A Place I Never Thought I’d Be

   When you think about giving birth to your child, the painful labor always comes to mind. But you know it will definitely be worth it when they place that baby in your arms and you get to take him or her home and start your life with the new addition to your family. What you don’t envision is not getting to hold him or her, and not being able to take him or her home when you leave the hospital. You don’t think you’ll see your baby in the NICU with tubes and machines hooked up to her 24/7 and doctors and nurses whispering about their next course of treatment. You don’t think you’ll be sitting by a plastic incubator for hours at a time wondering if and when you’ll get to hold your baby or if she even knows you are sitting right there and that you are her mommy. You don’t think these things will happen, but they do to so many parents, including myself.
   My baby girl spent the first 10 days of her life in the NICU after developing some respiratory issues after birth. Unlike many parents with children in the NICU, I got to hold my daughter after she was born. I had no idea there was any problem and apparently neither did anyone else. She looked perfect. It wasn’t until she went to get her vitals checked that they realized there was a problem. At first it seemed as though she would be back with us in a few hours, but that quickly changed when the doctors said she needed to go downstairs and spend some time in the NICU. A few hours turned into one night, which quickly turned into days. My heart was broken. This was not the way it was supposed to be. She was supposed to be with us. There were supposed to be smiling visitors and balloons. There were supposed to be pictures. But there was none of that. Instead, the days were filled with tears, constant worrying, praying, and lots of waiting.
   I spent most of my time in the NICU, sitting by her little incubator. I could touch her, but holding her was out of the question because she was hooked up to so many things. Every time I went to see her or talk to the doctors, I just cried and cried. They reassured me that she was going to be ok. But, that was little comfort. I kept asking why it happened because I blamed myself. I am her mother. She grew inside me for nine months. I must have done something to cause this and now the worst part was I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t protect her, which is every parent’s instinct. All I could do was put all my trust and hope in doctors and modern medicine. The doctors just kept telling me it was no one’s fault and these things just happen. That answer wasn’t enough to get rid of the responsibility I felt. I replayed every part of my pregnancy over and over in my head, trying to come up with a reason that this could have happened. As I would ask the doctors about different scenarios, they would just tell me there was no one way to tell and once again that these things just happen. Tell that to the countless parents I saw with babies in the NICU. Each baby had his or her own story, but to me the mothers’ stories were all the same. We all exchanged sympathetic eyes. Some of us talked to each other about our situations, but in the end it was all the same. We all just wanted our babies home and healthy.
   That was one of the worst parts of this whole experience… going home without my baby. I remember going home after my first daughter was born and feeling so happy and excited. Not quite this time around. I felt empty. Something, rather someone was missing. My baby had to stay in the hospital to get better. Period. I had to accept it, whether I wanted to or not. I could come and visit her anytime I wanted. Parents shouldn’t have to “visit” their newborns. But, this was the reality for the next eight days. My husband and I took turns, spending hours at the hospital, just sitting by her side. When you have time to just sit and think, your thoughts can be your worst enemy. Your mind goes on a crash course of places you don’t want it to, playing all the “what if” scenarios. Your mind doesn’t allow you to go to the places where something good happens.
   But, good things did start to happen for us. She did start to improve and slowly she was removed from different machines. Eventually, I did get to hold her. Of course, I cried. It was the first time in days that I was able to hold my baby.It was the first time in days I felt like things were going to get better and she would get to come home. And she did. I cried as we walked out of the NICU, but this time they were happy tears. We carried our baby past all the others who were not fortunate enough to come home yet. I said a little prayer, hoping one day soon they could get to go home too.
   When I think about bad experiences, I have to say, this is definitely at the top of the list. But my mom always told me that God doesn’t give you something you can’t handle. She was right. Somehow I handled this, but it wasn’t without a lot of love and support from family and friends. I also learned that you really have to count your blessings because life is truly unpredictable and many times you end up in places you never thought you’d be.

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