Author’s note: September is NICU awareness month. As I reflect on our four-year anniversary of becoming NICU parents, these are the thoughts that came to me. According to the March of Dines, about 14.4 percent of births result in a NICU stay, so this one is for you and all your beautiful NICU babies.
I know you never thought you’d be here. Even if you had a warning of a potential stay, it’s not what you pictured when you pictured motherhood. None of us did. Sure, you were nervous about the birth of your baby. Will it hurt? What will it be like when she’s placed on my chest? But this wasn’t it. You didn’t think you’d be wheeled back to surgery, or that the second you pushed the baby out they would take him away so quickly you didn’t even get to see him.
This new world is really scary. There are wires and machines and everything seems so loud. You miss the quiet peace you had in your bed when you were snuggled up with your pregnant belly. The place where your baby was still safe and she was always with you.
The thoughts start to creep in . . . Is this my fault? Why did my body fail? How could I have let this happen? But listen to me closely, mama, this is not your fault. Your body did not fail you or your baby. It kept you both alive. You are here still and so is your baby. You are both fighting this fight right now, not because your body failed, but because your body gave you the chance to fight.
When this is over and you take your baby home, this will have been just a moment in your lives. It seems like the most overwhelming thing in the world right now (and it is), but someone wise spoke peace into me when they told me that before I could blink, this time would just be a memory I thought of while I watched my sweet toddler terrorize my house. I clung to those words as I went home each night with empty arms, and I hope you can cling to them too as hope that better days are coming.
I see you. I see you being wheeled out of the hospital, passing the other moms waiting for the car to be pulled around while they hold their new babies. I see you as you hold back tears wishing it were your turn. And I see you, still healing from delivery, making the drive to the hospital as often as you can to see your sweet miracle.
I see you. I see you pumping each night for a baby who isn’t even with you. I see you bringing that milk to the hospital to make sure your baby is nourished and longing to breastfeed like you thought you would be doing. And I see you, mama, as you made the hard decision to choose donor milk or formula to help your baby grow. It wasn’t easy and there was so much pressure, but you needed time to heal too.
I see you. I see you longing to have a normal life again, one with pajama days and cuddles on the couch as a family, and I’m here to tell you they’re coming. You will have your family moments again. Things aren’t so bright and shiny now, but there will be joy when you bring that baby home.
I see you. I see you moms who have had to say goodbye to your NICU babies. You never got to bring them home and it was so unfair. Your healing journey is so different and nothing is how you thought it would be. I see you being strong and taking each step forward while a part of you will always be in that NICU where you had to say goodbye far too soon.
I see you NICU moms. You are the strongest women I know.
A fellow NICU Mom