3 months early. & right on time.
The past few days, I’ve spent the days, and the nights on the hospital floor on the NICU, which is where the tiniest little hands and feet, the babes that can’t open their eyes yet, and heartbeats that fill up their entire body, this is where they live.
Some of them live here for months before they can go home.
And some of them live here a few days.
They’re in these bubbles called incubators, that look like little mini space ships, with little mini astronauts inside.
The humidity inside around them is 85%, they need this, because the skin that barely covers their body, that barely holds in the heartbeat you can see through their entire body, pulsing, alive, alive…alive, alive…the humidity, for these little tropical astronauts, keeps it so they can keep developing. A thicker skin, I guess. Just like they say.
I was on the floors for work, my job in medical device, and for the NICU I have a closed blood sampling system. For you nerds, like me, who want to know what that means, it means that with this system you can take a blood sample, which you need to do often, but the system stays closed, meaning at no point are you opening up any of the system to the atmosphere…it involves stopcocks, and transducers, and tubing, and doing this all in a very specific order.
When I was on this floor a few weeks back, getting ready to what’s called ‘trial’ meaning a floor uses your device and you are there to oversee the execution, answer any questions, troubleshoot, etc. When I was meeting the team a few weeks back, this one nurse took a whole bunch of extra time, to answer all my questions, to teach me, to share with me, and when she saw me glancing over again and again to the bay of babies. She smiled. ‘do you want to meet them?’
Of course I did.
We walked over, and she says ‘this is Ethan’ his little hands in his fists, his knees bent, the tiniest little lips, and eyes that were still fused together….born at 23 weeks…
He took all my breath away as I watched his breath go in from a machine, into his tiny little nose. Filling his whole body.
Instinctively my hand went to my heart, and my eyes opened wider. A thick sheet of curved, clear plastic, between Ethan and the world. I could have gazed at him for hours.
What a thing to see, a life, so barely, yet so obviously there.
Next, we met Robert, born at 26 weeks…strong, eyes open, and gazing up, gazing over, eyes closing, eyes open again, curious.
She told me that Robert was a fighter, and he was going to be alright. She said there’s a certain point where you just know. It’s not a textbook knowing, but a knowing that comes when you are always around life that is so barely there…there is a moment, she tells me, when you just know.
And I wished he had so many more hours, because what I craved so deeply was knowing about each of these little humans, and who was fighting, and who’s eyes were opening, and who’s hands were waving about as if to say, here, here, here I am.
There weren’t any parents on the floor at that moment, but I asked about them too…how often could they come, and for how long, can they hold the babies, do they put their hands in those weird little side gloves, how are these babies touched, how often. Who tells the parents, who answers their questions, do they know too? You know, that moment.
When you realize that fight is resilience, and that resilience means, that this baby that breathes, alive…alive…and this becomes a mantra and a march, and what is beneath every movement this baby will take when they go home. I tried to hear the word alive, where the machine pressed breath into these tiny little lungs, instead of hearing the machines, because the sound of 15 machines, keeping 15 babies alive can be very loud.
All I could do was be in awe.
I said, you know that was me.
And she said wow, you were a premie?
And I said yes, I was born at 25-weeks, somewhere between Ethan and Robert, I came into the world, announcing my place in the order of things, at 2 and a half pounds, and a pound lost overnight. I came on the first day of July instead of well into September. I came without warning. I came into the fear of my mother, who had already lost a son, who had come too early, I came into the fear and responsibility of a mother and father, who were told, after he died, do not try again, you are not strong enough.
And my mother with the strength of a lion, and the determination I suppose, that can only be described as a mother, a mama, a fighter, she somehow knew I needed to be born, that I had already chosen them, that I would come fighting for breath, and for a place, and for a name, and that I would gain all these things. I would join this family, we were, as all families are, waiting for each other.
After 3 months I was able to go home. But it was long before then, that the nurses would say, they knew I would make it. I have always, always, been a fighter.
She smiled at me, staring at my strong frame, which often elicits the question of ‘so were you a gymnast? or, did you play soccer?’ And I said yeah, had some childhood asthma and that’s about it, I’ve always been scrappy. Which I think, is a condition of survival.
I understood that it was time for me to go then, there’s a certain amount of time you can spend getting this weirdly in-depth education…because I am not a nurse, and I am not a doctor, and I try to be very respectful when someone takes the time to teach me something. Especially, when what they are teaching me about life, which frankly, isn’t that what we are always ever doing?
I thanked her.
And before I left, she told me I’d make a fantastic NICU nurse, should I ever decide to go that route. She said I would also be able to talk the parents in such a way to show them the proof, that it wont always be this way, hearts get bigger, and so does everything else.
Which, one of the most humbling things is when someone who you hold in such high regard and inspiration, says that they see it in you too.
I said thank you, and smiled at her warmly, and she held out her arms, and we gave each other a giant hug.
I made it to the parking lot before I started to tear up, I wasn’t sad, I was in awe.
To see where I began,
I wanted to call my parents and tell them where I had just been the past few hours, I wanted to tell them I understood. I wanted to ask them how they felt, were they afraid? What did they hear, the machines, or did they hear something more. I’ve always been outspoken, they must have heard then, over those three months when they’d come everyday, they must have heard me, they must have seen me, as everyday I grew stronger.
I wanted to know what it was like for my mother, barely speaking english, and in the wake of having already lost him.
I wanted to know what it was like for my dad, working his blue collar job, tapping our insurance fully I’m sure, coming in early, and coming in late, to see his little girl.
I wanted to know so much.
But I have become quiet in my questions, because the silence that followed them, when I used to ask them, is worse.
‘There are things we just don’t talk about’ — and for my family, that means pretty much everything but the weather, and what’s for dinner.
The strangest thing happened last summer, my friend from college reached out and via email said ‘you will never believe this, I was camping with my boyfriends family, and his aunt says, I named my daughter after a little baby named Lyndsey Fryer who I took care of in the NICU’ —-
My buddy Erin is obviously like ‘WTF’ and messages me and I’m like ‘WTF times 10938210938’
She got me in touch with her sweet Aunt Carol.
And while I was waiting for her to write me back, I had this huge huge hope that Aunt Carol would know something, that she’d have a story about my Dad coming in in his work boots, my Mom yelling about something or another, my gramma peddling around, the neighbors dropping my sister off. Anything. I craved any detail. Anything that all that could help me understand.
I fantasized outlaid and called a few dear friends, I told them the story, no one could believe it. 33-years later, worlds colliding. We all wondered what she remembered. I don’t pray directly to God, often, but in this case, I did. Please God, I want to understand more.
She wrote me back this…
And now, having spent the past week in the NICU I can understand how what you would remember most of all is the baby getting stronger.
And how now, there’s another Lyndsey with an ‘e’ out there, who’s mama must have spent so many hours with me over those months…a brand new NICU nurse.
This world man, it blows me away.
And when you are truly working to understand your place, in the order of things, people will be inspired. Hell, they may even name their children after you.
And though I prayed to know more. My life keeps hand-delivering me experiences to help me understand, there is nothing unsolved, there is no thing to know, there is no secret clue to any of it, that will directly solve a history that is complicated, and can at-times still bring me a good amount of sadness.
You cannot make someone talk about their experiences.
BUT, you can certainly live the living dickens out of your own, to find the answers along the way.
I cant help but wonder, what life without much touch in my first few months….
Surrounded by fear, fear that I could be gone at any moment.
Fear that no one could properly communicate, what it would be like, to lose again.
I had a healer once help me understand that this dynamic I was born into was a huge reason why my mother and I have had such a push/pull relationship. She shared with me gently, that when my mom lost one…there was no way she would lose again…
And like anything where we bring that ‘I will not’ will, into. What is born is fear, and really f-ed up attachments, and boundaries that cross, and confusion, and as I was born into…an experience that was, for so long, dominated by my desire for breath, for a place, for a name….was our foundation, for so so long. Until I was the one who finally could step far enough away to see it.
And only then.
Could I begin to breathe.
And only then. Could I begin to root.
And only then, could I claim both my first and last name with pride, of where I began, and who I came from.
Three concepts frankly, that I continue to work through daily. The difference though, no longer with anger, no longer with the madness of being awake at 3am, scribbling notes, trying to connect dots, no longer with the demand of a trial lawyer in a highly public case, with all the cameras on, you must tell me the truth, you must tell me more, you must stop talking to me about the weather.
If they could tell me more, they would.
When the anger fell off, like an earthquake had come, and there was a loud loud crack as the parts I could no longer stand on, fell into the sea…it took years…years of yoga, a ton of therapy, way more yoga, lots of long walks, back to therapy, the finding of, and the trusting of, the very best friends, more yoga, some completely reckless behavior, a passport, all of it…and like I said, you don’t just stop being angry. But you do heal. And you begin to find answers in the most unexpected ways.
Because I pay attention, and because I am always yearning to know, life has aligned with me to show me. I did not end up in the NICU this week on accident, my friend did not pay attention to her Aunt Carol that day, just cause, I didn’t get to see Robert and Ethan, because it was just another day.
My teacher says again and again ‘the universe is giving you exactly what you are asking for, in every single moment.’
I mean, yeah, it really is.
I feel like I’m living the tougher questions now, like this is what I signed up for.
I’m living them, then I’m talking about them, so then maybe you can be like, you know, there are some questions I want to answer too, so you begin to ask them with your physical body, and the way you show up in the world, and the people you surround yourself with. In everything you do. In absolutely everything…you are seeking.
We are. Aren’t we?
I cant explain it, or understand it in any other way.
I cant into the world 3 months early, and damn it, I’m just gonna keep making this head start count.
grateful grateful grateful.
Full name: Lyndsey Ann Fryer, born July, 1, 1981.