Another step back yesterday about did me in. I felt like the core of my body had been angrily scooped out leaving my concave frame hovering in a distant place, unable to respond to the reality of the world.

I had been so hopeful and it all felt so unfair. There was hope of moving to the ‘regular’ breathing tube, breastfeeding. She was awake and talking to us with her big gray eyes. Ruby has changed so much since she has been here–nearly half of her life she has been here. She’s at that two-week-in-the-world age when she is really becoming reactive to voice, touch and sights.

It started in the afternoon. The increased respiratory rate. Back to a NICU nurse, talk of intubation and ventilator. Talk of other infection, meningitis. No no no nononononooooooooooo, I just kept thinking. How can my intuition be that off? I knew it was just a spell, she’d get over it….or maybe I didn’t know that but I couldn’t think of the other possibility. Come on Ruby. Please.

And my chicken rallied and hung on with normalish blood work. She’s on more antibiotics. Ruby has this amazing ability to hang on while breathing unbelievably fast. My friend Marcy thinks maybe Ruby has an exceptional VO2 max like super athletes and that maybe she’ll be the first woman to ride the Tour de France. I like it.

Holding pattern. And she had a ‘good’ night last night. And today….is another day. Earlier a yo yo of better to eh and now better. I am optimistic because I have to be or my hollow person would just dissolve. I am optimistic for her. But I am hardened a bit to optimism. My bright outlook has dimmed. I think I am changed forever. I wonder if I’ll feel full again. I wonder if I’ll be a panicky mom, an obsessive hand-washer for the rest of my life.

My days are so repetitive. All of it so effing bland. I sit cross-legged in the plum-colored chair on the computer. I make myself drink water. I can’t eat. Most of the time I feel like I am about to throw up. I pump milk while the respiratory therapist blows different mists into my baby’s lungs. She screams and I cry dry tears imagining snatching her off the table and nursing her. I had a dream I nursed her last night. The first dream I’ve had since this started.

I stare out the window while listening to Radio Head Rockabye Baby or Mozart. I dab lanolin on her raw skin, scared from the removal of dozens of tapes that connect her to life. I kiss her forehead and inhale her illness and exhale her recovery. When she’s awake, I fold down the glass enclosure and lay my head next to hers. I try to tell her who says hi and what it’ll be like when we’re home but just end up saying I love you over and over.

I hold her while in a rocking chair uncomfortably close to her bed. I can’t get far because she is tethered to machines. I hold her until my butt is completely numb and my shoulders ache from not moving. When she is comfortable and at peace, I don’t move. Sometimes I put her up under my shirt, her sweet skin against mine.

And in between the dark, suffocating moments, are the moments when I actually am present. It has been uncomfortable for me to feel weak and hovering and desperate about needing a map of this experience when no map exists. I am not usually like that and I wish I could just be. I have felt so ungrounded and when I have the infrequent clear moments of awareness, I feel peace. I notice the core part of myself is still there. Today my therapist helped me realize that now is really all any of us know. And right now Ruby’s hair is getting redder by the day and I get to be with her all the time. Right now we are swaddled in thick love. Right now there’s a lot of Hope coming from Ruby’s incredible staff of doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists. Right now I have had the privilege of birthing and knowing two girls who have brought me so much joy.

I slept at home again last night. I pumped, drank a giant martini, sat on the couch with my mom and Andy’s mom in the light of our christmas tree. I wished it was different. I hoped for clarity with what this lesson is all about. I scooped Margot up and she woke and said, mama’s here and touched my face. She has been so courageous through all of this. Yes, mama’s here baby. And we laid in my bed together next to the empty bassinet whispering its loneliness. I was curled on my side facing away from Margot and I felt tears coming again. I didn’t think I had any left. And then Margot reached her arm up and over my shoulder. I thought she was asleep and had unintentionally rolled into me but her breathing indicated she was awake. Bug? I said. Hi mama, she said. Are you giving me a hug?, I asked. Yes. Hug. And she stretched her little arm over my heaped body and squeezed, spooning me.

51 Responses to now

  1. Ann says:

    Dear God,
    Please let Ruby be okay.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I’m a longtime reader and appreciater and supporter from afar (ok, California). I just checked in on you since last week and I really wanted to say:

    You are going to get through this, Nici. All of you. And you are kicking the ass of this experience. You are really a special gal and you know so much about the important stuff. Hang in there just as you are, recognizing the preciousness of your relationship with Andy, Margot and Ruby – each one. It’s true that collective intention can go a long way and you’ve got a lot of it supporting Ruby.
    Much love and peace to you and your beautiful family.

  3. Malissa says:

    Oh, this post makes my heart hurt for you and your family. I have never met you but I find myself thinking about you, Ruby, Bug and your hubby all day. You all are an awesome little family and I hope for the very best for you. Get well Ruby!

  4. jen says:

    i wish i could cry all the tears for you and just send you the strength.
    thinking of you.

  5. jen says:

    Just checking in a sending you many XXXXXXXX’s a mother love.

  6. Her hair is getting redder? How could it be any other color with a name like RUBY? Go, Ruby, go! :-)

    Just remember that everyone who loves you is “there” with you, always.

    A true blessing is the fact that Ruby won’t remember this bump in her path, and time will heal you and Andy, too.

    Get a good night’s sleep. We will say an extra-long prayer for Ruby Jane tonight and look forward to good news in the morning.

    Aunt Lorie and Uncle Joe

  7. Sending thoughts of strength and healing your way. Hang in.

  8. Melissa says:

    you are so generous to keep posting; i am thinking about you guys a lot and it’s nice to get an update though i admit this one made me cry quite a bit.

    it’s funny; i have been thinking exactly of what you described about the rhythm of your time in the hospital. it is as if nothing else exists but that room, your girl, the monitors, the staff. but of course, there is much else that exists, like your sweet margot. so glad you got to cuddle with her, glad you have your mom and mil with you, glad you had the martini.

    can’t wait til this is over and ruby is home with you all again.

    keep putting it out there. you are so heard, so supported, so loved. xo

  9. Betsy says:

    Sending you lots of love Nici! You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
    xo betsy

  10. AUNT DEB says:

    All of this ordeal is making you stronger than you already are, Nici. It is really late, but had to check one more time before bed and there it was…a post from you! As one mom to another, my heart is breaking for you…but it WILL be ok, Nici .And you WILL get back to your normal life. It will just be all that more special. That is how it all works. Lots of LOVE to you and yours..Aunt Deb

  11. Erin O. says:

    I want this to be over. Praying for THAT. Ruby home and for this episode to be over. Be strong, Dig.

  12. anne c says:

    love, Nici.
    Sending all mine your way.


  13. Anonymous says:

    You do not know me, but your blog has been a source of optimism for me for since I discovered it over a year ago, and now more than ever. Sending thoughts of health, strength, peace, and love to your family. Sweet family.

  14. Thank you for giving us an update.

    I know how special and life saving that hug must have been!


  15. barbaras says:

    Oh Nici. Your writing is amazing no matter what you’re feeling.. I was teary eyed reading this, but you and your family are strong and you will get through this together. I’m thinking of Ruby and all of you and look forward to hearing good things very soon! Love you, Barbara

  16. Kelly says:

    Bug knows just what her mama needs! Thinking. Praying. Loving. Praying.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Get better little one. You are so loved. Hang on, Mama. You are stronge.

  18. TRB Holt says:

    It is Saturday morning and I am the only one up, not even the chickens, dog or cats are keeping me company. I am so glad you and Andy spent last night with Ruby.

    Yes yesterday was another bumpy day….but we got through it, or I should say Ruby got us through it. Ruby you are something else, I truly believe you are as strong as you are because of the care your mama gave you before you entered this world. Yesterday watching you sleep, with all the paraphernalia on and around your perfect little body, I felt so grateful for my family, friends, life and especially my children. I know in my heart of hearts you will be the happy, smiling, loving little girl that your big sister is….it will just take time…we have all the time you need sweet Ruby.

    Last night Margot, you I slept together, it gives me such a sense of security and relief holding your mama’s first born. I love you so Margot

    I JUST got off the phone with you Nici…., so happy to hear that Ruby had a good night and her lungs sound clear! Oh please let this be the last corner to turn to get her on the road home to us.

    xoxo, Mom/Gram

  19. Crystal says:

    Cline Family you are all so strong. I’m praying and pulling for you Ruby, hany in there little one. Nici, I enjoy reading your blogs, but this one was very hard to read, but I do enjoy reading about Ruby’s progress. I say only progress, because she is a tough cookie for her age and I believe she will get through this. Your little bug has got to be the sweetest little girl. That would make me melt with my daughter.

    I pray every day for your family.

    Take care,

  20. Dakota says:

    We’re rooting for you Nici, Ruby… I’m trying to think summer thoughts… root thoughts… sweet earth and strong sun thoughts for you all.

  21. Anonymous says:

    AML and I read this today, and I had this overwhelming feeling that it was all over, that Ruby was now on the mend for sure, that the sickness was behind her and from here on Wellness was taking over. Thank you for sharing your experience with us through this blog so that we can meditate more intently and with greater focus. We love you all very much. Wellness is taking over.

  22. Sage says:

    I read your mom’s post and gave a little sigh of relief… oh i do so hope that this was the last dark corner to turn.

    Nici, I wish I could say something or do something that would help give you the strength you need. The hope and clarity to get you through this. I only can offer an outsiders perspective, that none of us know what will happen, but I have so much faith that your life is blessed and that you will get through this and still have your beautiful core that we all love and cherish. Your honestly and self knowledge are truly inspirational…. you are such a beautiful person and things will work out.

    xoxo to you always dear friend. May the sun always shine on your face, and the wind be at your back. Holding the sweet picture of Ruby swaddled in my thougths and meditations today.

  23. MB says:

    I have been reading your blog now for a few months. You have such a charmed life. Since this tragic turn, I check to see if there are updates first thing every day, but often dread reading them. I cry. I am not much of a crier, but man lady, your pain and freedom to speak of it so nakedly are like a thunderbolt to my heartstrings. I grieve for you, but I am also hopeful for you. I try to tell myself that this is going make your precious bundle tougher so there are never any other worries for her again. I tell myself that you will have the most delightful Christmas present- 2 babes at home and healthy. I hope for you every day. Please take care of yourself. Ruby Jane is fortunate to have you and all this love.

  24. Katie says:

    This post has left me in tears. My heart aches for Ruby and you and your sweet family. Have not, and will not stop praying. Love you all….

  25. Marty says:

    Still praying for you and Ruby. Your descriptions remind me of when Gracie was in the NICU in Salt Lake City. She was intubated and couldn’t make any sound when she cried. She would make a silent cry, looking at me as if to say, “Grandma, why is this stuff happening to me?” All I could do was pray, sing to her and keep touching her.

    The horrible time went away, and yours will too. God be with you.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Sending lots of well wishes and strength from Oregon. I have long admired your lovely perspective on life and been inspired by the beauty that you create through all of your creative endeavors. My fambly is sending love and prayers to yours.

  27. Nicole says:


    I stop by here from time to time from Kelle’s place. Just wanted you to know there are prayers for you and your family from a little corner of Pennsylvania. I remember vividly being 13, and my baby brother…the smaller twin, couldn’t breathe on his own for 3 weeks. He got stronger with all our love, and stands at a handsome 6’6″ today at 16 years old. Ruby will heal with love…she WILL.

    Hugs and much love, from one woman to another.

  28. Jean says:

    Hi, sweetie. Just wanted to tell you I’m sending you and Andy and Ruby all my love.

  29. Kim T says:

    My heart swells and breaks for you. I came to your story through a mutual friend and while I sit here typing as my tears flowing freely I feel your pain so intensely. You story makes me look at my children laughing and fighting over the Wii and it reminds me to embrace each moment for the incredible joy it is. I’m forced to step back & realize how blessed my life as been, a needed reminder as we get hectic with the reality of life & living.

    Your courage is amazing, your vulnerabilty is heartwrenching and the strength of your husband and Margot is awe inspiring. I do not know you, but my heart loves you & your family. My prayers for you are being sent on angels wings to Gods ears, may he bless your family with the miracle you so deserve.

    Take care of yourself so you may be strong for sweet Ruby, Margot, Andy and yourself.

  30. hey Nici…it’s been a long time. I have kept up with you here and there through friends, facebook, and your blog. I am crying for you right now and feeling so much! You are an amazing mom, wife, and person. I know you will pull through this and it will one day be a memory you speak of. Remain on the bright side and keep looking up. I am praying for you all daily. sending my love, hugs and kisses to you:) stay strong!! Kristina

  31. paige says:

    I forgot to write on your last post, when I read how you spilled the milk you had just pumped… I had a flashback to us in that bakery, you so very pregnant, and those two spilled glasses of water that you spilled, and how we laughed and laughed and it can still make me laugh now… as the tears are starting to dry.

    I love you so much.

  32. From one who knows the NICU, it is full of baby steps. Two tiny steps forward and one shuffle back.

    I strongly believe that you will be holding that redheaded girl in your own home so soon, tubes and pumps a distant memory.

    But for now, your love and strength will carrry you.

  33. Elise says:

    I am not only amazed by your continuous strength, but your steadfast ability to communicate thorough your writing so elegantly. It is truly a gift not all of us have. Your words and how you construe them are potent of hope and full of grace! I am so glad you have this outlet to help you during this difficult time. You have to get it out some how and your words and stories of your hope give you that needed release. It is funny that you are the mama going through every mamas worst fear, yet your words inspire us, make us feel better. It is ironic and I thank you. I sit here worried so about this little peanut, who I share a family tree with, and your words I hold on to like a thick, heavy branch. I hold tight and can feel your faith, your hope, your love. I feel more grounded. I feel a relief for you in the need to express what is going on and a relief for me to know about that sweet little red haired babe and that all the love being sent her way is literally floating above her-all of you! I am sending love right now, have been and will continue to do so-always!

  34. Sage says:

    Just checking back in hoping to see some good news…and wanting you to know that my heart is aching and has been for you all day. I am sending you lots of love and energy via your sweet blog. Give your girls an extra hug from me. xo

  35. Grace Decker says:

    Love. Peace. Strength to all of you! And then love again.

  36. Janine Evans says:

    Your girls are amazing.
    I’m shedding tears for you. With you.
    Oh, Ruby…get better.
    Get better, sweetheart.

  37. Sarah says:

    I have been reading and following your posts about Ruby. I found your blog through Mamalode on Facebook. I moved from Missoula 3 years ago, so may never have met you…but I have two small children and my heart aches for you and your family. Tears just stream down my face when I read your words and I can FEEL your pain…I know Ruby is going to be home again soon. I know she will breastfeed like a champ. I know you will find your endless well of mama strength and get through all of this. I hope we’ll meet someday at the splash park and our kids will run around in the sun and spray. Keep climbing, stay strong…all of my possitive thoughts are with you.

  38. karen says:

    You’re all in my thoughts today. I keep checking for today’s (Saturday) update on Ruby. I am putting my best wishes forth for a positive posting about Ruby from you today!! Keep up your wonderful spirit.

  39. Catherine says:

    Oh, Nici! I am sitting here crying with you, holding on to my babes as if I were going through what you are going through… No, you will never be the same person anymore, that’s for sure. I feel your sorrow, your strength, your frustration, your hope and your love. Hang in there! Love and light, Catxx

  40. Tammy B says:

    I cried at the end, with the hug from Margot. That is the best, isn’t it?

    Well, I keep checking back, several times a day. I hope things are on the upswing out there in Montana, and that little miss Ruby is on the mend. I’m hoping and waiting for that post…

    You are pretty incredible.

  41. Uncle Skip says:

    Hi Nics;

    I can’t begin to tell you and Andy how much my heart goes out to you and sweet little Ruby. Your anguish and pain are felt by me as I go through the day but so is your love, hope and faith. As I said to you a few days ago Nici, Ruby will be ok. All you can do is live through this ordeal just as she is. Just keep on keeping on and the days will pass and all will be. I always try to find gratitude in every situation, even tough ones like this. I am so grateful that Ruby is getting the best of care in a wonderful hospital, that your mom is there with you and that you keep us all up to date with your heart felt postings on your blog.
    My prayers for you all go drifting up into space every day.

    Love- Uncle Skip

  42. Clancy says:

    Hang in there, Nici. We’re thinking of you and sending the best wishes for your family to all be home together very soon.

  43. Marge says:

    Definitely Tour De France, strong girl, just keep breathing, just keep breathing…And Logan wants me to “write (Margot) a little letter and send her some Elmo and she can color on it with her crayons to make her feel better”. Loves and Kisses to you all!

  44. Kristen says:

    Oh Nici, I’m so so sorry to hear what you have all been going through. Ruby is quite the fighter. Hang in there. We are thinking about you and hoping you will all be home together soon. xoxox

  45. Kelle says:

    I feel exhausted with you…for everything you’ve gone through this last week. just love, baby. just love…to all of you. this…you, your family, love…it’s all that really matters, isn’t it? xoxo

  46. megan says:

    this is not easy what you’re going through. but bug, your sweet, sweet bug is hugging you for all of us. thank you for being so honest through all of this… & for allowing me to cry tears of empathy, as a new mama myself i can’t imagine what you are going through but am praying & thinking of you & andy & bug & ruby. i pray your baby girl will be home strong & healthy soon.