I felt myself holding back tears at dinner. We went out tonight with a couple whose child is in the NICU. I wanted to show them how much we understood without making it about us and what we’d been through. I wanted them to know we wouldn’t say the dumb things people tend to say when you have a child in the NICU, horror stories by well-meaning parents. It didn’t matter that we’d gone through it ourselves and understood the pity with which people greet you. Because it wasn’t happening to us. And I wanted them to know that I knew that. That I wasn’t the kind of mother to go on and on about what we’d gone through. I wanted to ease their minds, to let them know they weren’t alone, that it gets easier. And that it gets harder… the way it does for any parent.
As we listened to their story, celebrating the fact that their baby finished an entire bottle without d-stat’ing or having any A’s or B’s, I remembered it all so well. All those moments other people never understood, checking charts, and celebrating double chins, and lower doses of oxygen. I remembered the pumping room at the hospital, the conversations I overheard through the curtains. All the mothers pumped at around the same time, when the nurses were changing shifts, and due to hippa, all parents had to leave, so we didn’t overhear one nurse filling in the next nurse about someone else’s kid. So I read the same magazine as I had for weeks, there in the room, in the spot where the curtain wasn’t falling down, and I listened to all the details I wasn’t supposed to hear anyway, through a curtain in the pump room. A mother bragging that her preemie child had been spoiled by her. That the nurses said she was holding her child too much because when she had to leave, the child was inconsolable. It made her feel like a mother. She didn’t say as much to the person on the other end of her cell phone. She didn’t have to. I knew that feeling well.
It doesn’t go away. I remember all the time, our time there. I remember the names of all the nurses. I remember "firing" one nurse. Or rather, voicing our concern and putting in a request for Lori, a nurse we loved. We speak with her still. I told the parents tonight this, that they’ll make wonderful connections during all they’re going through. It’s hard not to. I hope they consider us as people they can turn to. I just want to ease their minds, to let them know, as alone as they feel in those half-hour drives home from the NICU each night, they are… and they aren’t.