Every September marks the annual celebration of NICU awareness month. Not to be confused with national prematurity month, that is in November and has the color purple. For September the color is green, but nobody is green with envy wishing they could have a preemie. Try and think of the last time you heard someone say " I wish I could have a preemie in the nicu". This just doesn't get said by anyone who knows what the nicu is and does. This nonchalance and flippant attitude about the nicu from those who don't understand a preemie parents pain is why we must have celebratory months in the first place. Preemie parents know all to well the feelings they had when they had to leave their baby in the hands of the nicu staff and try and go about life. Nothing about those moments needs to be reminded to those of us who can't get those images and emotions out of our heads. Nicu awareness month is the nagging reminder that we are forever in a different group than other parents.
As September comes around, some of us preemie parents have a cross pull of emotions. On one hand, the awareness of the nicu is a great way to show others what we went though. While on the other hand we see the triggering photos and places we don't want to think about anymore. Social media has many pages devoted to preemie life and the preemie paradox is one of them. Many of these groups who help parents celebrate the nicu babies by showing them as cute and some as warriors. Maybe this helps some parents cope with what it would be like to have their baby on the outside and brings a realization to the uncomfortable reality that their child is still in the nicu.
In the photo above, we pondered how our daughter could think about her life in the nicu. Did she even remember? Does she even recognize herself as the girls in the photos? So many questions about what was going through her head that i missed what was going on in mine! How did I remember those days? Was I just happy to see them gone? And what was I supposed to do with the memories? Yes, NICU awareness month brings with it the whole lot of emotional baggage so don't be surprised if you get that melancholy smile or the avuncular wink from us who are caught in the middle of our emotions during these months.