One year ago today, my heart ripped into a million pieces.
I was discharged from the hospital after a month long stay.
It hit me like an effing brick. I am a NICU mom.
One year ago today, I had to leave my NICU babies behind. I had to walk out of Labor and Delivery without an infant car seat on my arm. I had to walk into the elevator and watch the doors close.
One year ago today, I felt my legs go weak while walking out of the elevator. I could feel it deep in my bones; feel my soul being ripped out of me.
One year ago today, I saw other families leaving the hospital with their newborns and sobbed while my husband helped me walk past the hospital lobby.
I have decided to share with you guys my most fragile moment. The day I will never forget. It has been one whole year, but I still feel the ache. I still feel the jealousy towards mothers and fathers who are able to walk out of the hospital as a family.
Mothers who never have their babies taken from them.
One year ago today, I started my outpatient NICU journey. I was a NICU mom.
I woke up at 5AM to pump, throw on clothes and head to the NICU where I would spend all day. My husband would come back after work and we would leave around 8PM each night.
Every. Single. Day. was heartbreaking.
Hearing the monitors, alarms, rush of doctors here and there. It is traumatizing. It is so surprise that being a NICU mom, dad and family can lead to PTSD and intense postpartum depression.
Hearing that your baby is doing great, just to come back after grabbing a coffee and find out we took two steps back.
Walking, numb, to the mothers room in the NICU to meet another NICU mom who has been there for 92 days. If that doesn’t break your soul, I don’t know what else would.
I didn’t know what the future had in store for us one year ago today. I didn’t know if we would be there for a few weeks or a few months.
But I held on to what I could. Spent as much time with my babies as I could. And occasionally listened when their nurses told me to take a break and walk a lap around the hospital.
The NICU is a scary place.
It is the kind of place where you feel your deepest emotions and cry them out into the shoulder of a stranger because they know what you are going through. They see it every day. Every hour.
I know a mom who is scheduled to be discharged from the hospital today without her baby and my heart is breaking all over again for her. I remember the pain of leaving. And I know she isn’t the only one.
NICU mom’s hold a secret. A secret pain that flows through them. It might dull with time, but it will always be there. You will always remember these fragile, heartbreaking moments.
One day, you might find yourself walking into Labor and Delivery to visit a friend who is having her baby. You might walk past the little nursery inside of there that hold all of the newborn cribs, or see the newborn crib in your friends room and it will hit you.
Out of nowhere you will feel it again.
The tightness, weak knees, inability to catch your breath. The room might start to spin. It might all come back. It might bring on all of those emotions again. The anxiety, pain, anger and frustration. There your best friend is. Holding her newborn baby. And all you can think about is
“why couldn’t that have been me?”
And while you might want to break down, you’ll also realize you can’t. You don’t want to take away the beautiful moment from your best friend. Why are you feeling like this?
Being a NICU mom will put you in some tough spots. It will follow you and punch you in the face when you least expect it to. But what can you do in those hard, frustrating times? You can look at the good that came out of your NICU journey.
Were you better prepared to take care of your newborn? Did you learn how to slay the swaddle? What about pumping? Did you learn to pump efficiently due to all of the extra help? How to properly wash bottles? Or did you learn more about your baby than you likely would have otherwise?
As traumatizing as the NICU experience is, you can find strength. You have to.