The Weekly Edit: The Cold Open

Nov 27, 2018

It was my second morning in California.  I’d woken at 6:00am, taken the dogs for a walk, helped with the baby, gone to buy donuts, and was planning to spend the afternoon watching baking shows and helping with laundry.  A mundane Sunday.  Then, my brother called.

My sister-in-law was 34 weeks pregnant, and couldn’t feel the baby moving.  They were at the hospital.  She was having the world’s fastest c-section.  It was scary, but no one was panicked.  Until he was out.

He was alive.  But he wasn’t responsive, wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing on his own.  Within hours, he and my brother were on a medical transport plane to Seattle, my nephew was simply too sick for Montana.

The last nine days are a complete blur.  Just me, sitting in the NICU watching my nephew breathe, watching my brother watch him breathe.  Feeding the baby.  Feeding the father.  Forcing my brother to sleep, forcing him to shower.  Watching my little brother morph from a child into a man, a father, right before my eyes.

Babies are amazingly resilient.  Seven days ago, I watched the doctor inflate my nephew’s collapsed lung.  Today, I put him in a space shuttle-printed onesie, loaded him into the world’s most expensive car seat, and started the 12-hour drive back to Montana.  He looks better than new.  His father and I look like we’ve been to war.  I can’t even imagine what his mother, who had to stay in Montana (no traveling post c-section), looks like.

Holding him during his midnight feeding, hearing his tiny baby coos, I can’t deny that something in my heart has been deeply changed by this experience.  But it will be weeks before my anxiety has calmed down enough that I can reflect on it.

I’m trying to bring some non-legging casual wear into my wardrobe.  I just needed something to walk the dogs in, lounge in, or travel in that wasn’t leggings.  These Lululemon Dance Studio pants caught my eye, and now I’m totally obsessed.

They’re light.  They’re breezy.  They’re completely comfortable.

I needed an escape.  Something light.  No non-fiction.  Nothing dreary.  Nothing designed to enlighten or inspire.  Something so removed from the realities of the NICU ward at a children’s hospital that it felt indulgent.

Thus, Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems.

Because of his hasty arrival in Seattle, we had nothing that we needed to take the baby home.  No sleepers.  No onesies.  No diaper bag.  No bottles.  Nothing.

I tried to go to Target, but Black Friday weekend was not the time to make that trip.  It was like a scene from The Walking Dead in that parking lot.  So I did what any desperate fashion blogger would do: I ordered everything I possibly could for pickup at Nordstrom.

One of our purchases was a Mustela Newborn Gift Set that came with a sample of this body firming gel.  New mother or not, this stuff works.  One application, and I was hooked.  Placebo effect or real results, I don’t know, but I also don’t care.  My skin feels amazing.  Their hydrating body lotion is also pretty special.

Five years ago, I went to NYC to compete on a game show that ran 24-hours a day.  If you think Jeopardy! is difficult, try answering trivia questions at 3:00am after sitting in a contestant holding area all day making small talk with dozens of strangers.

I needed to be alert, and most importantly, awake.  Knowing that I didn’t drink coffee, one of the casting agents slipped me some Lapsang Souchang tea.  I keep a few sachets of it in my laptop bag for emergencies.  This week, it was the only thing that kept me from dropping.

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  1. rebecca says:

    Wow, what an ordeal, I can only imagine how everybody is feeling right now! I’m glad things are looking up, and that mom and baby will be reunited soon (if they haven’t been already). Take care of yourself. You’ve been through a lot.

  2. Ashley says:

    My brother’s second child spent eight months in the NICU. It’s such a helpless feeling to watch your sibling go through something so profoundly life-changing. I’m sure your presence and support got him through. What an amazing aunt you are.

  3. Laura says:

    I legitimately began crying while reading your instastory when I realized his mom couldn’t come with him. I’m so glad everyone’s doing better now!

  4. Sarah says:

    sending good vibes to your whole family

  5. Rachael says:

    Wow, I am so, so, so glad that everything turned out okay. Lots of hugs for his mom not being able to be there during that time, and lots of hugs for you and your brother.

  6. Morgan says:

    Wow – I’m thinking of your family. Especially your SIL – I cannot even imagine how difficult this must have been. But I’m sure your support has made such a huge difference in a very difficult time. So so glad to hear that your nephew is doing better!

  7. MOnica T says:

    So happy your nephew and his parents are doing better and are on the road to recovery. I’m glad you were able to be there for your brother, that is a scary way to enter fatherhood, and I’m sure your presence helped. Children are resilient, and yet somehow also make things really matter in stark contrast to most of stuff we worry about in our own lives. Congratulations on the wonderful addition to your family!

  8. Laura says:

    OH my goodness! I can’t stop thinking of your poor sister-in-law, stuck in a different state after a c-section, no doubt in pain and trying to learn to pump milk, and wild about not being with her newborn. My baby was only in NICU for 4 days, in the same hospital with me (on a different floor) and the trip down to see him was still rough after my emergency surgery.

    Your brother is so lucky to have you–I can’t imagine how he could have done that trip to a different state with a vulnerable newborn alone. I am wishing your family healing vibes, and you some peace and quiet. Once you process, you’ll likely realize just how important this thing you did was to them.

  9. Amy says:

    Babies are surprisingly resilient. I have a daughter who was born at 27 weeks and was in the NICU for ten looong weeks. Despite all that, she’s a pretty normal 3.5 year old now. One day this will be nothing more than a great story to tell at your nephew’s wedding, although I am sure the parents are freaking out now.

  10. EM says:

    I’m so glad your nephew is doing so much better! Best wishes to you and your whole family.

  11. K says:

    The NICU changes you. I’m glad baby is home now and hope the family is doing well. Baby being born like that is scary and traumatic and can stay with you a long time. I hope your family cuts themselves the slack they need to deal with the feel ings it nay stur up.

  12. Erica says:

    Very cool you got to be there for your brother and nephew, in that way.

    Also – I love lululemons on the fly pants. They’re a great alternative to leggings.

  13. Casey Jacketta says:

    I’ve been watching on insta-stories (is that what it’s called?). I work in NICU research, coming from cardiac research. I was astoniched at how QUIET the NICU was. It freaked me out and I wanted to crawl back to the CICU so bad after my first trip. best wishes to you, SIL, (not so) baby brother and nephew.

  14. SG says:

    Sending SO MANY virtual hugs and healing vibes to you and your family – congrats on the new nephew, being an Aunt is soooooo much fun!

    I also LOVE those Lululemon pants!I own a number of pairs and constantly watch for them at the outlet or on sale/poshmark in the lined and unlined because I love them so much! Hilariously, I discovered them because I was hiking with a male friend of mine and was like “huh, those pants really make his butt look good”..I’ve known him for YEARS and literally never noticed his butt before so I knew I needed to look into the pants, haha. Haven’t regretted it since!

  15. Anna says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry for all that you and your family are going through. My heart breaks for your SIL. It must be so hard to go through the trauma of an early delivery and emergency c-section and then to not be able to be separated from your newborn as he fights for his life.

  16. J says:

    I cried as I read your experience; I was lucky to not have to go to the NICU with my kids, but several of my friends had their babies there for a few days to several months. Huge hugs to your family and you. You are a great sister and aunt. Please make sure to continue to get some time for yourself as you continue to help your family. Don’t forget Amazon, Target, or Costco for diapers and wipes; sometimes knowing that baby things are being delivered on a schedule helps reduce stress!

  17. Rebecca says:

    Long time reader, first time poster, I am so glad your nephew is healthy and you were able to be there for your family during this time. Life is so unpredictable. I know you’ve been struggling with your life’s course. If you were stilll in the DC rat race you would not have been able to help your family in such a crucial way. Thank you for your awesome site-it gives me great reprieve throughout the week!

  18. JodY d says:

    That description of your brother’s ordeal was so well written. I went through nearly the same situation with my brother and I felt the exact same way. You really are an excellent writer, you should seriously consider writing a book.

  19. nancy m says:

    MY GOODNESS, I’m so glad you were there to help, and that baby is ok, and I can’t even imagine how mom must be feeling. so so scary, I had my second baby 2 months ago, and your story just punched me in the gut – sending love and hugs to your family. thank god you have eachother and this little one in your lives.

  20. Kim says:

    Second the motion on the Crazy Rich Asian trilogy. I used up a iTunes gift card that had been gathering dust on my desk and bought all three. Looking forward to rereading all of them!

    Glad your nephew is okay. I’m sure it was scary for everyone, so I totally get the lingering dread/anxiety.

  21. RR says:

    My daughter was 34 weeks when she was born. Spent 2.5 weeks in the NICU for learning how to coordinate suck-swallow. So happy to hear your nephew is doing well. And that car seat is stellar. We loved it.

  22. Xdm says:

    Yowza!! Thank God for modern medicine and grace-filled miracles. Something similar happened to me. It’s amazing how fast they can cut a kid out of you and work him over. And how little you care about the expected “birth experience” when you are watching a little heart monitor flatline. I can hear said kid in the next room right now yelling and playing Fortnite. He’s a total jerk right now being 14 and all, but I love him.They are little fighters.

  23. Pam says:

    Loved your story, I had a similar experience 12 years ago. I sometimes look at my gorgeous, funny and smart son and remember the tiny baby he was all intubated in the NICU.
    Congrats auntie!

  24. SLG says:

    Congrats on the new little one, and I’m so sorry your family had to go through that. What a gift that you could be there.

    For what it’s worth, from someone who’s been close to more than one traumatic birth scenario / NICU stay: the psychological scars can stick around for a while, particularly for a new mom who has to be separated from her newborn. A good therapist is absolutely worth it for anyone who has a lot to process in the aftermath.

    Most of all, congrats on a tiny new family member!

  25. Lindsey says:

    I didn’t want to ask, but I was so worried that your SIL had died based on your insta stories. So glad that isn’t the case. Love to your family. Glad everyone can go home and heal up.

  26. Julia says:

    If your brother and sister-in-law enjoy listening to podcasts, I would suggest they look up Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. Specifically the episode titled “Our Mental Health Stories.” During the episode, Dr. Sydnee talks about her experiences around childbirth and having a newborn spend time in the NICU, and severe depression. Her husband and co-host in turn talks about issues with anxiety and how he felt like there were times it kept him away from supporting his wife with what she was going through.

    I’m not a parent, so I don’t have any relatable experiences. But listening to this was profoundly eye-opening, and their frankness in discussing what they went through made my heart and even my bones ache. Depending on what your brother and SIL are feeling, and when the time is appropriate, they may find the podcast helpful in some way.

  27. Katherine says:

    You’re a wonderful aunt and sister! My baby had to be transferred to a different hospital than me right after birth as well, and the single best and most meaningful thing ever done for me was that my sisters were there for him at the NICU, giving him love and holding him when I couldn’t, and supporting my husband who was barely holding it together. What you did for your brother and sister-in-law, being there for their baby, means so much.

  28. Kellie says:

    Oh goodness I’m praying for this little baby and your brother and sister in law! What an ordeal! So glad they’ve got you to lend a hand 🙂

  29. Marisa says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I was brought to tears reading this, I cannot imagine the fear your family felt, or the pain your sister in law experienced, and I am so happy that your nephew and family are okay! I’m sure your support meant so much to them.

  30. TheLOOP says:

    I gave birth two weeks ago – maybe it’s postpartum hormones but your experience hit me in the feels. Sending you and your family lots of healing thoughts!

    • Hh says:

      I gave birth 8 days ago and had the same reaction. Hope you’re doing well during this crazy time called postpartum.

  31. Samantha H says:

    I am so thrilled your new nephew is doing all right. It is people like you that get so many through these times of crisis, thank goodness for you to be there and to be able to step in. I am incredibly proud of you for doing so, not even knowing you except through the internet. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  32. Linda says:

    Bless you for being there for your brother and his family. And all the love in the world to that precious little baby and his mama. She must have been beside herself. You’re a good sister.

  33. Laura says:

    I’m so glad to hear that he’s heading home!!

  34. Jamie says:

    Oh wow. I have no words. I just had a baby in June and this made me cry.

    I am so happy the baby is doing well.

  35. Anokha says:

    I am so, so glad that your nephew is okay — and that you were able to be there to support your brother. Best wishes to all!

  36. Jenny says:

    As a mother myself, I just wanted to say thank you for being there. You SIL will be forever changed by this, but I am sure knowing that you were there to keep her husband steady and to hold her son will help soften the feelings. Good job.

  37. Cindy says:

    Abra, your brother and his wife will need support for a while. Could I suggest that the March of Dimes Share Your Story site might help? It’s a place where thousands of parents with similar experiences — babies born preterm, with birth defects or illness, or who didn’t survive — can find each other, get support and advice, ask questions, or just talk in a caring community.

  38. Beth says:

    I’m so glad your nephew is ok, and also your sister-in-law and brother; I can only imagine the panic and crushing anxiety of those few days for everyone. My sisters are both pediatricians—one spends most of her days/nights in the NICU, and she says her ability to comfort parents and family is almost as important as treating the preemie patient. Sending lots of prayers and love.

    P.S. “Crazy Rich Asians” is the perfect distraction—hilarious writing without being eyeroll-inducing cheesy.

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