Friday, November 12, 2010

I am a NICU mom.

I read some good advice for parents of preemies that at some point you have to stop thinking of your baby as a "NICU baby." I don't want my son to be treated differently or to change how I would parent him because he was a preemie. They do catch up and many have little to no complications. This is certainly proving true with Noah. His doctor said she expects that he will be almost caught up by 1 year of age. Pretty amazing.

But I don't think I will ever stop being a "NICU mom." Watching your own child fight for his life and not being his primary caregiver for 3 months does something to you. I have the feeling I will spend the rest of my life realizing exactly what.

To be honest, many days our NICU experience seems far, far away. But some days I think about it a lot. And all days are affected by it.

Some of the effects are good and I wouldn't change them even if I could. The whole "embracing the ordinary" idea (besides being quite a clever name for a blog if I do say so myself) is a good thing. Every day is permeated with being thankful for my son. (Not that a parent who didn't have a baby in the NICU isn't thankful, of course. There is just a different kind of thankful that comes with it.) Whenever crying or lack of sleep or messes start to bother me the thought "stop complaining; he is alive" is never too far behind. That may seem kind of morbid, but its true. I never have to look very far for an needed attitude adjustment. (Especially when he was in the NICU, I kind of wanted to yell at people who complained about their kids, or when I saw a parent treat their kid like dirt in public--something like "at least your kid is with you and not laying hooked up to machines in the hospital!" I never actually did, but the thought crossed my mind.)

I experienced the power of prayer, the strength of my marriage, the Body of Christ, the peace that transcends all understanding, the blessed hope of our great God and Savior, and the love that surpasses knowledge in amazing and special ways. Those are things that I treasure and want to stay with me throughout my life.

Obviously some of the effects are not so fun. Even with a preemie who is doing as well as Noah, there are some things that are just different than having a child who was full-term, and memories, worries, and feelings that come with it all. Something I did not really expect was how much I have had to deal with that "lost last trimester." Compared to the other aspects of having a baby 3 months early, it doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal, but I have been surprised how often it comes to my mind and the emotions it brings. I don't have funny anecdotes about doing things with a huge belly. I didn't wear a good amount of the maternity clothes I got. I don't have a whole series of growing belly pictures. I don't even have a picture of my pregnant self in front of the Christmas tree. (I was honestly planning to do that photo shoot the night I landed in the hospital, how ironic...) I didn't get to feel him hiccup or see my belly move. (Actually I hardly got to feel him move much at all, which makes sense considering he was the size of a 24 weeker.) I didn't get to pack a hospital bag. I didn't get to get the nursery all set up before he was born. I don't have a labor and delivery story other than "a very worried looking nurse came into my room, said you are having this baby now, and half an hour later woke up to spend more time in the same hospital room while my baby was fighting for his life in another." (Not that I was actually too excited to experience labor and delivery, but it just feels kind of wrong that I didn't.)

So remember...
if I act kind of strangely when labor and delivery stories are shared,
or if I start every other sentence with "In the NICU..."
or if I get upset when people complain about their kids and treat them like they are an inconvenience,
or if I know way too much about child development,
or if I seem a little germ-aphobic concerning my baby,
or if I randomly start crying at just the sight of my healthy, happy boy
... it's just because
I am a NICU mom.


  1. So true, so true. Some day I hope you and I both get to experience what we missed out on, even though I know we wouldn't change anything we went through for our boys. I just hope we never have to do that again.

  2. I am a NICU mom too. We may miss the stories but we are uniquely positioned to help other families in crisis. We know.

  3. Being a NICU Mom does put you in a position to help others who are in your shoes and feeling alone and scared. Your blog is a terrific. Thank you for your support and for being part of the Fight for Preemies!

  4. I'm a NICU mom, too, and always will be, even though my 24-weeker preemie twins are now happy, healthy 19 year olds. I mourned many of the losses of a normal pregnancy that you mentioned here. But I celebrate all the lessons I've learned from having preemies, too, like "boring is good", embracing the ordinary, the true accomplishments of eating and breathing on one's own. Thanks for sharing your story. You can read ours at Mike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds. I do love the name of your blog.