MAY 6, 2015
Hold on to my hand and I will walk with you through this NICU journey. I have been there before. I know what it’s like to wait at the front desk for ten minutes until shift change is done. Both at 6am and at 8pm. Let’s walk….
You tell the front desk the name of you child and what room they are in. The lady calls and checks with your child’s nurse to see if it’s “okay” for you to go visit. While you wait your heart pounds. Even though it’s not often they will tell you to wait. And when they do it’s usually because the nurse just hasn’t finished her paperwork and can’t pay attention to you right now. But that’s not what fills your mind. Anything and everything that can be wrong is what rushes through your mind. In and out as fast as the phone call.
The front desk lady smiles at you and tells you that you can go back. So you walk to the wash room where there are probably a couple other parents washing anxiously to see their babies. It is usually quiet in this wash room. You may get a smirk or a soft smile from another parent. You’re both going through this nightmare…. maybe not the same… BUT… the same.
You step up to the sink and read the instructions on how to wash your hands properly over and over again. You have been at this sink everyday for months and months and you will still read it word for word. And you will follow the instructions word for word…. wet your hands… apply the antibacterial soap.. wash and scrub for three minutes… be sure to take off your rings and jewelry. Scrub between your fingers and all the way up to your elbows. You may apply antibacterial hand sanitizer when done washing. Then you walk out of the room as careful as possible without touching anything!!! You even push on the open door button with your elbows.
When you first walk in through the NICU, you see photos of NICU graduates, thank you cards, and letters from healthy babies and kids. You walk past rooms of crying babies… babies who are asleep… babies who look healthy.. babies who are hooked up to ventilators and other types of machines… babies in cribs, beds, incubators. For a second you even think, “wow, that baby looks worse than mine.”
Then you walk into your child’s room. And that feeling of “your baby is not THAT bad” quickly disappears. The first thing you look at is his monitor. His pulse, his oxygen, his blood pressure are all monitored above their bed. By the second week you kind of get an idea of what numbers are good and what numbers are bad. You smile at his nurse and whisper Hi. You ask, “How is he doing?” She tries to give you a positive update. “He’s doing good. His stats are good. He’s sleeping.”
But you know he is always sleeping. You smile even though you know your son is NOT okay. You smile because it was something good to hear and not the latter. You smile because she tried and you appreciate the positivity.
You can’t quite hold your son yet, because he is still so fragile. There are so many tubes and wires attached to him, you don’t want to hold him anyways. You lightly, with the tip of your finger, touch his face, his arm, his hand, his leg, his foot. You get the nerve to stroke his hair and you smile because it feels like everything you ever dreamed of. Soft. You quickly imagine what it will be like when he gets bigger… a little wavy, maybe curly. Definitely soft.
You look at his precious face. You don’t see the tubes in his mouth that help him breathe. You just see the curve in his top lip. The roundness of his cheek. His button nose. You’re heart skips a beat… you’re in love. You stroke his face…
Then you’re startled by the incredible sound of his alarms going off. You’re heart is now pounding and this overwhelming feeling of fear covers you. You look up at the screen to see exactly what you did. Your touch made his heart race.
It takes a moment for you to compose yourself. You want to go back to loving on your son. But this time you don’t want to touch him. You just want to look at him. So you stand, you sit, you rock in the rocking chair…. for hours on end, you look at him. You pray… you sing… you chat with his nurse. You glance over at other parents that are visiting their babies. Every once in a while you make that awkward eye contact with a NICU parent. The same awkward acknowledgement of being in the same fight.
You skip your lunch because you don’t want to miss the possibility of him waking up, or moving his hands. Maybe he will see you. Maybe he will squeeze me hand. Maybe today he will just see me. Possibilities. You never leave his side because of so many possibilities.
You watch everything the nurse does. You watch as she takes his blood pressure, changes his diaper, feeds your soon through the tube in his mouth. You watch everything.
Then after 12 hours, you are forced to take a break. Shift change. You pray over your son and whisper to him that you will be back. You tell his nurse you will see her tomorrow. And, as excruciating as it is, you walk away. You look back maybe twice, but you walk away and out of the room. You walk past those room again. You see parents kissing their babies. You parents putting their babies back in their cribs. You see parents crying because they don’t want to leave their baby either.
You want to cry too, but you don’t. You want to scream, in anger, but you don’t. You want to ask God WHY?!?!?! But you don’t. You continue walking through the hallway and out of the NICU wing. Today’s visit is over. You walk through the hallway, to the elevator and you still can’t breathe. Your heart is breaking with every step you take. You are holding back those tears because you don’t want people looking at you.
You exit the elevator, you walk outside the hospital and are hit with the breeze. BREATHE! You rush to your car because you know… you feel… you’re about to lose it. You jump into to the car and before you can even get the key into the ignition, you realize you have already started crying.
Finally…. you breathe, but it hurts.
I know what it’s like to see your baby in the NICU. I know what’s its like to feel so out of control. You can’t even hold your baby… you can’t touch your baby because he can’t have too much stimulation.
I know what it’s like to see the dreams you had for your child diminish in seconds. Your future is forever change. No matter what the diagnosis, no matter what is currently happening, your life is changed forever.
He got me through it all. I prayed so much. I never thought one person could pray so much in one day. If there was a record, I’m sure I broke it. I broke it everyday.
I’m so sorry you’re going through this, NICU mama. I pray that you receive strength and hope and faith. So many days that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t breathe because of the pain. The Lord simply whispered to me… “Take my hand, I will walk with you.”
So, NICU mama, take my hand. I will walk with you. If you ever have a question, I will do my best to answer it for you. If you just need to cry, I will let you use my shoulder to cry on. If you just need me to sit there with you… then I will sit with you. If you just need someone to hold your hand, then I will hold your hand.
I’m here NICU mama. You are now a part of our special team. A team of Mothers of NICU fighters. It DOES get easier!! I promise. YOU will make it through.
We welcome you.