No one can really explain to you the way it feels to leave your newborn baby in the NICU. Logically you know that she’s in the best place for her and being taken care of by amazing people (seriously, NICU nurses are walking angels). But emotionally… it’s devastating.
But as the nurses constantly reminded me, she wouldn’t be there forever.
And they were right. 54 days after she was born, the day after her due date, my baby girl came home.
What they don’t tell you though, is that the NICU experience never really leaves you. Once you’re a NICU mom, you’re a NICU mom for life. You’re part of a special club – a club no one ever wants to be part of – for moms who know what it’s like to leave a piece of their heart behind
I recently read that moms of preemies experience more stress and guilt than typical moms. I don’t know if that’s true, but I certainly understand it.
For Miss O’s 4th birthday I shared her birth story and I’ll be honest, I still cry when I read it. Her birth day was not the best day of my life. Yes, I was happy and felt blessed to have a beautiful baby girl, but mostly it was just plain terrifying.
Most of the time our lives are completely normal. If not for my girl still being a peanut (not quite 30 lbs at 4 years old), you’d never know she was as early or as small as she was.
But then, something happens. Sometimes it’s just a little moment, like when we’re cuddling and I remember the days when I could only hold her for an hour a day. I hold on a little longer then.
Other times its bigger. Scarier.
A few years ago Miss O was getting repeated ear infections and her doctor recommended ear tubes. It’s a simple procedure and very common, so I wasn’t all that worried. Honestly, I was more worried about not being able to feed her in the morning than I was about the surgery.
The morning of the surgery we woke up early, put on some comfy clothes and headed out to the surgical center. They Miss O put on a gown that was hilariously big on her and she was in pretty good spirits, except for having another ear infection brewing.
Everything was going fine… until they came to take her away.
She had a sad, “I just want my Mommy” look on her face, but was otherwise okay. I, on the other hand, was a wreck.
I held it together until she was out of sight. Then I hightailed it to the bathroom in the lobby and found myself smack in the middle of a panic attack.
I wasn’t prepared for the memories that came flooding back. Watching my baby be taken away by people in scrubs brought me right back to those agonizing 54 days and I was consumed by those emotions once again.
Of course Miss O did just fine with her procedure and by the time I had composed myself she was all done. The nurse led me back to her recovery room where we snuggled while watching Sid the Science Kid. The panic subsided and I brought my sweet, groggy girl home for a day of cuddles.
Those moments of panic are growing fewer and farther between as the memory of those days becomes more distant, but I don’t think they’ll ever disappear completely. There will always be a little piece of the NICU with me. All I can do is remind myself that it’s just a memory and do what I can to help other NICU Moms.