Although, I’ve only been a mother for two short years, it did not take long for me to realize the power of a mother’s voice. It was 30, excruciatingly long, hours after giving birth to Benjamin, via emergency c-section, that I was given permission to see my baby for the very first time. My husband wheeled me into the NICU and positioned me right up next to Ben’s isolette. With shaking hands, and a pounding heart, I opened the little porthole, and in a weak, wobbly, whisper, said “Hi, Benjamin, mama’s here.” Immediately, upon hearing his own mother’s voice, Ben opened his eyes (and for the first time, too, according to his dad)!
Hearing that was the first time Ben opened his eyes meant more to me than I will ever be able to fully express. Let it suffice to say that it went a long way towards soothing my hurting heart and alleviating some of the guilt that was just starting to smother me with its constant, berating, drum of “what did I do wrong???” I now knew, regardless of anything else, this baby needed me, and my voice.
Ever since that moment, I have also become more aware of the power of my own mother’s voice. It has been six, long, years since she died, but rather than slowly fade away, her voice has become stronger than ever in my mind, and in my heart. While I miss that lady more than anything, I have been comforted so much during those especially difficult times, like in the NICU, by remembering some wise words she once said, or believing I actually heard her saying to me, “you CAN do this”, over and over again. Just as I can plainly see my son has her nose, and has her same sparkle in his eyes, I hear her voice.
And just as I hear her voice when I most need it, my hope is that you can hear it, too, because her voice is the same voice all of us mothers have. Even if you are at what feels like your lowest point right now, and absolutely nothing is going the way it should be, please know, “you CAN do this.” You can do this because, not only are you a mother, but because you are STRONG, mama. Oh, how I used to hate it when people remarked on how strong I was to be able to endure having my baby born so early and in the NICU. I would usually shake my head, and say, “no, I am not.” And, every time, the person would adamantly say, “yes, you are.” And, every time, I could hear my mother say, “yes, you are strong because being strong is your only choice now that you are a mother.”
So, yes, you are strong because being strong is your only choice. Not just because you are a mother, but because you are the mother of a preemie.
Most likely, you’re only at the beginning of what may be a difficult journey. Many of our babies who start their lives in the NICU face many and varied challenges once they come home. The sooner you can summon your strength, and find your voice, the better off you, and your baby, will be.
Once you know your strength, and use your voice, hold on to both, very tightly. I made the mistake of letting go, albeit very briefly, later on when my son was having his first surgery to repair his cleft lip. A pre-op nurse had called me the day before surgery to check in and go over Ben’s pre-surgical instructions. She was very adamant that my son not be given his anti-reflux medication the morning before surgery, although I had been told before he could have it by his doctor. I did not argue. Then, when surgery time came, his anesthesiologist asked if I had given him his medication, and I told her I had not because the pre-op nurse had said not to. She was not at all happy to hear this and explained that it would not be good if Ben refluxed during surgery. Fortunately, he did not. But, her parting reprimand has stuck with me, “Next time, speak up, mama. You should know that by now.” Indeed, I do know that now. Hopefully, you do, too.
That is the power of a mother’s voice. Thank you, mom.