As a parent of a preemie or sick baby in NICU (neonatal intensive care), you get to hear of a lot of stories. Some are amazing stories about babies making miracle recoveries, nurses going above and beyond, and acts of kindness from other parents on the ward.
But others are horrific tales of medical blunders and negligence in care, precious breast milk being lost/binned/given to the wrong baby, parents being made to feel undervalued in feeding and caring for their babies, nurses putting babies in their first clothes or giving babies their first bath and denying parents the joy of that experience, medical staff moving babies to different rooms/wards/hospitals without informing parents…
My little one was in NICU, HDU (High Dependency) and Special Care for 5 months in 4 different hospitals so I met hundreds of parents and heard hundreds of heartwarming and heartbreaking stories. I’ve kept in touch with several families and we all continue to share our thoughts and experiences as preemie parents. Something I’ve noticed is that we all share a mutual acknowledgement of how tough some of our NICU experiences were at the time, and yet in retrospect we all have a tendency to label them as ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’.
Why is this? Is it because our babies survived? Because they made it out of the hellhole they were born in? Because they’re now safely away from the cannulas and the long lines and the lumbar punctures? At the end of the day that’s all that matters right? All the bumps along the way, minor and major, are now meaningless because our babies are here with us. They got to come home. They, and we, are the lucky ones.
Whilst this is very true and there is not a day that goes by when I don’t look at my daughter and thank God/chance/the universe that she’s alive, I’m still left with a question. Or several questions I suppose.
Are those bumps really meaningless? Are they truly insignificant now? Or do we just feel we should label them as that because we know things could have turned out so much worse? Do we almost feel guilty for considering our NICU journeys tough when we know there are other babies sicker than ours, other babies who tragically never make it home?
I suspect this might be the case. And in playing down the trauma, are we perhaps denying ourselves the opportunity to come to terms with everything that happened? I know I certainly am. Part of the reason I’m writing this blog is to try to help me process our NICU journey in its totality.
Are you a preemie parent? Or maybe you have a little one who had to spend time in hospital for other reasons. Do you have a tendency to play down the tougher parts of your journey? What are your reasons?
Regardless of your motivation for reading this far, I’d be interested to know what you think. What’s your view on this topic?