Monday, July 29, 2013

Tales from the NICU: The last tale

In September 2012, my full-term newborn son spent the first three weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. "Tales from the NICU" are stories from our unexpected stay there. 


Every few weeks, I'll see an old picture or be reminded of a story that takes me back to our days in the NICU and all the feelings come rushing back and it's like I'm there all over again and I get this urge to write it down, to explain it all, to others and to myself.

I want to write about the nurses; those who were little glimmers of light in the darkness, who I hugged for giving us good news, who fought for us, and the ones I nearly yelled at, and the ones who grew on me, and how hard it must have been for all of them to face the pain of those babies day and night. And O those poor sweet babies, the little premies locked in their bubbles of survival, who saw their mamas, maybe touched them, once or twice a day; the little babies who cried all day and night for the drugs their mamas took. I'll never forget the mix of tiny cries and constant beeps that were the soundtrack of that place.

I want to write, too, about how bizarre it was to live there for three weeks, and of the pain in the one time I left there without him, and about how it all started to feel like a televisions show by the end: The rotating cast of characters, the suspense of waiting for updates, the drama of the bad news, the rush of emotions when we were suddenly released. I want to write about the breakdowns, and the sleep deprivation, and the friends who came with meals, and all the goings on in that little corner of the world, nestled in one of several small hospitals in a dime-a-dozen city.

I want to write about the weeks and months that followed, of the breastfeeding failure, and the late postpartum check-up that didn't go so well, and of the little fear in the back of my mind that it will all happen again some day.

But I'm starting to realize that I'm never going to be able to purge it all. No matter how much I write down, I'm never going to be able to communicate all the emotions that I felt in that place to another human being. I think part of the reason I feel the urge to is because the whole experience has so completely tattooed itself onto my heart, and made me a different person, and defined my motherhood, in ways both good and bad. And because I still feel so much guilt, for the pain I saw him go through, and for not being able to hold him to my chest through every minute of it, and for failing to feed him in the way I wanted, and for his ever having to be there. So I guess I want a little understanding for that, and a little forgiveness. But this is the last I'm going to write about it here, because it's my pain to hold and process, and I'm the one who has to forgive.


  1. My little one is in the NICU as we speak she has been there for 22 days today. I have not been able to take her home, but I am sure that will be a whole different set of emotions. I can feel your pain because it is what I am living today. I have tried to tell friends and family no matter how much they want to understand what it is like, unless you have lived this experience you will never fully comprehend what we as mothers are going through. Its not their fault, but there are no words to describe the internal struggles you go through during this process. The best way for me to describe this is guilt. Not just guilt that my body failed to keep my sweet baby safe, but guilt that I must leave her and go home, guilt that I am not there 100% of the time to care for her...all types of guilt.

    1. O I'm so sorry you must go through this too. You're right, when it comes down to it, there are no words. And I know the guilt is so real, but I also know that it is not not not your fault. You are not the accused, you are the savior. You are the one returning day after day with all the immense, never-ending love of your mama heart, even as you hurt. You are the most comforting voice beside her and you are carrying her through this. You are strong. I am so glad she has you for a mother. I remember waiting so desperately for my son's first smile, almost like a sign of forgiveness, as if he were saying to me "I'm happy and I love you and it's okay." That smile will come, home will come, healing will come for both of you. It won't be forever, though I know it feels endless now. If you want to talk, feel free to contact me ( I'll keep you and your little girl in my heart.