Alright, I admit, I couldn’t resist an alliteration for the title. More accurately, this post is about NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) moms – moms of extremely premature babies, which are babies born at 24 to 32 weeks.
You see, all the moms talk in the NICU’s pump room. Supposedly this wave of moms has been unique in that we’ve been very supportive of one another. How one couldn’t be, I don’t know. It’s a little surreal to have so much in common with an absolute stranger. And well, there’s really no need for small talk. I’m also grateful to have a dear, old friend who’s mom to twins. They’re now three-years-old, but she can readily recall her crazy days in the NICU and she’s been a great support to me.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize about a mom of an extremely premature baby:
– She can regale you with insane delivery stories. One mom was on strict bed rest, with her head lower than her feet for seven weeks. Yes, seven.
– She’s traumatized because of said delivery story and can’t imagine having another child. Ever.
– She feels guilty. I was reading about how this, apparently, is the norm. We preemie moms choose guilt first because we know that emotion and understand it, whereas the onslaught of other emotions is inexplicable.
– She is afraid she won’t be able to take care of her baby at home. After seeing your baby in a box, hooked up to monitors and IVs, the thought of caring for that little one is daunting. Even a week ago, I imagined I won’t sleep and I’d just watch James 24/7. Now, I’m actually anticipating his home-coming.
– She’s had to face, at least once, the likelihood of her baby dying.
– She has to wait to find out if all of her baby’s parts work. Brain. Eyes. Hearing. Muscles. Lungs. And so, scarily, on.
– She’s beholden to her breast pump. That means pumping every three hours. Four hours tops. However, pumping and cleaning all the parts takes about 30 minutes. I’m learning to live my life in 2.5 hour segments.
As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this list. I wish I had had it when my dear friend had her twins. Before my eager James took me on this crazy adventure, I was completely ignorant about prematurity. I didn’t realize that a 24-week-old baby was considered viable by the medical community. Today I walked by a new addition to the NICU and my heart dipped. The baby was the tiniest I’ve ever seen, probably less than a pound. It’s all heartbreaking, but also amazing to witness the pure gumption of these wee babies.
Although the emotions are settling and I’m feeling more balanced, it’s a bit freaky, yet comforting to see that the other five-or-so NICU moms are right there with me. Guess we are textbook. So be it.