Dear mom of a NICU baby,
I know that this experience is not what you pictured when you found out you were expecting. Your delivery was not when you wanted it, and probably not how you wanted it. I am sure you feel a sense of loss over not getting that perfectly normal childbirth. Take some time to grieve that. There is no shame in feeling a sense of loss over the experience you thought you would have. I know that you might worry over why you don’t feel that total bond immediately at birth but when you finally get to hold that baby and feel her soft warm skin against hers, you will fall in love. And I promise that even if it took you a few days to truly feel like she belonged to you, you will bond with her and she with you. And in a few days it won’t matter to you how she came out, or how long you waited to hold her, or how long it took to be able to nurse her, all that will matter is that you are her mommy and she is your baby.
I know you might be scared of your baby, ok you might even be terrified, and that makes you feel like you are failing at this mother thing before you even really start. I assure you that it is normal and ok to be scared. Just try to look past the tubes and the wires, work past the fear, and do as much as the nurses will let you. It can be so scary to change those tiny diapers, or help clean her up. But the more you hold her and help her the more you will realize how strong she really is, and not near as fragile as you originally thought. Take full advantage of the NICU staff, they are there for your baby but also for you. Ask every question, voice every concern, call every time you need to without feeling stupid. They are an amazing group of people!
Oh tired worn out mommy, I know the jealousy you feel as you walk back to your room in the birthing unit alone. Past the rooms with the screaming, healthy babies inside, past the scenes straight out of a Hallmark scene with families crowded around tiny bassinets. I know the loneliness you feel as you walk into your empty room and hook yourself up the the breast pump, again. I know how you religiously pump every 2 and 1/2 hours, never skipping one, because, that is the one and only thing, you feel you can do to help your baby. Allow yourself to feel that pain, to cry, to feel a little sorry for yourself. It doesn’t mean that you are not grateful for your baby’s life and the doctor’s wisdom, it just means this is a complicated situation with a multitude of emotions every minute. And don’t let anyone, and I mean anyone, tell you how you should feel or act in any of those moments. Let people be there for you, let them help you, pray with you and sit with you. But don’t be afraid to send them away when you just need some time to be alone.
Some people will stay stupid things with their hearts in the right places, and some people will just not even come around. But most people just want to do whatever they can to help you. So dear, emotionally wrung out and exhausted mom, find someone to lean on. And don’t be afraid to cry when you need to, lock people out when you need to or bury your head in a pillow and scream. This journey will be long and this journey will be tough but allow God and those you love to carry you through.
Don’t worry about responsibilities or obligations you feel like you are failing at outside of this room. For the coming days, weeks or months, give yourself an abundant serving of grace. Take care of that teeny precious thing, but also mother dearest, take care of yourself too. Take every minute you can to snuggle that baby, and cherish the feel of her, the smell of her and remind yourself what you all are fighting for. Let her comfort you and calm you while you do the same for her. You might get less time than the average mom does to hold her new baby, but let all those moments count. Do skin to skin, even if it feels awkward at first and don’t be shy about asking to hold her, or to feed her. Take those moments and soak in every single one you get each day. You are a mom now, and just like that you will realize how strong you really are, and not near as fragile as you originally thought.
This is part one of a series I will be posting throughout the week geared towards NICU moms and those who want to support them!