Tag Archives: NICU journey

How NICU Mums Are Chosen

NICU mums are tough: We may not feel like we are tough, indeed we often feel like we’re only just holding on, as if we could slip at any moment. As preemie parents we all need support, of that I am certain, but within us there is a strength, perhaps found in the love and courage of our little ones.

Even years later, I find myself digging deep to find that strength. When I comfort my youngest as he coughs a cough I’ve heard too many time before. A sound that fills me with dread and sets my heart racing – will we be going to hospital tonight?

I don’t believe I was ‘chosen’ to be a preemie mum, it’s just one of those things. But when times get tough and I struggle to find the strength I remember the poem by Erma Bombeck….

How Preemie Moms Are Chosen
by Erma Bombeck

Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.

”Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint, Matthew.
Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia.
Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint…give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. “Give her a preemie.”

The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But does she have the patience?” asks the angel.

“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she’ll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it. I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has a world of its own. She has to make it live in her world, and that’s not going to be easy.”

“But Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”

God smiles. “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect She has just the right amount of selfishness.”

The angel gasps, “Selfishness?! Is that a virtue?”

God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says momma for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see— ignorance, cruelty, prejudice— and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

“And what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in the air.

God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”

November is World Prematurity Month. Please share to raise awareness. A journey through neonatal care lasts long after bringing your baby home 💜

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Once the Storm is Over: NICU & Beyond

imagesCAD2R930“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in” Haruki Murakami

As a parent of a baby born too soon I was often asked in the early days how we made it through NICU. My reply was always the same – you just did, you had to. New mothers would ask how could I leave my baby each day and colleagues would hide their gasps at the sight of our tiny baby hooked up to an array of breathing apparatus. It was here that I turned to Piglet and Pooh – “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” AA Milne.

Another quote I see used to sum up NICU is “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have”.

seeing our son for the first time

seeing our son for the first time

It is certainly true that neonatal care tests you to your very limits and that there are few alternative choices; but I don’t remember feeling particularly ‘strong’, in fact often just the opposite. Lost in your emotions you manage – you have to. Thrown into a world that has been turned upside down you hold on through the storm and get through. For being strong was someone much braver and smaller than me – it was the fight in my baby that gave me hope and it was holding onto that hope that kept me strong. It was the kindness of staff that got me through and the parents on the unit who picked me up when I was down.

The sun was shining on the day we left the hospital and I still remember the weight of relief and the sense of ‘it’s over’- those feelings didn’t leave however and very soon I came to realise that the storm had not passed, that the NICU journey was not over. The questions ‘How did you manage in NICU?’ ‘How did you make it through?’ became redundant – you’d made it to this stage because you had to, but I was still battling, still holding on in the aftermath of the storm. The question should have been ‘how are you managing now?’, but there is a mistaken, yet understandable belief that once you’re home the difficult time is behind you.

I like to think of the NICU journey a little bit like the British weather; the storm may settle and the sun may shine, but its course is unpredictable and the scars of its aftermath take their toll. Even on the brightest of days the threat of rain clouds can linger and with four seasons in one day the forecast can change at a moments notice. Memories of the storm last for parents who have lived the neonatal care journey and the weather can remain unsettled for some time to come – Once a NICU parent, always a NICU parent.

 imagesCAD2R930“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in”  Haruki Murakami