide-set, gorgeous eyes like Aunt Katherine. I fell in love with the boy in the box.

They carefully stretched his wires and tubes close to me and laid him on my chest, and I felt him. I felt his soft, floppy little body and he was perfect. So tiny, so vulnerable. And I wasn’t supposed to have him and he wasn’t supposed to be born, but we were both here, and we made it, and we were together.

He’s seven now, and sometimes I still creep into his room and brush the blond hair from his brow. I trace my fingers over his soft neck and chin and marvel at the wide-set eyes, now bespectacled and usually poring over a book.

My little miracle.

Written by Melanie Dale. Photo by N'tima Preusser