Today, Julius turned 3 years old. I didn't just celebrate his birthday, but also remembered the day I became a mother for the first time. What a tough day that was. It seemed like the day had no end. Still, I remember thinking I shouldn't complain about all the pain, because I was having the baby I wanted so badly! When a slippery baby was placed on my chest, I could see that it was a boy, and I remember someone checking to be sure and asking what his name was. Julius! Mark was crying, and I was just exhausted. All I could think was: Finally, he's out!
We were adapting to our new life as a family of 3 really well, but then, one night when Julius was 2 weeks old, we woke up to sounds of him choking. Julius slept in a crib next to us and when I turned on the light, I looked at my boy unable to breath. I picked him up and handed him to Mark as he knows much more about giving first aid. After what seemed like forever, Julius started crying and breathing again. We got dressed and went to the hospital right away. I sat next to Julius and was so scared, so very scared that I would lose my boy.
The doctors looked Julius over and said that he had a very bad choking incident but that he was fine. They wanted to keep him at the NICU for a day, just to be sure. The next day, he seemed to be doing well, but in the evening he started crying and he refused to drink. They had done all kinds of tests on him, so maybe he was just upset. We went back home (just 5 minutes away from the hospital).
Next morning my phone rang. It was a doctor, calling from the NICU about Julius. He told us that Julius had become very ill that night and that they had done lots of tests and that he was on all kinds of wires and meds. We rushed to the hospital and when we saw our little guy our heart sank. He couldn't handle any light, sound or touch and he looked very, very ill. I remember asking a doctor if he'd be ok, and the doctor answered that he didn't know. We stared at our 2 week old baby in disbelief, not knowing if he would live. Fear gripped us.
After a couple of very hard and scary days, we learned Julius had an urosepsis with a bacteria called klebsiella. Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is very dangerous, and Julius fought day and night. We spend hours with him every morning and evening and after a while we started to see a change. He was now able to digest milk again, and started to have the power to drink by himself (instead of getting milk through a tube). Breastfeeding was more difficult, as that had been a struggle from the start, but he started to manage that as well. He was making good progress and after 2 weeks at the NICU, we could take him home again.
I was scared to have Julius home those first weeks. The nights were hard. I only wanted to sleep with the lights on, because I wanted to be able to check on him. Every sound he make woke me up, but if he was quiet, I worried too! During daytime, Julius cried. He cried and cried and cried and Mark and I did not know what to do. We got some help with that, but we still struggled. We were told that because he had been so critically ill, his body was still on a high alert and something small was enough to set off the alarm. Therefore I decided to carry him in a babycarrier. Against my chest, he would sleep and he wouldn't cry so much.
Those were difficult months. I had imagined our life with a baby very differently. After a couple of months of carrying around my boy, things started to change. I could put him in his crib to take a nap and he wasn't crying so much anymore. When he was 7 months old he started crawling and that made him so happy, and I was relieved, too!
Julius is now 3 years old and you could never tell that he had to fight for his life once. He's still very feisty, but he's also very sweet and funny. He loves cars, drawing and play-doh. He's a bossy big brother that little Oscar looks up to. He's a very happy kid and I am still totally in love with this guy.
I love taking pictures of the real life. None of the pictures above were posed (except for Mark holding Julius' little hand) and they mean so much to me. The pictures of Julius in the NICU were taken with a point and shoot because my DSLR had been stolen. The quality of those isn't good, but still they mean incredibly much to me. They remind me of a difficult time, but at the same time, of the first weeks of my son's life. Someday I will show them to him telling him how strong he was, and is. Because I believe in this so strongly, I work for 'Stichting Earlybirds Fotografie' to take real life pictures of premature babies and their parents while in the NICU. The parents get this photoshoot for free and will have beautiful pictures of their newborn.
I am incredibly proud of my little big boy. Happy birthday, Julius! I love you!