Since becoming a mom for the first – and last – time almost five years ago, I’ve experienced plenty of “bad mom” moments. Like letting my son eat ice cream for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. All in the same day. Or arriving home after picking him up from school and noticing I never buckled him in his car seat. I am hoping some of you can relate! But during the first 68 days of his life that he was in the NICU, I had plenty of just plain bad moments, which I know all of you can relate. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for my fellow NICU mothers, I don’t think I would’ve gotten through those tough times. These mothers taught me tough times do indeed make tough people.
Here are just a few of the tough mothers that shared some tough moments with me in that unforgettable space we call the NICU.
The NICU neighbor
The first mother I met, and the absolute toughest, was the mama of a special little girl who was my son’s neighbor in the NICU. This mama had been to hell and back after losing her firstborn son and now was dealing with her little girl needing open-heart surgery as soon as she was strong enough. After everything she had been through, she still made a point a to reach out to me. She wanted me know that she had been there when the medical team brought my son in and that she had prayed for him. It meant so much to me that another mother was there when I was too sick to be there myself. She also bought my son his first gift: a pacifier personalized with his name. I will be forever grateful to her for her kindness. More importantly, that tough mama also represents to me all of you tough mothers who have lost a child, including my own tough mother. You are the strongest, most amazing, women I know.
The Single Mothers
The second toughest mothers I know, some of whom I was blessed to meet in the NICU, are all of the single mamas out there. Even in the best of circumstances, with a loving and supportive partner by your side and family and friends surrounding you, the NICU is still extremely hard. I cannot imagine having to face it alone. These mothers have to bear the weight of not only just being a parent on their own, but a parent to a tiny, medically fragile baby. However, their shoulders are strong, stronger than any man’s, and I was in awe of them every second I was in that NICU. I Still am.
The NICU Nurse Who was a NICU Mom
Another mother I am so thankful I got to meet was my son’s night nurse. While most of the nurses he had were wonderful, this nurse was the first one who really helped me care for my son. Come to find out, she was also a tough mother too. When we first met, she told me she had twins that had been in the NICU, and that is why she decided to become a NICU nurse. It also is probably why she was so good with the NICU moms!
The Mothers I Never Met
There were two other mothers I will never, ever, forget, but these are two I never actually met. The first I only saw once, being wheeled into the NICU, as so many of us were. And just like the rest of us, she wore a purple bracelet that designated her as a NICU parent. What was completely and utterly different was this mother also wore handcuffs. Not just on her wrists, but her ankles, as well. Also, the person wheeling her was not a nurse, but a police officer. When I saw her, I just stopped. And while I could not to stare, I did wonder, and still do, what possibly could’ve happened to this woman in her life that led her to such a heart-wrenching moment: visiting her baby in the NICU wearing handcuffs.
The other mother I never actually saw. The nurses were going to try and wheel her bed into the NICU, but there wasn’t any way it would fit in the cramped nursery. So, they had to wheel her baby up to her hospital room. You see, this tough mother had been in a car wreck, which is why her baby had to be delivered prematurely. I am not sure how premature the baby was, or badly injured her tough mama was. I just hope today they are both okay.
While there are so many other tough mothers I have met over the years, these particular mothers are the ones for whom I am most grateful, because we shared a common experience of not just being a mother, but of being a tough mother of a tough preemie. And as my son has taught me these past five years, tough preemies do indeed make tough mothers.