A Letter To My NICU Babies

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Dear my beautiful NICU babies,

This isn’t how it was supposed to be. We were supposed to have many more weeks to prepare for your arrival. My hospital bag wasn’t packed, we hadn’t finished the nursery, and I hadn’t yet finished ‘enjoying’ being pregnant. We weren’t ready.

But you were, my beautiful twin babies. You decided it was time to come now, right now, in a rush of water breaking, due date be damned, you were coming. But I wasn’t ready and the guilt…

Oh, the guilt…

…because I failed you somehow. Yes, I took my prenatal vitamins, went to all my appointments, I watched my diet, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do anything I wasn’t supposed to do, but yet you still came early. My body failed you in its first job as your mommy. All I had to do was keep you inside of me for another few weeks – how easy is that? – but yet I failed to keep you inside me where you were safe and growing. You gave me mere hours to adjust to your imminent arrival when I expected to have many more weeks.

So the guilt, oh the guilt…

…because I can’t shake that I failed you. What did I do wrong? Was that lunch the day before too spicy? Did the lady who gave me my pedicure so I would look nice in the maternity photos touch that spot on the ankle that produces contractions? Was that decaf latte I ordered actually caffeinated? I thought it tasted too good.

So the guilt, oh the guilt…

….because I can’t hold your tiny body against mine when you’re hooked up to all those machines and what is that beeping??? Why are you beeping? Where is the nurse?!!! I don’t understand what any of these numbers mean and I just know that you’re uncomfortable and it’s my fault because I was supposed to keep you inside me longer and I couldn’t…I couldn’t…

So the guilt, oh the guilt…

….and everyone keeps telling me to rest but I look around the NICU and I know that none of us moms are listening to that advice because how can we rest? Why should we sleep easy when your tiny lungs are struggling to breathe? And we’re told that our breast milk is the elixir that might expedite the healing process and bring you home to us sooner, so we pump religiously every three hours even though we hate it and our body wasn’t ready to nurse, so our milk isn’t coming in and it’s hurting, but you need us and we’ve already failed you once, so no, we’re not resting because an alarm goes off every three hours to pump. And you know what you’re not doing when you have to pump at 3am? You’re not resting because of the guilt.

Oh, the guilt…

….I see you, my fellow NICU mamas. We settle into the NICU routine so easily. We walk into the hospital carrying our little hospital-issued breast milk bags containing our pitiful bottles of pumped breast milk and wait like criminals outside the sealed-off doors after requesting entry to the NICU. Once they find our name and the doors magically open, we dutifully place our breast milk in the receiving tray, take off our wedding rings (jewelry can trap bacteria), check in our purses and begin the process of cleaning our hands to the elbows for at least two minutes. We refuse to miss one inch of our hands or forearms lest we are the ones to carry in a germ that could hurt one of these fragile babies. Our hands are dry and cracked from washing them so much because of the guilt.

Oh, the guilt…

….until I joined the NICU mom club, my only reference point to a ‘Brady’ was quarterback Tom Brady, but now I know it stands for Bradycardia, which occurs when the heart rate slows to less than 100 BPM. Desats, episodes, bili levels…I never wanted to learn this language, I was happy in my ignorance, but now, I pester the nurses for the latest numbers and, like a scene from “A Beautiful Mind”, look for the number combination that is the magic answer to unlocking that sealed NICU door and letting me take you home because the guilt.

Oh, the guilt…

….I have two other children who don’t understand why I’m not home much, who don’t understand why Mommy’s stomach is gone, but their little brother and sister haven’t come home to them yet, who cry when I leave the house to go to the hospital, who beg me to play with them, but I have to pump because my alarm to pump goes off every three hours and the guilt…

Oh, the guilt…

….all I want is to bring you home and snuggle with you every moment of the day. I want to bring you home to meet your older brother and sister who are excited to meet you. I am madly in love with you both already, but I can’t be there all the time and so the guilt…

Oh, the guilt…

…because I love you so much, my little NICU babies, and with every ounce of me, I wish that I could still have you inside of me where you belong for a few more weeks, but you’re here and you’re tiny perfection and I love you and I’m so sorry that I couldn’t keep you in…and the guilt…

Oh, the guilt.

Love,

Mommy

2 COMMENTS

  1. I will not tell you everything you already know. I will tell you that your honesty and sharing will allow other mothers to cope with their own guilt and angst, additionally it will allow the people in your circle to know what you are going through emotionally & physically. Reach out to your circle and feed your soul. Ask a friend for an hour of play time with your littles, allow others the gift of giving. Be kind to yourself, I would gladly help if I could, why, you may ask, because I am a Mom, both of my children had serious health conditions, I have been in similar shoes, and I did not reach out. That was a mistake. 🧡🧡🧡

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