Being a NICU mom is like getting inducted into a special club you never applied for. It’s not something you wanted, but it becomes a defining experience in your life.
I never imagined I’d become a NICU mom. But when I did, it became a part of my identity.
Even a year later, I still feel like a part of that club.
I see the mommas on Instagram sharing their stories for NICU Awareness Month and I physically feel the emotions and pain from when I lived there.
Every NICU story is different; some stays are long, some are short. But every parent and baby in there is a warrior.
I was told at 32 weeks pregnant that my baby would be born premature. I wasn’t sick and there weren’t any glaring issues I was aware of until then.
“Your placenta is struggling. It’s having a hard time doing its job. This means your baby is going to come early.”
There was no “maybe,” there was no “it’s a possibility that…” It was “you need to prepare to have this baby today.” Most moms don’t get a warning. The nurses called me lucky. I suppose in a way, I was. I knew what the inevitable was. But it still contained so many “what ifs.”
What if the baby’s lungs are underdeveloped?
What if the baby’s heart rate drops too quickly?
What if… what if…
So while the “warning” allowed for extra precautions, it also allowed for my mind to go wild.
The reality of our NICU stay was so much more different than I imagined it would be.
My son came into this world a warrior… his lungs were strong, he was alert, he was perfect.
But he was still small. He dropped below 4 pounds for a night or two. He hadn’t gotten to practice sucking in utero and so he didn’t know how to nurse or take a bottle. He couldn’t regulate his body temperature.
There were nurses and pediatricians and neonatologists and obstetricians all with different opinions.
I just wanted my baby to come home.
For 13 days, I sat by his side among the buzzing and humming of all the medical instruments. I felt completely helpless.
He was my child. But I didn’t know what to do to help him.
In retrospect, I was doing all I could. I pumped breastmilk and brought it all to the hospital. I would rock him skin-to-skin for hours. I would push doctors and nurses for answers as I attempted to advocate for my child in a situation I really knew nothing about.
I started writing this blog in an attempt to catalog the different feelings you might experience as a NICU mom. I realize now, I can’t do that. Your feelings and experiences will be completely different than my own. But yet, we’re still a part of the club. We still have so much in common.
I feel the confusion as a doctor spits out statistics. I feel the helplessness as you gaze at your precious baby covered in wires. I feel the anger as a doctor tells you you should be there more, even though you only went home for an hour to shower. I feel the longing for a different ending to your pregnancy. I feel the overwhelming love you feel for this human.
Being a NICU mom is indescribable, undefinable. But it defined a part of me. I am a warrior, just like my son. And if you are reading this in the early morning hours sitting next to your baby in a NICU, you are not alone mama. You are a warrior.