Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flashbacks of NICU

It's always amazing what can trigger memories. A moment, a pause or even an unsuspecting object. Anything can bring it all back. But there are other things that are more obvious. Stories from others that can immediately take you back to the event in question.

Today Grey sent me a text alerting me to an email he was forwarding. Back in March, he learned a former coworker and his wife were expecting twins. We learned today that they arrived at 27 weeks. Though both need only minimal respiratory support (no ventilators, thank goodness) and these kiddos are doing amazingly well, the family has a long road ahead of them in NICU.

I learned about this as I was feeding the Beats dinner. After reading the announcement , I looked up from my phone to see these two NICU graduates happily eating together, chatting with one another about everything and anything. It was then that the flashbacks started. A surreal experience of what had been and where we are today.

The NICU experience is one many remember vividly. From the wires, the tubes, the counting and weighing wet/poppy diapers and feeding tubes. Fear is always on the horizon: fear of hurting your child(ren), fear of doing something wrong, fear of the worst case scenario. Fear of losing this being you love with your whole being. Like infertility/loss, it tests you, often bringing one to the brink.

Yet you're not allowed to talk about it. Or at least not bring up the fear and uncertainty.

Since looking at those first photos of Grey's former coworker's new babies, a need to reach out has been brewing. Grey has already reached out to this family, congratulating them and letting them know we're thinking of them. But I hesitate to say more as I don't want to taint their experience with my own, as their road ahead will certainly be different given the circumstances.

And yet, what I want to say to them is more than I'm thinking of you. I'm willing a good outcome for you. I want you to know that the fear and anxiety you face from having your child in this place is very real and founded. That I wish I could take it from you and tell you all will be okay. That all I can give you instead is assurance that you are doing everything right to bring your child home, even when it doesn't feel like it. That even though they spend so much time inside that plastic bed, they know when you are there. That it's okay to be sad and frustrated.

But most of all, that you've done nothing to cause this. That having your child in this place isn't because you are a bad person or somehow unfit as a parent.

Tonight, as I look through our own photos, I have a simple wish. My wish for all who are currently in this place is that in a couple of years from now it all is a distant memory. That you are sitting and eating dinner with your child, the same way I did with mine tonight. And that you bring them home very soon.


  1. If I were in the position of the coworker and his wife, I would SO welcome your experience, wisdom and abiding. Beautiful sentiments, Cristy.

  2. I agree with Lori, maybe your words of wisdom would be exactly what this family needs. You could write them a long note inside a card or something maybe...

  3. I am happy to hear that the babies are doing so well. I think back to months in the NICU and it was so hard. You can imagine life outside of that place, but now it is a distant memory and I am so thankful every day for my girls. I hope your co-worker has support to help her through the days ahead. Please keep me updated on how they are doing.

  4. My NICU stay was but a blink of an eye compared to so many. And really I missed the hard part. I think those first 2-3 days were the only really scary ones for my guy (judging by the medical records) and even then, it wasn't the REALLY scary stuff, like "odds improve if he survives the night" kind of stuff. In some ways, I feel SO guilty for missing those days. I didn't even know that he existed, but it's heartbreaking to think he was alone. Someone should have been there. And not just someone, but his MAMA should have been there. My NICU memories are certainly of tubes and alarms, but also an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. I was incredibly unprepared to parent... like at all. I'd read zero parenting books, have no younger siblings... I'd probably held less than ten babies in my life. Add in the fear and doubt from the NICU compounded with my already present feelings of "I don't know what I'm doing" and well, the NICU for me just brings up a lot of feelings about not being good enough... or maybe just not enough. Not mom enough. Not maternal enough. Not present enough. Not knowledgeable enough.

    I think maybe that's the common thread through all NICU stays. Whether your baby is hanging on and fighting for each breath, or struggling to maintain weight, or dealing with withdrawal symptoms, or fighting the effects of a birth defect... all the mamas can probably agree that in the quiet of that room, with monitors beeping, we feel helpless and inadequate. That's what I think you can share. Her story may be very different, but she's probably going to feel that, and it's comforting to know that those feelings are normal and not something that she's feeling because they are true.


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