Dear mom with a baby in the NICU,
I know the panic is setting in. The beeping sounds of machines and the chatter of the nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are filling your ears. All you see are the tiniest of helpless babies, one of whom is yours. It’s a sight that will never escape your mind. You are now a NICU mom.
As your baby lies in an incubator surrounded by wires, you feel totally helpless. All you can do is blankly stare at your child as your eyes fill up with tears. “You have to be brave,” you tell yourself. But deep down, you know this will be a battle.
I’ve heard those beeping sounds. I’ve felt panicked and helpless. I’ve seen those tiny babies in the NICU. My baby was one of them.
My daughter was born six weeks early, after I woke up in the early morning with pain in my stomach and lower back. I tried to sleep it off, but after hours went by, I knew my husband and I needed to go to the hospital. I'd gone into early labor.
While I was at the hospital, the nurses tried to reassure me that everything would be okay and it was most likely a false alarm. When one of the nurses checked to see how many centimeters dilated I was, I found out I wouldn't be leaving any time soon. I was already at 3 centimeters and about five minutes later, my water broke.
I was so jealous of other moms who got to hold their baby on their chests. I felt like my bonding time with my daughter had been taken away from me.
I thought about how excited I was to finally meet my baby girl, but then I realized how early she was, and that she might be born with health issues. I was given medication to help my labor last longer. I signed forms saying doctors could do whatever was necessary to get the baby out.
About a day later, my daughter was born. She weighed 4 pounds 12 ounces and was 16.5 inches long. I got to look at her for a moment, and then she was whisked away to the NICU. I didn’t even get to touch her. I was so jealous of other moms who got to hold their baby on their chest. I felt like my bonding time with my daughter had been taken away.
To explain how it feels to give birth and not be able to be the first person to hold your child is close to impossible. I still think about it, five years later. To this day, I have to fight back tears when I think about it for too long. It still hurts.
After your baby is born, you’re left with cheerful nurses and your own thoughts. You feel like the nurses are trained for these type of situations. But no matter how hard they try, nothing cheers you up. Nothing takes your mind off your baby.
The wires and sounds suddenly disappeared. All I saw was my tiny miracle.
I remember being wheeled down the hallway to my room. I saw mothers with their newborns and I felt envious that they got to be with their babies right away. I felt ashamed of myself. “What did I do wrong to make my daughter be born so early?” I thought to myself. You may always be asking yourself that question.
Eventually, the moment came when I finally got to touch my baby. I got to hold her about a day after she was born. The wires and sounds suddenly disappeared. All I saw was my tiny miracle. Nothing in the world can make you feel more proud than knowing that your baby is a fighter.
NICU Mom, realize that you are a fighter as well. It takes strength to go home without your baby. When the time came for me to be discharged from the hospital, I remember trying to think of excuses for me to stay. I just wanted to be closer to my daughter. I didn’t want to leave her. But she had to stay.
My husband pulled our car to the front of the hospital. I went into the car, without my baby in the car seat. At home, I tried to pump milk and sleep, but it became impossible. All I wanted was my daughter at home and healthy. I went into her room every day to look at her crib. Tears flowed constantly.
I visited my daughter every day. I remembered to thoroughly wash my hands before I entered the NICU. All the tiny babies looked the same and my heart dropped when I couldn’t find the incubator my daughter was in right away. When I found her, I would talk to her and let her know mommy would always be there for her.
When you're a NICU mom, you find that the smallest of accomplishments feel like the biggest milestones. A few times, my daughter ripped out her feeding tube and I remember saying, “That’s my girl.” I was so proud of her. She was letting the nurses know she didn’t need it anymore. And eventually, she didn’t.
Throughout this entire ordeal, always remember that your baby is fighting. Your baby is special. And as a mom, you are special too. It takes a strong woman to go through this. The feelings of hurt and anguish from this time may always be there, but they will fade. Time heals. And whether you can believe it right now or not, you will have many joyful moments to add to the incredibly difficult ones you've had so far.
You will get through this, one day at a time. Not only will you be proud of your child, but in the end, you will be proud of the mother you have become because of this.
While my daughter was in the NICU, I bought her a beautiful white dress with green trim. The smallest size was too big for her, but I got it anyway. Then the day finally came when I could put her in that dress. The doctor said my daughter would be discharged from the NICU. I remember wanting to jump out of my chair. I looked at my husband with the biggest smile. To this day, it was one of the best days of my life.
My daughter was in the NICU for two weeks, but I know some moms have to deal with the pain far longer than that. Through your anguish, remember that you have a profound purpose: you are being present for your little miracle. He/she needs you. I know it’s hard. Most days, the sadness overwhelms you. But you will get to create happy memories, too. There are so many times when I look at my now 5-year-old happy, healthy, and vibrant daughter and think of how far she’s come.
You will get through it, one day at a time. Not only will you be proud of your child, but in the end, you will be proud of the mother you have become because of this.
Another NICU Mom