week in the NICU.
The first time I had a NICU baby, I had one child at home - almost 3 years old. The second time, two children - one 6 and the other 3.5 years. I was torn. Wanting to be at the hospital every waking second - needing to be there, and wanting to be there for my other children at home, needing to be there too. I felt like a huge failure on all counts - my body failed my babies, I was a failure as a mom, I was a failure as a wife because the house was a wreck and I was a wreck too - notwithstanding I wasn't in great physical shape either - 3 weeks bedrest, hemorrhaging, csection - doesn't put you at fighting status. Being a NICU parent is emotionally and physically exhausting - even when things are going "well". Even once home, preemie infants are high maintenance - not a week went by without a visit to the pediatrician. Not having a phone call in to their office every other day was unusual. I had to keep a journal and calendar of all the medications and issues just ONE baby was having. Things were difficult enough even with another parent thrown in the mix to help out. I wish that more people knew and understood that prematurity is a struggle. When my pregnant friends say they can't wait for delivery and they just wish they could have the baby now - even weeks or a month (and once 2 months!) early - I tell them "you can wait." These are not just "mini" babies, usually they are doing about as well as can be expected for their size and gestation, and much of the time all you can do is be hopeful that every day will be a little bit better than the one before; they require critical care and time.
Today my preemies are 12 and 9 and beautiful and healthy. I was always amazed and impressed by my daughter's resiliency and serenity in the NICU. She was tough - tougher than I was. My son was tough too - but he hated every second he was in the NICU and voiced his displeasure often and loudly. You would never know to look at them today that their beginnings were difficult and trying - that there was a time when I didn't know if I should dare to imagine this day at all.
For more information on Prematurity or to participate in Bloggers Unite for Prematurity - please follow this link. This month is Prematurity Awareness Month and today is the day to help fight.