by Cori Laemmle
Green Day said it best:
“As my memory rests
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends.”
Ezra and Rowan were due on September 22, 2020. When they were born four months early, September was the best case scenario for a homecoming. Even now, Septembers still burn like a light left on… slow memories of what September should have been, and what actually happened.
“When would you consider us in the safe zone?” we asked one of the neonatologists about a week into our stay, cautiously hoping for a positive answer, as Ezra had already died.
“When you go home,” he told us… so we waited and counted the days for September to be over, because the end of September was when Rowan would be considered full term based on his adjusted age, and hopefully ready to leave with us. We made it, with five days to spare- Rowan came home on September 25th.
The funny thing about NICU Awareness Month is I didn’t know it existed until after our time in the NICU was almost complete. I was so focused on surviving in the NICU that I didn’t begin to process anything about the boys’ birth, NICU stay, and Ezra’s death until those four months were up, once we were home and “safe.”
It’s just as hard coming home from the NICU as it is being in it. After Rowan came home was when the grief hit the hardest, the flashbacks started, the nightmares woke me up, and the anxiety escalated. It wasn’t until almost a year after homecoming that I was given a PTSD diagnosis.
But while I once waited for September to end, I now wait each year for it to begin. September is a time of reflection; as the NICU awareness posts pop up, the memories come flooding back in full force.
And while I lost so much- the innocence of an uneventful birth, and of course a son- I gained insight into a world where the smallest beings are the strongest, and a community that holds its members up with just as much strength, wherever they are on their journey or their process to heal.
Three years later, the nightmares are lessening, and the dreams I had in the NICU are coming true: zoo trips, play dates, and preschool are now our reality. As September begins to come around each year, I look back to where we were, and become even more thankful for where we are.
So now, wake me up when September is here… because as hard as the whole experience was, I want to remember it all.
About the Author: Cori lives in Fort Wayne with her husband, surviving twin Rowan, and rainbow baby Juniper Joy. She is an advocate for preemies, especially 22 weekers, and is always looking for ways to include their angel twin, Ezra, into their everyday lives. Cori is a Preemie Parent Mentor for Graham’s Foundation, and frequently writes about her experiences with prematurity, infant death, and pregnancy after loss.