The flashing lights and alarming sounds cut through the silence. The doctors and nurses arriving at your child’s bedside bring out a feeling of panic. The neonatal intensive care unit is not for the faint of heart. It’s a journey filled with hope and fear, a place where miracles exist, yet grief can arise. For my family, the NICU became home for nearly four months, as we watched one of our triplets thrive, while grieving the loss of our other two. You never expect the hospital to become your home away from home, but in the end, it’s an experience we will forever cherish and appreciate. To those of you spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, while you may not feel like a mother, you are the pillar of strength, helping your child pull through the most difficult days.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. Whether you map it out ahead of schedule, or you adopt a free spirit approach, all it takes is one split second for your life to turn upside down. You may not have planned to be sitting in the hospital, your child clinging to life, but you learn to adjust to the unexpected. In the early days of our journey, I spent hours in a daze, staring at my children. Their transparent skin sent chills up my spine. I was lost as a first-time parent, numb as the doctors explained my 22-weeker’s slim chances of survival. To the mother spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, you can do this–just take it one day at a time.
As the day turned into weeks, my husband and I slowly found our routine. Our one-pound babies were too fragile to hold, so we found other ways to bond with our micro-preemies. A collection of books lined my children’s nook as I quietly opened their isolette doors. Day after day, I read to my children, the rhyming words bringing rhythm to my routine. At night, my favorite childhood nursery songs escaped from my mouth; my soft voice never far from my babies’ ears. To the mother spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, don’t fret–your nurturing voice will bring comfort to your child.
The long days take a toll as your emotions run rampant. Every time I let my guard down, it felt like we were dealt a new blow. Two steps forward, one step back became the norm. After two months, we were left with only one triplet; our lone survivor trying to prove every medical statistic wrong. As I held her close, skin-to-skin, the tears streamed down my face. Some days just didn’t seem fair. While it was a joy to see happy families head home, the heartache was often unbearable as I wondered if we would ever have reason to celebrate. To the mother spending Mother’s Day in the NICU, it’s OK to cry. Those tears may be filled with both sorrow and happiness, but the mix of emotions are filled with love.
As our daughter became stronger, our optimism grew. Soon we were changing our baby’s diaper, feeling more like a parent under the watchful eye of the NICU. Nearly four months into our stay, our bags we’re packed and our surviving triplet buckled into her car seat. It was a day we never knew would be possible, a celebratory moment after months of praying for a miracle. As we left the NICU for good that day, a weight was lifted…we survived.
To the mother celebrating Mother’s Day in the NICU, patience is a virtue. The days may be long and you may feel helpless at times, but you, too, will survive. Be proud of all that your miracle child has overcome, your unconditional love and strength will guide the way.
Happy Mother’s Day from one NICU mom to another.