by Cindy Marks
After a difficult pregnancy, my son was delivered nearly 6 weeks early due to the fact that I had HELLP Syndrome. He was medevaced to a larger hospital while I had to stay behind as a patient at the smaller hospital. For 30 days, my husband, one year old daughter, and I traveled back and forth from our home to the larger hospital to visit our “Superman.” When he was finally discharged, I thought that everything was over and life would continue as normal. I was wrong.
For the first year of his life, I barely had time to think about what had happened with his delivery and our NICU experience because my life was consumed with taking care of two small children. When thoughts of what had happened would creep into my mind, I would shove them back because it was never a good time to think about them. I was taken by surprise on his first birthday when feelings of grief snuck in with my happiness. I felt something must be wrong with me to feel sad since everything turned out okay. Again, I pushed it back.
Eight months after his first birthday, my friend had a premature baby in the NICU. I wanted to provide her with my support, so I was forced to face pictures of the NICU, feeding tubes, and everything else that goes along with the experience. Her experience turned out different than mine, and her precious baby boy passed away a few days later. For the first time, I cried—hard. I cried for my friend and the injustice of what had happened, and I cried for my boy who also had been in the NICU. I was no longer able to push away what had happened. It was right there staring me in the face, and I had to face it.
A Google search led me to Hand to Hold. Laura Romero immediately responded to my request and was available to provide me insight to the unique feelings I had. She matched me up with my mentor, Kimberly, and the two of us talked on the phone. I told Kimberly of how I had tremendous feelings of guilt. I felt guilty that my son had to be delivered early because of my syndrome and had to be in the NICU. I felt unworthy of my sadness of the experience because my son was healthy and alive. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t “over” the whole experience and able to just move on with life. Kimberly shared her experience with me. A key thing she told me was that even after 8 years, she still has moments of sadness but that those moments are briefer and further apart. She told me that you don’t ever have to get over it. It’s a traumatic experience that happened to your child. You are that child’s mother and you never want anything tragic to happen to your child. And when something tragic does happen, it’s okay to feel sad—even years later.
My son just celebrated his second birthday. A week before his birthday, I found myself curious and wanting to see his NICU pictures which I couldn’t look at before because of tremendous sadness. As I was looking at the first days of my precious boy, I realized something . . . I was smiling. Today as I watch my son running around the house playing with his sister, my heart swells with gratitude and healing.