The NICU and Its Many Emotions

June 28, 2013
kangaroo care

Kangaroo care with my micro-preemie twins

I recently stumbled upon a little life lesson in the strangest of places.  My kids and I sat down on the sofa to read some books before bedtime that we had checked out from the elementary school library.  As I read the last page of “Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day” by Jamie Lee Curtis, I had a moment of insight.

All parents who have spent time in the NICU know that your mood may change several times in just one day.  You walk into the NICU in the morning feeling excited to see your baby (or babies).

You check the monitors and see that your baby is doing well – relief.

You try to feed your baby who refuses to eat – frustration.

You wait to hear what the doctors have to say – anxiety.

You listen as the doctor tells you bad news again – sadness.

You kangaroo your baby – peace.

You whisper “I love you, and I’ll see you tomorrow” to your tiny baby through a small opening in her isolette before you have to leave the NICU for the night- heartache.

Excitement, relief, frustration, sadness, peace, and heartache all in one day.  The next day might be better, but it could also be worse.  This is what NICU parents feel every day while their child is in the NICU and oftentimes after they bring home their medically-fragile child.

When my twins were in the NICU, I remember feeling like I was pushing through each day.  People would say, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I would reply, “I don’t know how I’m doing it either, but I have no choice.  So, it’s what I do.”  You do what you have to do for your children despite the fear, sadness, helplessness, and pure exhaustion.  People would say I was brave or strong, and I would thank them.  Inside I was screaming, “I don’t want to be brave.  I don’t want to be strong.  I just want my babies to live, to be healthy, and to come home.”

Looking back on posts I wrote on my personal blog in the early days after their birth, I sound like a cheerleader with a false sense of happiness.  I felt like I had to censor my feelings for the outside world.  I didn’t want everyone to know how broken I was inside, how I felt like I was falling apart, how I cried every day, how angry I was that this happened, how guilty I felt that I couldn’t carry them to term.  As months passed in the NICU, I began to open up more about my feelings.  Blogging became a means of therapy for me during and after their NICU stay. Back to the insight I found in “Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day”:

“I’d rather feel silly, excited or glad,
than cranky or grumpy, discouraged or sad,
But moods are just something that happen each day.
Whatever I’m feeling inside is okay!”

The NICU journey is an emotional one.  We are human.   You will feel more emotions than you may have ever felt before, and they could all happen in one day.  As the verse above says, it’s okay to feel all of them.  It doesn’t make you a negative person or a bad person.  It makes you a NICU parent who loves your child deeply.

*NOTE: I am not a medical professional.  This post is meant to discuss the emotional impact of a NICU stay.  Please seek professional help if you think you may be suffering from PPD or PTSD.