When I read this Babble article my mind and heart kept screaming yes, yes, yes.
This momma, like me has experienced the NICU and even though her twins are healthy and thriving, her 7 points are spot.freaking.on.
I’ve never been able to explain or communicate what it’s like after the NICU and this article does that so perfectly.
1. You never forget. You really don’t. You get to a point where you just stop dwelling and you accept that the NICU is part of your life story and your child’s. You stop grieving and you accept. You accept that your child’s first photos are ones that also include wires and tubes. You accept that this is your story. But even through the acceptance you never forget. Yes it hurts way less, but you never forget.
2. After Mr. I was born, I vowed I would never have another child. This was for many reasons but ultimately taking the plunge to have another child is wrought with mixed emotions with fear topping that list. I and C have a smidge over 4 years between them. It’s because I needed to heal from the PTSD I was experiencing post NICU, and I needed closure. And I needed a doctor who worked with me to get me as close to full term as possible. In the end we took the jump and had Baby C, but it was an emotionally challenging pregnancy even if all turned out well!
3. Everyone has opinions, but no one truely understands. They all mean well. They all want to help and be supportive but navigating the NICU and early post-NICU days is isolating and stressful even with the most supportive family and friends. I was fortunate that I never got any pressure or opinions on if FirefighterDad and I should have another child.
4. Shortly after Big Bro I got home, dear friends of ours had their first child – a sweet baby girl. I saw pictures and chatted to mom and dad and 3 of them were great. And in that moment my heart broke. I remember holding FirefighterDad and crying. Crying for what we missed out on. Crying for what we went through and crying because we would never get that. That perfect delivery. That perfect pregnancy. Oh and baby showers. I remember the first I attended after having Mr. I and I was the only mama who went through the NICU. We all gave advice to the soon mom-to-be and I froze. What advice do I give to a mom who will bring her baby home?
5. Oh a pregnancy do-over. I can totally relate. I think I’m the only woman hoping for stretch marks! In the end I got just about the most perfect pregnancy but I never did get those stretch marks of being full term and pregnant with a full rounded belly!
6. It still hurts to think about. Although much much less, it’s still there. As the Babble article says the sadness and the joy must coexist. A great example of this is when my baby niece was born. Seconds after being born, I heard her screaming her little head off. My mom was on the phone and my sweet niece in the background was crying. As an Auntie I was SO happy!! I was overjoyed, but at the same time I was sad. I was crying and letting all the feelings – good, bad, sad, happy pour out. Mixed feelings always coexist when you’ve been through the NICU.
7. You never stop worrying. With Mr. I doctors appointments always had me stressing days before it. The “what ifs” would play out in my mind. With Baby C it’s been SO different. I don’t feel stressed, I don’t get butterflies. I enjoy seeing his growth curve has it moves forward. It’s been, dare I say, fun to take Baby C to his appointments. Even today, 4 years later, I still feel apprehension taking Brother I to the doctor.
I was recently talking to mom on the phone and updating her on Baby C and myself and I was explaining some of this to her especially about taking C to the doctor and how different it was. And my mom simply said “honey that’s called joy.” And I teared up a bit because she’s exactly right. I experienced joy with Baby C. With Brother I the joy eventually came years later, but initially there was stress, guilt, and isolation. Love was always there, but joy took a while.
I’m not sure why I’m writing this, but if there are other NICU parents out there, please know I get it. And it does, eventually, get better. And until that time comes, take it a day at a time and know you aren’t as alone as you feel. And many many prayers to you and your child(ren).