Imagine for a second . . . you’re 30 weeks pregnant. One minute you’re walking into a routine OB appointment, and the next minute you’re being admitted into the hospital and only hours later wheeled back into an OR filled with at least 20 people.
Sure, with a triplet pregnancy we knew from the beginning we would most likely be facing a little bit of NICU time. We spent months preparing ourselves for that reality. But absolutely nothing can ever prepare you for the complexity of emotions wrapped around the ups and downs of NICU life.
To the mama who’s sitting with her baby in the NICU,
I know you probably never expected to be here. It was certainly not a part of your plan.
I’m praying for you. I know you don’t know me, but I’ve spent hours on end in that same chair where you sit. I know the smells and the sounds of that room. The unmistakable scent of hand sanitizer, the beeping, the alarms, the occasional baby cries. You probably hear all of these noises on your drive home and in your sleep.
I want you to know everything is going to be OK. You probably feel like your life has been turned upside down.
I know sometimes the walk to the NICU and back to your car feels like it’s a hundred miles long—especially when you’re in excruciating pain, recovering from childbirth.
You may feel like your body has failed you. This is not your fault. You did everything within your control to take care of your baby. Your body just may have been protecting you and your baby from something else you could have never predicted.
You probably feel guilty for leaving. Maybe you have other children at home. Maybe you’ve got a job you have to get back to. Maybe you just need some rest. Your baby is in the best hands. I know it’s hard to leave your baby every night but give yourself some grace.
You must also take care of yourself.
You probably feel helpless. It is heartbreaking to see your baby like this. All of the new medical terms make your head spin. It can be so overwhelming. Ask lots of questions. None of them are stupid.
You might walk in to see your baby and the nurse tells you he or she really needs to rest for a little while. In some cases, the stimulation can just be too much for them.
Maybe you’re up pumping all hours of the night just longing to be feeding your baby instead. It’s so lonely, mama, but it is so very worth it.
You might feel a little jealous of all the moms who got to hold their babies right away. It may have been hours or even days before you could see or hold yours to your chest. You might feel a little hopeless as you see families leaving to take their newborn babies home. My prayer is that soon it will be your turn.
I hope with every ounce of my being that . . .
Soon the noises will fade away.
Soon everything will be right side up again.
Soon your baby’s crib will be only steps away.
Soon the weight of the guilt will lift away.
Soon you’ll be the one taking care of your baby.
Soon you won’t be worried about every ounce of weight gain, apnea or brady episodes, and o2 sats.
Soon you’ll be able to hold your baby whenever you want.
Soon those nights won’t be so lonely.
Soon you will make that walk for the very last time.
I hope you embrace every moment here. Soak it all in. I hope you can find a way to celebrate every little thing. Because here in the NICU, every little thing is a big thing. I hope you allow this experience to shape you—to make you stronger and more resilient than ever. You are not alone. Your struggles are valid and your strength is phenomenal.
It’s OK not to be OK all the time. It’s also OK if you need to reach out for help.
Just a year ago I was in your shoes. I was pregnant with triplets when my body decided it was labor time at just 30 weeks and 4 days. Regardless of all attempts to put a stop to labor, these babies were determined to make that day their birthday. We made that walk from the parking deck to the NICU and back again for 65 days. After two long months, we came home with three happy, healthy, and thriving babies. Today we celebrate their 1-year homecoming.
Soon . . . I hope you will, too.
Previously published on the author’s blog