Kids Motherhood

Confessions of a NICU Mum

Written by Krystal Kleidon

Dear NICU Mum,

I see you sitting there in the hospital café, clinging to your cup of decaf wishing it was caffeinated and with that thousand yard stare. I can see that guilty feeling you have right now, guilty that you left the side of your baby for just a few minutes so you could step out of the NICU rooms that become so claustrophobic.

I see you NICU Mum, and what’s more is that I understand you. Because I’m a NICU Mum too. My little man left his 66 day NICU stay almost 2 years ago now, but I will always be a NICU Mum.

And I have to tell you something, because my gosh I know you need to hear it. I need to tell you every little thing you’re feeling now is normal. Yes, all of it. But I know you don’t believe me so I’m going to let you in on a few little confessions.

Confession #1 – When my son was in NICU I didn’t feel like a real Mum. He was my first baby, and unlike all the other mothers, I didn’t get to take my baby home at night. I don’t know what it’s like to get up to a newborn at night because my little man was more than 2 months old when he came home. I didn’t feel like a new Mum because after my son was born I could still go shopping by myself, I could have a shower alone, I could go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. But I didn’t want to – because I so desperately wanted to feel like a real Mum.

Confession #2 – I absolutely hated pumping breastmilk. Every single minute of it. Not only did I not feel like a real Mum but I felt like a dairy cow. It was so much hard work. And the worst part was getting up through the night to pump. All these other mothers got to cuddle their gorgeous little babies when they woke at night but not me. I cried most nights when my alarm would wake me to pump.

Confession #3 – I wanted so desperately to run away. From it all – from my whole life. Sometimes it all was just too much and I wanted to sit in the corner rocking back and forth. But that wasn’t possible – giving up wasn’t possible.

Confession #4 – I felt guilty every single time I left the NICU room. And I knew I had people judging me. I even had someone say that if it were their child in the NICU they would never leave. But they don’t know, they don’t get it and they will never understand. Because they never had a child in NICU.

Confession #5 – I wanted to scream every single time I saw a radiant new Mum leaving the hospital with her perfect newborn baby. I wanted to yell at her, I wanted to yell at everyone. What did I do that was so bad that MY SON had to be put through all of this?

Confession #6 – I hate that I know so much about the NICU, because that means I was there long enough to learn. I know what each of the beeps of the monitors mean, I understand was CPAP, PEEP, Bradycardia, Apnoea, ABG’s and SPO2 means. I know how many kids the nurses have and I know the neonatologists by first name. I saw interns come and go and I stayed longer than some graduate nurses.

Confession #7 – After we left the NICU, I missed it. That’s horrible isn’t it? I missed the routine, I missed the security and safety and most of all I missed the amazing people. I wished I lived closer so I could catch up with these people in the ‘real’ world. I’m still friends with some of them now. And two years later, there are still times when I miss the NICU.

So NICU Mum, while you sit there debating whether or not you should power through the guilt of being away from your child and sit on your own for 10 more minutes with another coffee, while you watch all the happy people coming and going, the new little families leaving with their bunches of flowers, balloons and their perfect little newborn, take a few minutes to just breathe. Allow yourself to feel however you want. It’s okay.

And NICU Mum I promise you, this will soon be a distant memory, one that will still tug at your heart, bring a tear to your eye and make you stumble your words when you talk about it in years to come. But soon, NICU Mum, you’ll be able to snuggle your little one each and every night, and you know what? You won’t even mind waking 5 or 6 times a night because that just means more cuddles.

All the best my lovely.

Love from a fellow NICU Mum.

xo

When your child is in the NICU you feel alone as a parent. You see so many happy new parents walking out and you don't get to take your newborn home. You feel like a bad parent, or worse, like you're not even a parent at all. But it's okay NICU Mum, I see you.

About the author

Krystal Kleidon

My name is Krystal and I am a first time mum. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend (sometimes neglectful) and a paramedic. I live in a small country town in Queensland Australia and am the first Australian contributor to Her View From Home – something I am very proud and excited about. I love my Australian culture and lifestyle and you’ll have to promise to cut me a little slack when you see me writing things like ‘mum’ instead of ‘mom’.

I’m the creator and editor at Project Hot Mess, a site dedicated to empowering women and encouraging them to embrace who they are in their own perfect way. Even if that means running late with a cold cup of coffee in hand and not brushing your hair for 3 days (that’s what dry shampoo is for right..?). 

11 Comments

  • Loved reading this. My son was born 4 weeks premie and I had to wait 4 weeks for him to come home. I said to a friend of mine, “I just don’t feel like we’re parents yet”. She wisely said to me, “Karishma, there will be plenty of time for that”. I needed to hear that.
    Looking back, I think it was the biggest blessing in disguise (that I wouldn’t really want to experience again tho!). Motherhood came to me gradually, my body had a chance to heal and I wasn’t as overwhelmed.
    And you’re right, one day, it was me walking out of those doors with my bubba in my arms.
    x thanks so much, I have tears in my eyes just remembering it all.

    • What an amazing thing for your friend to say – those words would have been amazing for me to hear when my son was in NICU. And how amazing is that day when you get to walk out those doors?? The happiest day for sure. xo

  • As the mum of a 28 week 652g miracle myself- your post brought back all the feelings I have kept locked away. 139 days in nicu and 8 months since we left and the emotions are as raw as if it was just beginning.
    Even though we made it through the journey, we will forever remember the moments of fear and grief yet somehow they bring us hope and joy too! Hope for normality and health and joy that we are the lucky ones that went home and can hold our miracles.
    My daughter has the scars from her IV’s and blood transfusions visible- I call them her battle scars. My scars are in my mind and heart.

    • My little man is now two and has his scars from his two surgeries and the scars from his central line. Two years later and it is still difficult to talk about. It’s such a confusing place, the NICU. It’s the saddest and happiest place for us. I am so glad your little miracle girl is home with you now for extra cuddles… our little ones will always be reminded of how amazing they really are. xo

  • My baby is in NICU now born at 29+5 it’s been just over 3 weeks. I feel horrible when I have to go home at night. I spent today at the Melbourne zoo and felt bad.
    Felt bad my baby girl couldn’t betthere to, felt bad that I wasn’t by her side.
    I broke down crying for the first time today, coz I felt bad I wasn’t with her.

    Pls tell me that everyday gets easier..

    • The mother of a 12 year old survivor of gastroschesis, I can still to this day relate to every word that this mother has written. The sounds the smells the beeping of the machines. The 10 minute breaks, shortened to 5 because of panic and anxiety. Sleepless nights, the pumping. I would not take one second of our nicu stay back, EVER. Because of that stay, he and I both survived!!

      • That’s the thing isn’t it… I’d never take the NICU stay back because it meant my son was able to survive a condition that he wouldn’t have without the amazing surgeons, neonatologists and nurses. It’s the scariest place, but also filled with so much hope.

    • Kristina I promise you it gets better – the NICU is hard, I don’t think the NICU stay itself gets better – you just get used to it. But soon you’ll be able to take your little girl home and you’ll hug her and kiss her and never want to put her down. People will tell you that you’re spoiling her for cuddling her so much and you can tell them where to go – you can never give your children too many cuddles and there will be plenty of time for cuddles soon. I know it’s easier said than done but just remember that time out from the NICU gives you a chance to recharge your batteries too and allow you to be as strong as you need to in order for you to get through all of this as well. Have you been in contact with Milky Mum’s? They are based in Melbourne – check them out on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/milkymumsaus?fref=ts) and you might be able to find someone near you to talk to. Otherwise you’re more than welcome to email me anytime at perfectenoughforus@gmail.com I’m more than happy to chat whenever you need. xo

  • We were discharged on Mother’s Day after 9 weeks of recovery from Gastroschisis and him having to come a month early. It’s hard to wrap your head around everything you feel and experience in NICU but this was just perfect. I get to type this while Aidan, my first and only, naps beside me after a bottle. Every time he wakes and cries for another meal, I consider myself lucky. Thanks for writing this!

    • That’s so beautiful – I too consider myself lucky, for every nappy change, every late night cuddle and every little milestone. Give your little one an extra cuddle for me too!! xo

  • Thanks for this… It is very much needed to know that what I felt and still feel all the time is not just me.. my 24 weeker surviving twin kingston was born Sept 28th 2015 @ 1lb 10 oz. Along with My other little angel who was 1lbs 12oz. (Josiah Alexander passes 3 days after being born ) Kingston is still in the hospital due to his lungs and his breathing and now considering a trache unless we want to spend alot more time in the nicu. Plus it would make him feel better. It is very hard to walk through those halls every day knowing that I lost one of my son’s in there and held while he took his last breath .. I am sooo ready for my baby boy to come home.. 6 mnths in there is longs enough. . Here he is now at 10lbs 11.9 oz.. all we need is his lungs to get bigger and stronger.