I remember spending countless moments in the NICU, looking at my son through the Giraffe door, and softly uttering those two magic words, “Just breathe”.
No one could hear me; no one could sense the longing in my spirit. I felt like breathing was taking forever. For him it seemed so hard, and was keeping my child in the hospital, and me there as well. He had overcome being born at one pound five ounces; he survived necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) without surgery. The grade 4 IVH’s on both sides cleared on their own. His ROP was improving. The big things that petrified me were long gone. Yet here we are. Still. Waiting. On. Those. Lungs.
The desperation sometimes sent me gasping for air. Life dragged as I watched the CPAP prongs rest uncomfortably in his nose, day after day, week after week. After a couple of months, I wanted nothing more than for those prongs to be OUT. I wanted the leads to no longer be needed. I wanted his oxygen saturation to be perfect. Everything was riding on him mastering something that came so naturally to every other baby who had been born into my family. Something I took for granted – inhaling and exhaling.
Today, I am proud to announce, that my son is a professional breather. He doesn’t seem at all like the little micro baby who kept turning blue. Long gone are the days of vents, CPAP, and Bubble CPAP. And long gone are the days of me sitting by his bed, praying for something that seemed so far away.
I realize now, that he was not the only one who was forgetting to breathe.
Parents, the trauma of the NICU can overwhelm us. It turns us into scared, uneasy, milestone counting versions of our former selves. And technically, there is nothing wrong with that. However, we are still parents, they are still children, and we both need time to adjust to our new world. If we spend too much energy focusing on the challenges, we will undoubtedly miss the beauty of the journey.
Instead of counting breaths, we should be counting blessings. Breaths will surely come. Blessings are there from the beginning. No lead can measure them, that task is solely left to our hearts.
When it comes to the NICU, they will get it. You both will make it out of there. Everything will be okay. One day you will look up and the vent, the incubator, the prongs, will be long gone.
And all that will be left are the blessings.
Don’t get frustrated. Don’t lose hope. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t stop counting. JUST BREATHE.