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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Liam Gabriel McLaughlin

After three months of scary and nerve-racking doctor appointments starting in September of 2008, Liam decided he wanted to arrive in time for Christmas and was born on December 24, 2008.  We on the other hand, had no idea what the next 118 days would be like…

Liam was born weighing only 360 grams - less than one pound. He was so tiny. We didn't get to hold him right away, but we did get to see him and hear his quiet little cry before he was taken to the NICU. There is nothing that can prepare you for the NICU. We didn't know what to expect – this was a whole new experience for us. I remember being very nervous the first time Thomas wheeled me into the NICU, looking around at all of the equipment and wondering what Liam was going to look like and what machines he was going to be hooked up to. We finally made our way back to the corner of room two and there he was. I cried. I was allowed to touch Liam, but I was too scared at first.  He was so tiny and fragile, but I finally got up enough courage and I touched my little man on the arm.

Every day seemed to be a little bit easier than the day before going through the NICU doors. We would get excited and couldn't wait to see Liam, but we would also feel anxious to see his doctors and nurses. They are amazing people. Every person that cared for Liam, including his doctors, his nurses, and the RT staff made us feel welcome and always took the time to talk to with us and explain anything and everything that was going on with our little boy. And he went through A LOT! Liam had PDA surgery, ROP surgery, many PICC lines and ART lines, one CVL procedure, an Upper GI, many ultrasounds, x-rays and tons and tons of heal sticks – just to name a few. :) But the biggest obstacle was Liam's liver – something he was never able to overcome.

Liam had many "status quo" days in the NICU, but also many rough ones. No matter what his day was like, though, Liam was in control. We let him decide. He would let us know if he’d had enough. And on April 20, 2009 we knew he’d had enough. We were fortunate enough to be able to "prepare" (as much as any parent can) for Liam's final day in the NICU. To us, the moment was perfect. We were surrounded by many of those who had cared for Liam since day one – It just made sense.

During our NICU journey, we started a Carepage. For us, it was a way to share our experiences and updates with our family and friends. It was a way for us to write down our feelings and our emotions and a way to let Liam know how proud we were of him. We never expected over 500 people to read our story and leave us over 2500 messages. We were overwhelmed! It was such a blessing to have so much support from people we have known and from some that we have never met. We thank Liam for that.  He brought so many people together – this tiny little miracle that only a few people ever got to meet.

A little over a week after Liam passed away, we had a Celebration of his life. It was a way for us to thank those that supported us along our journey and a way to celebrate our brave little boy. We released 118 balloons and gave each person a "Liam" bracelet.

Today, we continue to celebrate Liam. We planted a garden in our backyard with a tree and some plants that were given to us. We also added a bench, some solar lights and a few angels. It is a place we enjoy seeing everyday and have named "Liam's Garden." We are also fortunate that his resting place is five minutes from our house. We visit every Sunday. Liam gets fresh flowers and sometimes even a new toy.  Christian and Emma (my stepchildren) also love visiting with Liam and have left him many toys – SpongeBob, Happy Meal toys, bubbles. Another way we celebrate Liam is by keeping many pictures of him up around our house. We are reminded everyday of how precious and beautiful he was.  We will never meet a stronger little boy who had such a great, fighting spirit.