To The Mother of a Preemie Baby
Dear NICU parent,
As we walk down the hall of the sterile hospital, the scent of hand sanitizer in the air and on our hands. With the hustle of nurses and doctors rushing to tend to a baby, or coming back from break. We are either on our way to see our baby, leaving our baby, on our way to pump, or maybe even escaping for a short while to see the sun, to get some food or to say some prayers.
As we pass each other, I want you to know that I know. I may not know your baby’s story. I may not know why you are living your third trimester in the hospital watching your baby in an isolette instead of being at home and feeling it kick you from the inside. I don’t know your story, or why there is a tear silently running down your face. But I know.
I know the way you felt when you were discharged from the hospital without your baby. I know how you felt when you were told that you were having a baby weeks or months early. I know how you feel when you wake up in the middle of the night to pump instead of snuggling with your baby. I know how you feel when your baby has a setback. I know how if feels to believe you are so utterly alone even though you are constantly surrounded by people and noise. I know how you feel when you see your baby when you first arrive in the morning. I know.
As we pass, there is a silent understanding between us. We understand the sadness, pain, hurt, anger and frustration that we feel. We silently look at each other, give a sympathetic smile, and know just exactly how the other is feeling.
For a brief moment, I feel comforted in the fact that I am not in this alone. That I am not the only mother on the planet having to sit by and watch their 2 pound baby fight for their lives. Fight to breath, fight off infections, fight to eat and fight to survive. And I hope that you know that you are not alone either.
As I hear your sobs over the groans of our pump machines in the pump room, I want to reach out and hug you (and have done so), I want to comfort you, and support you, even though I don’t feel like I can comfort or support myself. Looking back now I am surprised on how easy it was for me to burst into tears while I hugged a complete stranger.
And as you see me while we wait for rounds, or during “changing of the nurses” I want you to know that you are not alone. I know how hard and long the nights are when you can not simply roll over and see your baby. I know how your heart races when you call your nurse in the middle of the night for an update, hoping for a good one. I know your anger you feel when you are rushing between home (and other children) and back to the hospital to spend a few precious hours with your tiny angel.
I know the sadness you feel when you hear of your friend or family member who just had a perfect, healthy and term baby. I understand the joys you feel when your baby is able to do the tiniest of milestone, like take a drop of your hard earned breast milk, take a breath unassisted, or have an IV removed.
So many stories of triumphs and setbacks are shared as we wash out our pumping ‘gear’. Hugs given and tears shed when families are sent home or to level 2.
In our sadness, grief, pain, joyous moments and uncertainty we can help each other. You are not alone. Your baby is not alone. When you see me sitting in the waiting room, pacing the hallways or down in the cafeteria. Know that although we may not speak. We may not know each other’s history. We may not be the best of friends. But know, that you are in my thoughts and prayers, always. That you and your baby(ies) will make it through OK. That your NICU journey will end soon. And you will not have to return. Know that I feel your pain and sadness, your joys and happiness.
It has been three years now since I was a mother in the NICU. I can still feel that feeling. That feeling that I felt when I would make a eye contact with another mother. Not a word would need to be spoken, and I would know how you felt, and you would know how I felt.
Stay strong, and know you are not alone.