Dear NICU Parent,
I see you.
I see you sit hours on end next to an isolette stroking the tiny hand of your child who is covered in so many wires that you can't see her face.
I see the confused and impatient look on your face as the doctor does his rounds and then ends with "We don't really know. We just need to wait and see".
I see you leave the room in agony as your baby has to have a painful procedure that 1. you can't do anything about 2. you can't even scoop her up and comfort her when it's all over as she cannot be moved.
I see you cringe as well-meaning friends say "You're lucky you get go to home and sleep a full night!"
I see you wanting to stay home in pajamas all day with a body beaten and sore from childbirth but instead digging out clothes that sort of fit you and making your daily pilgrimage into the hospital where you left part of your heart behind.
I see you enviously watching new mommy after new mommy being wheeled by the NICU's window holding a perfectly healthy baby and taking their baby with them to the mommy recovery floor.
I see you struggle to feed your child- a simple life function now become extremely difficult.
I see you trying to find your place in all of this as the nurses and doctors take over parental duties and you find yourself sitting on the sidelines.
I see the worry on your brow as you wonder if you somehow did pregnancy wrong to cause all of this.
I see you rejoicing over small changes in oxygen numbers or praising good eating in the foreign language of "ccs"
I see you taking in the constant beeps of the noisy room and yet feeling deafened by the silence.
I see you feeling incredibly lonely as health concerns means absolutely no visitors- not even Grandma and Grandpa.
I see you wipe tears away when you think no one is looking and hastily clear your throat for normal conversation when the nurse appears out of nowhere.
I see how extremely thankful you are for how much that nurse loves and gently cares for your baby.
I see the look on your face when you arrive home after a long and difficult day, walk into a beautifully decorated nursery, and just sit with emotions too heavy to express.
I see the hope on your heart when you go to bed that night, thinking that maybe tomorrow will be THE day when the doctor's FINALLY know when you can bring your new baby home.
I see the devastation in your eyes when that estimate of "maybe next week" gets pushed out week after week.
I see the fear on your face as you finally leave after countless weeks with a baby who is on 24 hours of oxygen and a g-tube, and you wonder if you will screw this up.
I see all of this because I was you four years ago.
Today as I pulled out my first born's first pictures to celebrate her birthdday, I felt all of these emotions and memories wash over me that I hadn't felt or thought of in some time.
Why did this hit me with a wave unbelief that this was actually us 4 years ago today?
We snuck cupcakes for our midmorning snack. We colored. We played with stickers. I gave her a long bubbly bath. She played with her brother. She fought with her brother. We all danced together to her favorite music CDs. We hugged. We read books. We laughed. We talked. We listened. I brushed her hair very carefully as she took her glasses off and said "all done". I had to say such routine things as "STOP CLIMBING ON THE COUNTER" and "Please stay in the bath until I can get you a towel" and "Just because you CAN throw that at your brother doesn't mean you SHOULD.
I have long accepted that our NICU time just "was". It wasn't anyone's fault. It wasn't a mistake. It has just blended into our daughter's history that marks her strength and courage. A history carefully and perfectly planned by a sovereign God.
Today we celebrate a life that we fought so hard for 4 years ago in the NICU. A fight that we forgot about...until today.
Why did we forget? Well....we have been too busy enjoying this:
while she has completely mastered skills that the doctors told us she might never do
some good skills....some not so good skills...
For the past 4 years she has lived life with this smile not too far away,
enjoyed the sights of life (with snacks...of course),
learned how to work an iPhone,
mastered the art of flying,
stole to support her sweet tooth,
learned how to ski,
let us know that she wasn't fan of the cold required for skiing,
started going to preschool,
became an expert "stirrer"
and oh so many other things...
...typical, little girl things.
So NICU parent- I see you- discouraged- thinking that this phase of life will last forever.
Because the best is yet to come.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADDISON!!!!!!
p.s. to the awesome Fletcher Allen NICU...THANK YOU