October 3, 2012

On Moving Past NICU & Mourning

When I was pregnant I most looked forward to the moment when the nurses first handed me my (wiped down) baby girl; she would lay naked on my chest, her eyes covered in goop and finally I would feel her skin on my skin. Someone would take a picture of this most precious moment together, and I would treasure it forever.

Evie was born with IRDSII (Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome II). She was taken nearly immediately to NICU and twelve hours later, after scrubbing in, a nurse arranged the cords, tubes and wires attached to Evie just so and I held my daughter for the first time. I could hear the quiet beeping of the machines in her room and the occasional sounding of an alarm when her Oxygen saturation dropped below 98%.

There were no sobs of elation and no cries of joy. There is a code among NICU moms and dads. It's unspoken and unwritten, but you don't get too excited ever. Because likely there is a very ill baby nearby or possibly one who isn't going to make it. And even though you don't talk about the code you know it's there. It's there in the quiet looks of empathy and support you cast one another when you gather as a "pod" (four NICU rooms make up a "pod" and there are six "pods" in total) to quietly wait until your baby's name is called and the nurses, head nurse practitioner and head of the NICU discuss your child's prognosis, eating habits, treatments and progress. They use big words in what sounds like a foreign language.

This place is where I met my daughter for the first time, and I've spent a long time mourning the loss of that picture that I wanted so badly, mourning everything that picture represented to me. I blamed a lot of our early woes on NICU. The separation and the lack of immediate bonding time, in my mind, were at fault for the long hours spent crying and the lack of that mommy daughter connection that I so wanted to feel.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with that whole time period, and it was only in examining my heart to see if I really ever wanted another child that I realized for every experience that is taken from us we gain something else instead. And it is up to us to make those events into our own moments of beauty.  I didn't get the picture that I wanted with Evie. I got this one instead, and it's more precious to me than the thought of that other picture ever was.

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