Dear NICU mama,
I see your tired eyes turning to look at the monitors. What does that beeping mean? You’re overwhelmed with information, but you’re learning more quickly than you ever have. Medical terms are becoming normal in your daily vocabulary as you’re initiated into NICU life.
Your legs might be swollen from standing vigil over an incubator. You just gave birth and haven’t had time to recover, but your concern for yourself is gone—all you care about is this tiny child in front of you. You’d exchange your breath for theirs, you’d give your very heartbeat for them.
Somehow, as days pass, hospital walls begin to feel like a tiny bit of home—because this IS your baby’s home (for now) and all you’ve ever known of mothering them.
Some days you want to pull all the cords and whisk baby away—as far away as you can get from these walls. How can parenting a child be determined by others telling you when you can and cannot hold, touch, kiss, and feed?
Other days you feel grateful for the care of the skilled staff around you, especially those who SEE you and know this is one of the hardest times of your life.
You google outcomes, diagnoses, prognoses…searching for answers and a timeline to follow. You want a plan. The internet leads you to more questions and concerns, until you finally look at your child—even in the midst of all the wires and tubes—and feel comforted. Touching and loving them eases concerns. There may not be a clear step-by-step plan, but you’ll be guided by your tiny baby. You’d follow this sweet child anywhere.
Walking outside the hospital walls brings dizziness and a day-dream state. As you run out to pick up some essentials, you wonder if the cashier sees your hospital bracelet. Do they know what your life is like right now? In the elevator, you see other NICU parents identified by badges. Are their babies doing okay? Are they on the home stretch?
Most things are out of your control, but there are a few things that bring normalcy. You wake, dress, grab a coffee, brush your teeth, and get ready for morning rounds—making a new daily routine in this strange new setting.
These may be some of the most difficult days you face, but they will always hold some special place in your heart. The hospital became your child’s first home. So go ahead and sing songs, read books, take pictures, and make some memories. It’s not what you would have planned but it can still be beautiful in its own way.
With much love,
A NICU mama
An afterward: I’m a NICU mama twice over. It holds an incredibly special place in my heart, even though I didn’t get to bring my sweet Clive or Winnie home. If you or someone you know wants to connect about their time in the NICU or their experience with child loss, feel free to reach out to me. I also have a book about my grief experience available for purchase on Amazon.