When my boys were born, nothing went as I had planned. In my 30 years of life, I had controlled every aspect of my existence (much to the dismay of my husband, I’m sure)! The night that Logan decided it was time to be born, 7 weeks before they were due, I quite literally handed over my hearts to hospital staff that I didn’t know. By all accounts my story has a happy ending – as I write this, I have two vibrant, healthy 5 year old boys. When parents start their journey in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), it’s natural to focus on the good stuff when talking to others – even if the good stuff is small. Unfortunately, this leads to never talking about the bad stuff, and the very real loss that is suffered even when your babies survive.
To this day, I grieve the connections and time I feel I lost when I had my babies. I dreamed of their birth, and of all the moments romanticized in print and film about those first moments when they would come into this world, and know that I was their mom, and that I loved them. After all, I had read in books and blogs about the crucial chest bonding, and planned how I would rest both of them on me immediately after they were born. My birth story reality was getting a glimpse of Logan right after his birth, and then having to take my husband’s word for the fact that Lennon was ok. The feeling of loss resurfaces with every invitation to a baby shower or “baby’s first xmas” photo post on social media.
Because the doctor had to remove Lennon via C-Section, I couldn’t get to the NICU until hours later (which was still too early for me to move, but remember when I said I needed to control things)? I spent those hours feeling guilty, wondering what I could have done differently to prevent their early birth, which was now possibly risking their lives. Looking back, I know now the answer is nothing – I did everything right. I ate healthy, I followed doctor’s orders, and nothing would have prevented our circumstances. I also spent those hours lamenting over the fact that my two babies had entered this world and still hadn’t felt their mother’s love. I temper this statement by expressing my gratefulness to the nurses and doctors who cared for them – I know now they were in amazing hands.
To add to my depression, and then guilt over the depression, several friends delivered babies in the same time frame as I did. Delivered their babies, took beautiful photos of their first hours together, and then went home to begin their lives. I watched all of this happen around me, and struggled with feeling both happy and insanely jealous as I sat in the NICU and watched helplessly as others provided care to my boys. That struggle between happiness and jealousy for those I love as they celebrate newfound motherhood has never subsided, no matter how much time passes.
I am so grateful to be able to now recognize that there are valid diagnoses for my feelings and reactions to our family’s journey. It feeds my passion to ensure that future NICU moms have peer mentors by their side. Knowing there is a community of like-minded persons helps to keep moving forward.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. -Arthur Ashe