During our stay in the NICU, I’ve been surprised by the things that have ended up being the hardest. I’ve also been surprised by the strength and love that comes during those times. Although things got scary, we were lucky to avoid what would be the very hardest day in the NICU – I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually lose a baby. My heart goes out to those NICU Mamas, and I can’t help but cry for them every time I hear one of their stories. I decided to share my three hardest days in the NICU, maybe as a warning to someone else who’s about to go through a NICU experience.
The day I was discharged.
I’d heard how hard it was to leave the hospital with your baby/babies still there, but I thought I was prepared for it. I felt like I’d held it together pretty well all through my hospital bed rest, the birth, and the scary stuff that came right after. Even as we packed up my stuff and Blake went to get the car, I felt like I’d be fine. But as the hospital volunteer wheeled me to the curb, we came up along side another mom in a wheelchair. She was holding her baby, waiting for her husband to pull up with balloons and gifts all around her. Suddenly I panicked. I knew I was about to lose it. Sitting there in that wheel chair, my arms and my belly felt so empty. As soon as Blake pulled up I got in the front seat and broke down, sobbing. All of the work of being pregnant with two, then the challenge of bed rest and an emergency birth, and I felt so defeated in that moment leaving without them. Like I’d failed them. And I felt so lonely – I’d been with the babies for so many months and now I was leaving them.
Blake was so sweet that day. We went home and he unpacked our things while I tried to nap, then we headed back to the hospital to be with the girls. Which is pretty much what we’ve been doing ever since! It’s still hard to leave them at night, but nothing has hit me as hard as that first time leaving!
The day we took “a step back”.
Everyone told us that the NICU is a roller coaster, that there will be times you’ll take two steps forward and one step back. But the night we actually experienced it was really, really hard. While the beginning was scary with the girls, it felt like we were making progress. I kept my phone next to me anytime we were away from the NICU, and every time we walked in I was anxious to see how they were doing. One night we walked in to the situation I was so afraid of – we were told we needed to wait in the waiting room because they were working on one of our babies. I’m not sure how long we were sitting there waiting for the doctor, but it felt like years. She finally came and told us what was going on – Piper had declined quickly and they weren’t sure what was happening with her lungs. The doctor threw out all kinds of scary possibilities of what it could be, and also mentioned transferring her to another hospital. That night was so awful for us, because we faced the idea that Piper might not get better, that things might get a whole lot worse for her – transfers, surgeries, etc. By the next morning she was more stable, and got stronger and stronger after that. Her lungs have been able to heal without the interventions we thought might be necessary. But I will never forget the feelings we had walking into the NICU that night.
The day I couldn’t see the girls.
One of my biggest fears (albeit a silly one) was that I would get sick and not be able to see the girls. If you have any hint of a cold or sickness, you cannot go to the NICU! With visitors coming and going, feeling so run down and not getting enough sleep ourselves, Blake and I finally caught the dreaded cold. First Blake had it and couldn’t see the girls for a few days, than I caught it. It was SO hard to stay away! I knew it was what was best for the girls, because a cold could be deadly for them – especially Piper with her lungs still healing. I cried and cried missing them, and those few days seemed so long.
Ok, after writing that out I realize that all sounds depressing! But it’s not meant to, because I will tell you that as hard as those days were, there have been so many blessings and silver linings that have come because of them. And those hard days have made me appreciate the good days so much more, and will make me that much more grateful for the best day: the day the girls come home!
I wanted to write this post not to sound sad, but to tell anyone else going through the NICU that you’ll make it through those hard days! And if you are someone with a friend or family member going through the NICU experience, you’ll know to be a little more supportive on those days ;). I was lucky enough to have my sister around for two of those hard days, and the little things she knew to say and do for me made things a million times better. I’m so grateful for her, for Blake, and also for all of you! The love and support has been SO amazing, and getting us through to that homecoming day we pray for!