Dear Cooper

Dear Cooper,
Laying quietly, eyes unopened, breathing tube, feeding tube, IVs and fluids could sum up the first few days of your life. We never planned for you to have such an early delivery nor such a scary one but you are loved just the same. We have no "excuses" or tall tales of why you came early, it was just in our cards. Maybe your father and I were so excited for you to arrive God granted our "Can't wait until Cooper comes," small wishes.

I want you to know this isn't your fault. That you are special enough to be born early, that the world wanted to meet you 16 weeks early. And we will never regret that. You were created out of pure love between me and your father, a young and innocent marriage that wanted and planned for you.

You may face hardships later in life because of your prematurity but know that this is you, and still perfect. Remember that we as your parents will make sure you get the best of the best and that you have had the best of the best nurses and doctors to help you thrive in this big world. Between brain bleeds, blood transfusions and supported breathing you have already conquered more in your little 3-pound body than most adults do in their entire lives.

Cooper, please remember to be honest and true as you meet new people in life. That every single person is fighting their very own battle so be kind. Be yourself, because you are good enough. Always tell the truth because in the end the truth will never get you in as much trouble as a lie.

Always remember that you are loved. You will make mistakes, you will trip and fall but as your parents we are always there for you. Always. Life isn't always easy but remember that just at 10 weeks old you have already overcame so much. Cooper you are a warrior you have overcame so much pain and near-death with endurance, love and pure dedication for life, even as a tiny baby.

We never want to let you down, but in all honesty I am sure there will be a time where both your father and I will let you down, make you mad or even disappoint you. But please remember we are only human as well, we don't mean to hurt you but we aren't perfect so don't hold it against us. We may not always be the best mother or father but it won't be for lack of trying. We promise that we will do everything we can to prepare you for what you will face in life. We promise that we will never desert you, that we will always be there for you, no matter what hardships you face. We may not always give you what you want but we will always do our best to give you what you need.

Above all else Cooper, we promise that we will love you and do our best to make sure that you have everything you need. We realize that our life is no longer our own, it belongs to you and our family now. You are our treasure, never forget that.

Dad and Mom

In anything else I sometimes have to remind myself of a lot of things nowadays.

I need to remember it's okay, to have some "me" time. While having a sore throat and not having any other "sick" side effects, I need to stay away from the hospital in case it is something and the horrible guilt I would have if Cooper ended up sick.

In doing so, I need to realize it is okay to read a magazine, watch a movie and just relax and try not to worry about not being in Cooper's room for 8 hours a day. In sitting here trying to tell myself that Cooper is good, I am fine and tomorrow is a new day, I realize there are a lot of other things that I need to do "note to self."

Note to Self: 

- It's okay to not be "okay" every single day.
- It's fine if you don't want to talk, if you want to cry or even if you want to be by yourself.
- Bad days are normal. And when I say bad I mean, bitchy, rude, bipolar and annoyed with the world but try not to take it out on people that mean the most to you, like family and friends or even Cooper's nurses.
- Sleep is not overrated. Even though you feel like you haven't done much all day, stress, worrying and even being at the hospital all day is draining, sleep; even sleep in from time to time.
- Be happy. You have a loving and caring husband, the cutest son, an awesome family, fantastic friends and the most amazing supporters.
- Humble yourself by being grateful. Grateful in everyday that your life has changed for the better since December 18, 2012.
- Love yourself.

To NICU nurses

After being in the Community Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit for about 10 weeks now, we have been getting to know nurses and doctors more and even seeing them out and about in Missoula. I personally have never had an life threatening emergency, nothing like having Cooper 16 week early. I have never needed the help like having a premature baby.

The other night I saw a nurse in a local spot in Missoula, and it dawned on me that no one knew who she was to me. No one knew who she was to unit of early babies and their families. I wanted to make every person aware that she is part of a team that is saving my son's life. That she isn't an every day person to me, that she deserves a thank you from every mother, grandmother and soon to be mothers. That she is part of an amazing hospital that has nurtured, cared and loved for my 16-week early son.

Never would I imagine how much the nursing staff not only does for this little boy but does for us as a family as well. Neonatal intensive care unit nurses are heroes. It takes a strong person to not only work 12-hour shifts with only a 30-minute break but someone to take care of the tiniest bodies.

The dedication it takes to stand at my son's bedside having to bag him to help him breath touches my heart. To watch my son struggle in the first few weeks and how the nurses can keep it together and push through and still make sure I am okay is a blessing. The strength it takes not to shed a tear in what has to be one of the hardest units to work in is amazing.

These men and women are amazing people with genuine spirits. I owe so much to them for saving my son's life every single day for the past 10 weeks and many more weeks to come. Thanks to them and the wonderful doctors my husband and I can celebrate Cooper's life and his journey rather than dread talking about him.

It has to be gratifying to watch these little lives grow, and flourish and see these children months to years later. If you know a nurse and especially a NICU nurse, tell them thank you. Thank them for the lives they have saved, the future lives that will be in their hands and how many families they have touched like ours to allow people like us rejoice for a birth rather than grieve.

Big strides

When the nurses warn you "two steps forward, one step back" that not only applies to Cooper's health but my very own attitude. One day I am down and out and the very next I am celebrating that Cooper is 3 pounds 8 ounces.

3 pounds 8 ounces. So amazing.

Its like the first couple months everything moves so slow, with well understanding since Cooper's health is priority. But then all of sudden everything is happening. Cooper is gaining weight. He got his first real bath he started to try nipple feeding. Its like the first 8 weeks of torture are paying off just seeing Cooper hit little milestones. Actually big milestones for him.

I can't believe Cooper is knocking on 34 weeks' door. We have been here for 10 weeks now, its almost like I am not sure what will happen when we go home. We will most certainly miss the nurses and doctors, but it will be so nice to be home.

Everyday Cooper looks bigger and healthier, like he is a big baby boy. His  personality is kicking in along with his attitude. Of course we may be a little bias but Cooper is the cutest kid on the block. I am so anxious for more milestones to finally take him home and be a "normal" family.

Missing Home

I can't believe that we have been in this journey for nearly nine weeks now. The time has really flown by. Maybe the time has gone by so fast because of the repetition, or maybe just because we aren't trying to focus on the time, just the health of Cooper. I would be lying if I said the time is getting easier, because it certainly isn't. I am so ready to go home. But not just me, to bring Cooper home.

We are so ready to bust out of this joint, of course Cooper isn't ready but still. We still have at least five weeks to go, there is a light at the end of the tunnel but it seems so far away. This time has most certainly been trying, for all of us. It has been trying for Tom and I individually and together as a couple.

Both of us want Cooper better, we both want to be with him and we both want to be home, and at this time we can't have it all. Only one can be here with Cooper and only one can be at home.

When Tom and I were married and then he went away we always said, "what could be worse," or "this is gonna be the worst we go through." Little did we know almost two years later we would welcome Cooper to the world and be faced with a big obstacle. An obstacle that will forever change us, our marriage and our future. We have been so blessed to have Cooper, a warrior that was born in the form of a 24-week preemie, born 1 pound 10 ounces.

There is a saying that God doesn't give you anything He knows you can't handle, or He knows you are strong enough for the battle - sometimes I wonder if we can have a break. Maybe we aren't strong enough, I know we say "we will get through this," but Cooper deserves to be home and healthy. The past eight weeks have worn on me. I am ready to "normal." I am ready to have my baby home, to be with my husband and to be together every single night not just part of the week.

Maybe I am just being a sucker tonight, taking it all to heart but this girl is missing home and everything that entails.

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