Can we talk about blogs? Thousands of people blog about their homes/pets/finances/clothes/ boats/travels/diets/kids. We blog about things we paint, things we like, what we had for dinner, what we wish we had for dinner, our super photogenic dog, and earlier this year, we posted about our baby and the NICU. I'm not sure you can really call it "blogging," as the last two posts were more a nod to our families than anything else ("Look! We are posting! Everything is fiiiinnnneee!"), but the funny thing about the internet is that it is forever. And it is public. And if you post something, people will find it.
So, people who are getting here because you are searching for "blog + NICU," know this: I wouldn't wish the NICU experience on my worst enemy. I don't know you, but I know what you are going through. Our Tommy spent 89 days in the NICU. More than some, less than others...but it really doesn't matter. Even one day is one too many, isn't it?
Our Tommy is home now, but there were days when I wondered whether he would ever get out. Days when I left the NICU and did that thing you see in cheesy low-budget dramas, where people collapse mid-step in fits of tears and they throw themselves against the wall because every cell in their body has given up. Days when my anger could have lit a thousand fires because, as it turns out, sushi and caffeine are not the problem after all. Days when your default "We are GREAT, tired, but great. And we are so lucky, really! No, we don't need anything, really!" wasn't cutting it anymore, because pretending you are fine is a monumental effort. Days when the valet attendants stop working and cry with you and remind you that your baby will come home and you are strong, and your car is here, but you don't have to go anywhere because, honestly, you can't drive this way... So they bring you water, and they try to cheer you up. And they tell you to go home and rest, and that you need to take care of yourself because they know you've been there for fourteen (maybe fifteen?) hours and you look really tired. And you nod in agreement because you are super tired. Every part of you is tired. Your heart is tired.
And every day you blame yourself for not paying more attention, for working too hard, for being too short, for not being able to keep your baby safe...and you are smart, so you know its not your fault. It just feels like its your fault.
But there were also days filled with happiness and milestones and victories. Days when you had one, two, maybe three (three!) great feedings in a row and the tests came back great and the neonatologist confirms its been a great week and you feel like you won the lottery. Days when you show up and your favorite nurse is talking about "sleeves" and you realize that your tiny peanut is wearing clothes (clothes!) and you cry because you cannot wait to get him into some cute outfits. Days when he starts taking full bottles and eventually, days with no bradys and it feels so so good.
Dear NICU friend, if you find your way here know that you will get out, that there is an end to it, that you will survive. Know that it is OK to be angry when people say well-meaning, but totally out-of-touch, things like: "take a spa day" or, "he is such a little fighter."
Know that it is infinitely easier to be home, and that whatever your outcome is, you are not alone.
Most importantly, if you find your way here, know that I could write a novel about our NICU stay but I won't because, eventually, all of those memories fade...It goes from the initial "I can't believe this is happening" to "remember when we were in the NICU ...?" in a hot second and it feels great. And if you stick around you'll see that our lives are no longer consumed by this and that we have started to move on to more pressing matters, such as showers. Showers are now VERY important. As are the quality and make of swaddle blankets, the best diaper rash cream, Tommy's rejection of his super-fancy Comotomo bottles, and the very important business of choosing baby outfits (I'm happy to report the novelty hasn't worn off).
In summary, the internet may be forever, but the NICU is not. Be strong.
With all our love,
Nick & Melissa
Dear internet: if you are currently a NICU parent, please let people help you. Even if you don't really need it because you are "just fine." It helps. And if you can't bring yourself to talk-it-out with those you know, feel free to contact me. Really. I am the BEST at commiserating.