Today is my child's birthday!
I can't help but to feel a bit strange today. As I write this blog about my own experience, I can't help but to feel like I've heard this story many times. Nicu families can almost finish each others stories because we have so many things in common. We all have similar issues of emotions about seeing our loved ones in the nicu. These tendencies have an adverse side effect that usually makes you want to be the best parent you can be after you get out. The Nicu experience has a way of making memories with deep emotional connection. The day your child or children were born will always be present in your memory if you happen to have a birthing experience that ended up in the nicu. There's nothing quite like the pain of seeing your children rushed off to get pic lines and respirators hooked up to them. Tiny babies often too fragile to even cry get handled aggressively, poked and prodded, then weighed and measured. The data is collected and charts are made that measure the babies road map to recovery. Nothing is done of the parents who must stand by and watch as the nicu staff seemingly operates on your child. You feel helpless as watch them get to work on your child and this is only day one. As you get your new hospital room and new nursing staff, you usually see the asterisk that says "baby in the nicu" so to tip off the nurses to talk carefully as to not trigger the parents. We happened to get the same floor as the nursery so we got to hear those family members coming for the other parents to give them gifts and see the new baby. We got silence, no party, no gifts, and no cigars handed out to the fellas. We felt isolated with every foot step in the hall between rooms. No one wants to be a preemie parent near the nursery. Eventually we went down to let my wife see our child. I now know this would be a lose-lose situation. On one hand we needed to see her but on the other I knew by seeing her my wife would see all the wires, isolette, breathing machines, and other equipment needed to keep her alive. It's hard to feel admiration when it's "that thing" that is more of an alien than a baby. Every day was the same for the first few days. Then she would take a swallow of milk and come alive. We started to love her and get involved more as the nursing staff would prod us on. We eventually left after 89 days in the nicu. Now we celebrate her birthday and her half birthday. I know of those who celebrate their child's due date but my family has elected to go the half birthday route where we go exactly 6 months in and have a pool party. I hope you the reader can understand the reason most nicu parents have so much animosity toward their child's birthday. Our children weren't supposed to be out on the day they were born so we don't have a good feeling about this day. Some of us watched our kids try to die and feel thankful that they can celebrate their child's birthday. Unfortunately for some, their child did die in the nicu or shortly afterwords so they never got a chance to have a party for them. Just remember reader, the next time you see a nicu/picu parent at their child't birthday party, the parents may be going through a whole range of emotions and that is ok.