As we approach Mother’s Day and you start to think about what a mother is, what your mother did for you and how you can make someone’s mother day special, this letter came to my mind shared by a fellow NICU( Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit) mother to another. After going through this experience myself, I know how both mothers feel.
I recognized you the other day. You came out of the NICU, your husband right behind you. You walked slowly, like maybe you had a c-section last week, but you didn’t still look pregnant. You were both crying softly.
You looked exhausted. I knew that look. My baby and I had to meet someone in a NICU waiting area at our city’s children’s hospital for a research study. You saw us sitting there in the waiting area. You looked at me. I smiled a sad smile at you and you returned it.
What I wanted to say, what I tried to say in that sad smile, was this:I know how it feels. I was you eight months ago.I have cried those quiet, uncontrollable tears – on a good day by NICU standards – as I put my tiny son back in his incubator after a kangaroo care session, carefully juggling wires and tubes, nestled him in, put a fleece blanket over the box to keep the light out. Watched the monitor to make sure the numbers indicated that he was comfortable before I left. I, too, hesitated before I smoothed the last corner down, peeked through the plexiglass and choked up as I whispered – goodnight, my baby, I love you, I will see you soon.
I have walked that slow, heart-wrenching walk, away from my sweet tiny baby. Pain in my abdomen, where a baby should still be, halting my steps. Crying, not sure if I’m embarrassed for a stranger in the hospital to see my tears, or if maybe crying in a hospital is what people expect, or if I don’t even care.
I am so sorry I am here with my healthy infant, confronting you right here as you leave your baby behind for now. My gargantuan baby (to you anyway, I know) weighs 15 pounds and 10 ounces today. Five times his birth weight exactly. He is healthy and normal for his adjusted age. No more oxygen, no more wires, no medications.
He didn’t even go to the doctor at all in April. I know he looks like a freak of nature to you. Sometimes even I can’t believe this is the same baby who could curl up into a little ball under my cupped hands. That I watched with delight and thanksgiving as his stick-like limbs got chunkier and his little belly became roly-poly and his eyes went from murky blue-gray to clear blue and his ears grew cartilage that makes them stick out.
Your little baby is perfect. How big is your baby? I want to ask. Actual and adjusted age? How is she doing today? Were you able to hold her?
When I smile at you, holding this giant baby, I want to tell you that I hope with all my heart that your baby will be fine too. That the fear slows down as time passes. And if your baby does need oxygen, wheelchairs, braces, monitors, tubes, I want to tell you that a gift of the NICU is that now I can look past the medical devices. If that is what your child needs when I see you in public in a year or two, I will see your beautiful child, not his equipment.
New NICU mom, in the glance we shared, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been there. This healthy baby on my lap has been where your baby is. We know how much it hurts. It’s okay that you’re crying, NICU mom. Your journey is hard. Sometimes you have to cry. Let me share your burden for a moment. I know how to carry it.
– A recent NICU mom
This letter just brings tears to your eyes. This is what The Gift of Life is trying to do for NICU moms and dads and the healthcare workers that day in and day out take care of that precious bundle of joy.