My darling NICU babies,
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry your entrance to this world was full of chaos, noise, and bright lights. At times I am full of guilt. Guilt that I couldn’t do my one job as your mother: protect you. You came out screaming but then struggled to breathe. Just as quickly as you entered the room, you were swept away from me. As I lay open on the table, all I could do was wait. Wait for my doctors to put me back together. Wait for your doctors to get you hooked up to the various machines that would support you and help you grow. Wait to hold you. So much waiting . . .
I came to see you every day, twice a day, even when it hurt to get out of bed. Even when I knew I could only sit next to you and stare, not being able to hold you yet. Every day we came and followed the “scrub in” procedures. Putting our phones in a sterilizer and then a plastic bag. Washing our hands thoroughly. Applying the surgical hand cream twice, up to our elbows. Spending 5 minutes just making sure we weren’t bringing any germs into your safe little bubble.
Some days all we could do was look at you. I sat and watched you have blood drawn, be fitted for a new CPAP, and endure a feeding tube being placed through your nose. I wondered how someone so tiny and new to this world could endure so much in so little time. But you endured.
The days I could hold you were so bittersweet. I just wanted to swoop in and pick you up. Cuddle you, love you, hold you, protect you. But I couldn’t. Instead, I sat in a chair as a nurse moved machines and wires and pillows in just the right way. I waited for the nurse to lower you carefully into my arms. I sat so still, afraid to move too much and pull on a wire or tube and cause you more pain. I was so excited to hold you, but it hurt my heart to see you this way.
We had to take turns holding you. If I held you in the morning, your dad would hold you at night. It was too much on your tiny body to be moved around more than you needed to. Sometimes, when we got there, we couldn’t hold you at all. The nurse would look at us sadly and tell us you had a rough night or afternoon and needed to rest. I never wanted you to feel alone, so we would stay and hold your finger or just talk to you and stare at you.
You were so strong. Stronger than me most days. As I watched you be poked and prodded, I cried. You cried too sometimes. The day I was discharged from the hospital, I cried even harder. I didn’t want to leave you. Even though the maternity ward was on the other side of the hospital, at least we were in the same building. Once I went home, it meant it would be harder to come to see you. But we still did every day.
Your grandparents and your aunts and uncle came too. Sometimes in person, sometimes via video call. Your friends and family asked for updates and pictures. Some sent positive thoughts. Some sent gifts, some prayed. You had so many people in your corner. Before you even left the hospital, you had an entire army of followers wishing you well.
You continued to get stronger. Each day, making a little more progress. Oh, the strength you showed! There were setbacks, but with each one, you came out on top. Making another leap, another step closer to coming home. You started breathing better, needing less support from the machines. You started eating, not needing a feeding tube anymore. You started moving. Grabbing our fingers and sometimes the wires, setting off your alarms and monitors.
The nurses started making jokes. Jokes about you being the biggest NICU babies on the floor. Jokes about you ripping off all your leads and trying to break free. It was nice to joke. It was nice to smile and have hope and enjoy being with you. But we still longed to bring you home. We longed for a sense of normalcy.
Eventually, you checked off each milestone you needed to meet to come home. Twenty-four hours at a certain air pressure. Twenty-four hours on just the nasal cannula. Twenty-four hours with no supports. We celebrated each one, hoping for it to continue.
And it did.
You, my NICU babies, continued to grow and make progress and show everyone how strong and amazing you are. Then, one morning, the doctors asked if we wanted to take you home. We were so full of fear and anxiety. Were we ready for this? Were we prepared to have you at home without the support of the doctors and nurses? But mostly, we were full of excitement and hope.
You were so strong. You were ready. Your life had just begun, and already you’d been through so much. But now, it was time for the next chapter. It was time for you to come home where you belonged. It was time for us to be a family.
Your start to life wasn’t perfect. It certainly wasn’t easy. But you amazed me with your strength and tenacity in those days, and you continue to do so every day since. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store!
I love you, my NICU babies. My little fighters!