I see you.
Rocking your tiny baby through a labyrinth of cords. Requesting to do the basic tasks of your baby’s care. Soaking in their sweet newborn scent before you trek back home.
Between rounds and assessments and snuggles, you envision discharge. You scroll through social media and are reminded of all this hospitalization has stolen from you. You feel like a part-time custodian to your not quite full-term baby.
Your day is a revolving door of ancillaries: lactation, speech therapy, occupational therapy, social work, and consults. You never knew you could be so busy while not being responsible for your little’s care.
But, mama, even when your baby leaves the NICU, the NICU won’t leave you.
You’ll grieve squishy newborn pictures.
You’ll envy mamas who discharge with their babies in tow.
You’ll feel underwhelmed by the complaints of postpartum moms navigating nursing and hormones at home.
Mama, it was hard.
It was hard and unfair, and long after you’ve left the NICU, you’ll still feel completely undone by the normal moments that were stolen from you.
Mama, it’s OK.
You’ll feel unheard and unseen and as you settle in at home, it may even feel unfamiliar to care for your sweet little one on your own.
Mama, you can cry.
And cry and cry. Because nothing is fair about being separated from your baby. And even though you’re inundated with gratitude, you can also wade the waters of grief.
Mama, it gets better.
Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow. But as the days fade to weeks and the weeks to years, you’re propelled by the hard things you’ve already done. You’ll always be reminded of the heartache you endured to save your little’s life.
Mama, your baby will leave the NICU, but the NICU won’t leave you. And this month, this month of awareness, mama, it’s for you and all you have overcome
Happy NICU Awareness Month.