The NICU completely changes your life. It takes everything you thought you knew about childbirth, babies, yourself, and maybe even your marriage and throws it away.
To say that it is an emotional rollercoaster – as it is often referred to as – is an understatement, but since we are here let’s go with that. Some days, you get on the rollercoaster and it slowly lifts you higher and higher. You can hear it creak the higher it lifts you. Then it suddenly stops. You can see the ground from where you are, but you aren’t actually close enough to it to free yourself. So here you sit, suspended in mid air.
The uncertainty gets in your head, and you now have a new fear. Although you have formulated a plan of action in your head, you can’t actually do anything to change your situation. You just learn to wait it out.
This is what life in the NICU is like. This might even be a good day.
You can see your baby, but can’t actually touch your baby.
You can touch your baby, but you aren’t allowed to hold your baby. You aren’t allowed to cradle *YOUR BABY* in your arms. You just deal as best you can, and on the days you can’t deal anymore, you take a breather. Say a prayer. And start over.
Once you are finally allowed to hold your baby, you can’t hold him/her too long because: overstimulation. Premature babies utilize every bit of energy they have. Their central nervous systems aren’t strong enough to handle everything they are exposed to, so the goal here is to minimize that by limiting physical contact, sight, and sound, as much as possible as to not stress the baby. It’s strenuous for them, and heart wrenching for us.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Everything is constantly changing. Things go from good to bad. Bad to worse. (What feels like) the absolute worst to the best. Okay, she’s still alive. Wait, she isn’t breathing…
OMGosh, SHE ISN’T BREATHING!!!!
Machines are beeping out of control, you can’t think clearly, you are panicked and ready to jump down somebody’s throat, because that is YOUR baby and you need to know that the people responsible for her are doing everything beyond their ability to keep your child alive. And they are.
Nurse Savior comes in and saves baby’s life. Again.
We never truly know what kind of day we are going to have, yet we don ourselves in capes made of mom guilt and we show up – even if the only thing we can do is sit and wait.
We pray a million silent prayers, even if we hadn’t prayed in days/months/years. We find the strength and the courage to pray. Some days it’s easy, but other days… We have to dig for it; we search our hearts for the words, as fear and doubt consume us.
There is no shortage of emotions in the NICU; we have experienced them all, and then some.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
These are the days of our lives and our lives revolve around our baby (babies) and there is not much we can do about it.
If we seem distant, aloof, depressed, afraid, or anxious it’s because we probably are. Be gentle with us, also remind us to be gentle with ourselves.
We’ve been thrown into something we did not have time enough to ready ourselves for.
This is our new normal, so we must find a way to make the best of it.
This post kicks off my “For NICU Moms…” series; there are a total of three posts chronicling life in the NICU. I share my own experiences with guilt, breastfeeding challenges, and postpartum depression/anxiety (the last post (PPD) will be released soon). Feel free to share your own experiences as well!