Daughter Diaries: Waiting on Baby
Staring at the empty crib beside me, the one that she will soon sleep in and jump in and cry in. I miss her and long for her as I pump again without my baby in my arms. As parents in the NICU, we deal with a lot of do's and don'ts. Don't wake her up. Don't change her diaper. Don't worry, don't fuss. Don't. Don’t. Don’t. I remind myself that she is mine. I kiss her anyways. I hold her anyways. And one (or two) times I've woken her up for a split second just to see her eyes again. Some days it seems that to stay sane I must cling to positivity but it never seems enough. Not enough positive vibes in my heart to calm my worried heart, not enough positivity to keep me from missing her. I lay in bed, up at night, tracing her face in my mind. Her big eyes and her nose like her father's. I write down things I might forget. What meds she's on, how fast she was breathing yesterday. How many times she smiled. Is she breathing now while I'm away? Will the nurses speak to her when she's awake, alone in her room? Will they pick her up at 3 am if she cries? Who will love her and sing to her and speak life into her while I'm away? They tell me to get my rest because when she finally comes home I will need it. I know they only mean it in the sweetest way but it feels like a taunt…almost as if I get a break from being a mom because my baby is in the NICU. I imagine that that is an insecurity some NICU parents face— feeling like less of a mother or a father because of the separation from your newborn.
The hospital has become such a big part of our lives. I think my heart broke in so many ways the day I was discharged. Leaving my baby was and still is difficult. I don't think I slept at all during those first few days/weeks. Going home without her and seeing her literally fight for each breath she took, it seemed surreal. Often we would get excited about her progress only to sink into a bevy of setbacks the next day. It’s easy to begin to feel like a bystander in your child’s experience. But you aren’t. I’m learning that waiting on your child is something that all parents will do throughout that child’s life. To my NICU parents maybe we’re the lucky ones. Maybe we get first dibs on 'Patience + Parenting 101' and so maybe we should own it. There’s a lot we can’t do with our babes while they work on growing and getting healthy in the safety of the NICU, but there is a lot that we can do. Maybe you just started skin-to-skin and you can only hold your child for an hour each day. I suggest you make that the best hour you both get to experience in a day. Be present while you are with your baby. Try not to think too much about the monitors and ventilators and nurses. Easier said than done, I know. But this is how I see it...we get the privilege to have a few extra months or weeks with our babies in our lifetime. So instead of being scared of it, we might as well make it worth it because, well, life is short. So when you go in to visit your babe during the bath time or feeding or even (the dreaded) eye exam focus your efforts on your baby who is a person and not a patient. Your baby who needs love and laughter and not fear. Your baby who feels your presence the moment you walk in. Your baby who needs you. Period.
The Hubs reminded me the other night not to forget. "We can't forget that every day we get to have front row seats to a miracle," he said. “Don't forget how hard she fought to be here, “ he said. If there’s anything I shouldn’t do, it is that. Not forgetting. Not forgetting her kicks in my belly or the sound of her heartbeat, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, going strong on the monitors during the many nights before her birth. Another thing I've learnt after big emotional ugly breakdowns is that it is not sufficient enough to try to "stay positive" on your own. That is not enough to soothe a person, that is too tasking and pretentious to ask of a woman who has to go through this. Rather I remind myself (and urge you) to remember how far grace has brought my family and I try to imagine just where it will take us. Remind yourself to always put it all into perspective, whatever it is that you may be going through. I've found that it helps immensely.
So be honest with how you're feeling, stay in the present moment and always, always put everything in perspective.
Social media has allowed me to connect with amazing people. Many of these connections spark my interest in writing again. I find that when I share these vulnerable moments of my life, others open up their hearts too. It is slightly unnerving to be raw and honest on a medium where everyone presents their best version of their lives (there's nothing wrong with that) but my hope is that if life is challenging you today, you may find solace in knowing that you aren't alone and you never were. If you’ve been through a similar experience or not, I’d love to hear from you.