Our StoriesTouching Stories from members of TLC
Thomas Zafirios Cassidy
This is my baby bird, my early boy. You don’t imagine going into labor when you are only 6 months pregnant. You don’t imagine your placenta tearing away from your body, threatening your life and the life of your little baby who still has so much more growing to do. You don’t imagine that the incredible pain you are experiencing that sends you to the hospital in the early morning hours is going to result in an emergency delivery of your very tiny baby. You don’t imagine hearing that you are 4 centimeters dilated, 4 months away from a full term baby, intellectually knowing that baby is coming at that moment, while your heart breaks that it can’t be stopped; it is a runaway train and you are powerless to stop it; wishing this were a TV movie where you are given some medication and disaster is averted. And finally, you certainly NEVER imagine that you will hear that little tiny being’s heart beat and watch it moving on a screen, FEEL it moving inside your body, and then hear the words from your doctor’s mouth saying that this life is expendable. You hear things like, “23 weeks and 6/7; 24 weeks is the cut-off for viability; the mother is our primary concern, first and foremost; if we can save the baby TOO, do you want us to take measures because babies born at this stage do not have a good survival rate and if they survive you are facing a very tough road of lifelong problems…” Tears streaming down my face, sobbing that it’s too soon, that he’s not supposed to come out yet, hearing my beloved husband incredulous at what he is hearing! “But he’s moving around in there! He’s alive! And you’re telling me you are not going to save him?” Save us both!
At 6:30 on the morning of February 1st, my fragile little son came into the world 16 weeks early. He weighed only 1 lb. 7 oz. and measured just 12 inches. I did not hear him cry as I was under general anesthesia in order to get him out as fast as possible. A vaginal delivery was out of the question, as the placenta would have been delivered first, ripping away from my body, probably killing us both. My beyond worried husband was not in the delivery room with us; he was not holding my hand comforting me and telling me all would be well. I saw his tired, anxious, tear filled eyes later when I awoke in recovery. I asked two questions that morning: Is he alive? Do I have my uterus? I was told that he was beautiful and had red hair.
I prepared myself for what I was to find when I was taken to the NICU. I scrubbed up for the first of MANY times that I would be visiting my son here. What I saw was a fully formed little person, with tubes and wires coming out of different parts of him and machines beeping all around him. I would become very familiar with the sounds and sights of the NICU. I would learn what all those numbers and sounds meant, and I would fall into a routine of being his mother from afar. And I would have to put my trust in total strangers to care for my son, but those phenomenal people taking care of him would become like our family during our time there. My heart hurt to leave him behind when it was time for me to go home. We began daily visits, sometimes more than once a day. We could drive the path to the hospital with our eyes closed if we had to, and we, day by day, watched a miracle unfold. It was amazing to me to feel so much a mother to this child I had not really mothered.
As grim as his outlook was in the beginning and as many setbacks as he suffered, my faith in him, in God’s protection, in his angels carrying him to safety and health didn’t falter. He spent 161 days, that’s 5 ½ months, in the NICU. With each passing day, watching him grow, he became more and more a miracle. He was a miracle at conception and proved even more miraculous with his early arrival and incredible fight to survive and to come out truly unscathed from his ordeal. His obstacles are a long list of brain, heart and lung issues. Everything you could think of that could go wrong with such a premature baby, did, but he grew stronger and stronger. He was supposed to be here!
Bringing him home in July was an amazing time of joy, anxiety, fear and discovery. We had a child in the house tethered to an oxygen machine, banned from exposure to too many people, being seen by doctor after doctor, taking multiple medications, which lined our kitchen counter. A simple cold for him could mean hospitalization and possibly death. And yet he grew stronger and stronger. While we couldn’t possibly know the full extent of what consequences would present themselves in the long term as a result of his early birth, we never treated him any differently than his sister. To us, he was a normal, average baby, but truly was so far beyond any average baby because of all he had endured and survived. And while he had physical therapy and speech therapy and we had to wait a little longer for him to walk and talk, he continued to grow and progress and show an exceptionally functioning brain and a deeply loving and good-natured soul.
Now his 4th birthday is upon us; he is a year away from starting school; he is a mischievous, trouble making, obstinate and stubborn little boy. He is my son. He is my second child, my first son, my hero! I have only now begun to tell him the story of his birth because I want him to know it and carry it with him his whole life, not as a crutch or a chip on his shoulder, but as a medal and a suit of armor. I want him to know he can survive ANYTHING after he survived so much when he was only just fresh out of my womb. I want him to know my pride in him only moments after his birth. I want him to live and breathe my love for him his whole LONG, prosperous and fulfilling life. He is persistent and determined, infuriating and frustrating and gets into trouble A LOT, and I couldn’t fathom my life without him, and I will never forget how he came so close to not being here. My eyes and heart fill with an ocean of tears at what I feel for this boy. My soul overflows with love for him, my early boy, my baby bird; Happy 4th Birthday, Thomas Zafirios (Tommy Z.), and many more healthy, blessed years to come! Thank you for gracing my life with your presence, for making me the mother of a son and such a son I was given in you!