An Open Letter to NICU Parents

Dear NICU Parents,

I know you haven’t really had the chance to soak in the joy of having a baby, because he went straight to the NICU after he was born, but congratulations.

Mom, I felt your terror when the doctors told you it was time to have your baby, even though you weren’t at term yet. I know the tightening that squeezed chest and stole your breath as they wheeled you back anyway, and the tears that streamed hot down your face as you literally prayed for your baby’s life.

I know the knot in your gut as you were wheeled into the NICU for the first time, and the heavy weight that settled on your heart when you saw your baby in the isolette with tubes, wires, cords, and IVs recording her vitals and keeping her breathing. I experienced the ache in your soul as you blame yourself for her condition, and blame yourself for not doing something right to have been able to hold her safe inside you for just a little while longer.

Mom, I know your pain. I lived your pain.

Dad, I watched as your wife screamed in fear and pain when the doctors took her away to deliver your baby. I saw you helplessly scramble to try and be useful, and heard you make the phone calls to your family, telling them that your baby boy was coming and you didn’t honestly know if it would be okay. I know you were just as terrified, not only for your baby being born too soon, but for your wife, your fiancé, your girlfriend. You were so worried about them that you couldn’t process anything right and you just didn’t know what to do!

I noticed when your heart broke as you wheeled your love through the NICU doors and she broke down crying at your daughter’s isolette. I saw you try and comfort her and reassure her that this wasn’t her fault, and try to put on a strong facade for your new, little, hurting family.

Dad, I know your pain. I saw your pain.

I know it feels like things will hurt forever. I know right now, you’re grieving the things you didn’t get to do.

You probably didn’t get to have your baby shower or maternity pictures. Neither did I.

You’re probably blaming yourself for your baby’s situation. I did too.

You’re probably sick of hearing pregnant women complain about being pregnant, and say how they’re so ready to have their baby already, because you would have given anything to stay pregnant longer. I was, I would have.

It gets better.

Being in the NICU with your baby is one of the most painful things you will ever have to do in your life.

You will have to leave your baby behind night after night, and come home to an empty nursery. You will have to sit beside your baby’s bed, unable to touch him because he has to rest after his last procedure. You will have to listen to doctors’ medical speak every day at rounds and anxiously wait for them to say when your baby can come home, even though you know you still have weeks to go. You will stare at the scale every night when your baby is weighed, and pray that she gained weight this time.

It gets better.

Take it one day, one shift, one hour at a time.

Celebrate the small victories and snuggle your baby tight on the days you’re able.

You won’t be in the NICU forever. I promise.

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